WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Dallas Morning News published the below op-ed by McCain Institute Executive Director Dr. Evelyn Farkas. In the piece, Dr. Farkas asks why someone who Senator John McCain once called a “neo-fascist dictator” is speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas today.
See the op-ed below.
Why is a Hungarian autocrat and Putin ally in Dallas?
Since 2012, when Viktor Orbán rewrote Hungary’s Constitution, he has shut down independent media, packed the courts with his allies and ramped up nationalism.
By Evelyn N. Farkas
August 4, 2022
On August 4, the autocratic prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, will attend and speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference’s annual gathering, in Dallas this year.
Orbán has systematically eroded Hungarian democracy and is Putin’s only friend in the European Union and NATO. He doesn’t belong in any American political forum.
In the same way Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro dismantled democracy in Venezuela, Orbán’s competitive authoritarianism has led Hungary to be the firstand only member of the European Union that is rated as “partly free” by Freedom House. It suffered the largest decline in freedom and democracy ever measured. Orbán is now the longest-serving head of state in the EU and has hinted that he wants to stay at least until 2030.
Since 2012, when Orbán rewrote Hungary’s Constitution, he has shut down independent media, packed the courts with his allies and ramped up nationalism. During the 2015 migrant crisis in Europe, he erected fences to keep out Muslim refugees. Internationally, Orbán has been friendly with the authoritarian regimes in Russia and China, whose interests he has protected in EU votes.
Recently, Orbán was condemned for his racism when he said on July 23, “[W]e are not mixed race. We are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become a mixed race.” These sentiments echo “white supremacy,” and they have no place in America, a multi-ethnic nation, or anywhere else.
This isn’t just about Orbán, but how democracy is systematically being destroyed in left- and right-leaning countries. Venezuela went from a free country in 1998 to not free today. Chávez and Maduro created the worst humanitarian exodus in the recent history of the Americas and transformed Venezuela into the poorest country in the hemisphere, regardless of the fact that it has the largest proven oil reserves in the world.
Democracies die when leaders: First, refuse to play by the democratic rules; second, delegitimize their opponents; third, tolerate or encourage violence; and last, are prepared to curtail the civil rights of political opponents and the media. Orbán has done all four.
The effect is also that authoritarian leaders make the world less safe for all of us. Orbán’s regime has become Putin’s best ally inside the EU and in NATO. He broadcasts pro-Russian propaganda and banned the transfer of arms through his country to Ukraine, with which it shares a border.
Earlier this year at CPAC Hungary — the first CPAC meeting in Europe, ever — Orbán said, “We have perfected the recipe here, and we want to give it out to the rest of the world’s conservative parties for free.” The recipe is that of an “illiberal state,” in Orbán’s own words.
Some Congressional members from Texas, however, have called him out. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, the ranking Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “It is shameful that PM Viktor Orbán is exploiting the #coronavirus pandemic to seize dictatorial powers.”
All the way back in 2014, Sen. John McCain, whose legacy work we seek to continue at the McCain Institute that I’m leading, called him a “neo-fascist dictator” who is “in bed with Vladimir Putin.” Eight years later there’s even more evidence to back what McCain clearly saw eight years ago.
Our democracy is under threat and we as Americans need to unite against domestic and foreign extremists. Inviting Viktor Orbán to Dallas is essentially sharing his recipe for turning U.S. democracy into an autocracy and is akin to a treasonous act. Don’t let Orbán mess with Texas and America.
Evelyn N. Farkas is the executive director of the McCain Institute. Her parents fled authoritarian Hungary after the 1956 uprising and settled in New York. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.