Not the Good Old Days

If you want to understand the rabid craziness of today’s MAGA Republican Party, you can read books like:

But there’s another one I want to call your attention to. It describes events from a century ago that parallel much of what’s happening now. The book is American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis by Adam Hochschild. This is from a review for the Times Literary Supplement:

Even now there are American liberals who look back on [President Woodrow] Wilson’s first term in 1913–17 as a golden age, with its trust-busting, tax and banking reform, and eight-hour day for railway workers, making it the last presidency of the Progressive Era. That left little time for international affairs, and when Americans heard the distant thunder of war from Europe in 1914, most of them had no wish to join it….

Barely had he been inaugurated the next spring than he took America into it…. Whatever American entry did to the balance of the war, it had a most drastic effect in and on the US itself. The country was convulsed by a spasm of nativist hysteria and hatred – as Hochschild says, “Never was the raw underside of our nation’s life more revealingly on display than from 1917 to 1921”. For him, the events of these years amount to a crisis in America’s democracy, one that he thinks too few people know about today. 

The first victims were German Americans. Over the previous century six million Germans had emigrated to the US, more than any other nationality apart from the British… Now anyone with a German name was treated as potentially disloyal, and many such names were quickly changed: Koenig became King, the frankfurter became the hot dog….

But changing names didn’t stem the violence. A Methodist minister said that it was “the Christian duty of Americans to decorate convenient lamp posts with German spies and agents of the Kaiser, native or foreign-born”; a Minnesota pastor was tarred and feathered after he had been heard praying in German with a dying woman; and in Collinsville, Illinois, a gang set upon Robert Prager and killed him. The murderers were tried, holding little American flags in court, and were acquitted by the jury in forty-five minutes.

When a war bond was floated, anyone who failed to buy bonds was liable to be denounced or subjected to physical violence…. In Britain conscientious objectors were sometimes harshly treated, but the American story was more savage, with conscientious objectors hanged all day by shackled wrists, with their feet barely touching the floor, and sometimes forced to watch military executions.

War fever intensified the persecution of radicals, socialists and labour unions, or one union in particular. The Industrial Workers of the World or IWW, otherwise the Wobblies, was a unique syndicalist body that mounted a challenge far beyond its numbers of barely 150,000 members. Or so it certainly seemed to business, newspapers and politicians, with headlines predicting a “Reign of Terror” and the irrepressible Theodore Roosevelt calling the Wobblies “unhung traitors”.

In fact, plenty were “hung” or attacked in other ways. After the tarring and feathering of a group of Wobblies in Tulsa, National Guardsmen and corporate detectives killed dozens more. When Frank Little, a Wobblie organizer, was brutally lynched in Montana, Thomas Marshall, Wilson’s vice president, quipped that “A Little hanging goes a long way”.

An Espionage Act and a Sedition Act were passed, giving the state wide powers to curtail free speech, but Albert Sidney Burleson, the postmaster general, hadn’t needed that to suppress socialist journals, of which there were more than 100, daily, weekly and monthly. He simply withdrew their mailing privileges and destroyed their circulations, while William Lamar, the chief legal officer of the Post Office, said, “I know exactly what I am after … pro-Germanism, pacifism, and high-browism”….

A new Bureau of Investigation, forerunner of the FBI, energetically kept watch on political meetings and infiltrated radical groups, its men sometimes acting as agents provocateurs…. Even before American entry into the war, Albert Briggs, a Chicago advertising man, had created, with official encouragement, the American Protective League, a vigilante group “organized along military lines” and appealing to “men beyond military age seeking martial glory”. They were issued with a badge and codenames such as A-372 or B-49 as they went hunting for spies, saboteurs and dissidents.

With American communism as yet unborn, the objects of official and semi-official persecution were democratic socialists or anarchists, notably Eugene Debs and Emma Goldman….The gentle Debs combined democratic socialism with Christianity and pacifism….Now his opposition to the war ensured that Debs would be hounded and imprisoned under the Espionage Act. In the words of one police informer, Goldman was “doing tremendous damage…. If she is allowed to continue here she cannot help but have a great influence”. She was not allowed to, but was likewise imprisoned and finally deported to Russia, where she was lucky to survive….

Since the Espionage and Sedition Acts had been drafted by the justice department under the attorney general, Thomas Gregory, his resignation in early 1919 came as a great relief to progressives, [who] welcomed the appointment of Gregory’s successor, A. Mitchell Palmer, a Quaker who had called the American Protective League “a grave menace”, and recommended clemency for several hundred people imprisoned under the Espionage Act… 

Those hopes were soon dashed. In November 1919 the affable Quaker gave his name to the notorious Palmer Raids, conducted on radical or merely suspect offices and meetings, particularly where recent immigrants were to be found. The offices of the Union of Russian Workers in a dozen cities were raided [and often destroyed], and in Detroit agents interrogated all 1,500 theatregoers watching a Russian-language play….

If Wilson insisted that this would be a virtuous war in contrast to all the evil previous wars in history, he personified a hypocrisy that amounted to almost psychopathic cognitive dissonance. Wilson was preaching self-determination and democratic rights in Europe, but what of his own country?

A Virginian and the first Southerner to be elected president since the Civil War, …. Wilson had done everything he could as president of Princeton to stop Black students entering the college, and his administration actually re-segregated the civil service… [The postmaster general] said it was “intolerable” that Black and white employees should work together….

The Ku Klux Klan had been re-formed in 1915 and there were lynchings across the South year by year, some almost too horrible to describe in detail. Many Black men enlisted in the army, … but Southern politicians were alarmed that they were being taught to use firearms. Senator James Vardaman of Mississippi said that Black veterans should be prevented from returning to the South, as their contacts with French women must have raised their expectations.

When Blacks tried to escape northwards they merely met more racist violence. In July 1917 there was a ferocious race riot in East St Louis, in which as many as 100 Black people may have been killed, while many hundreds more fled. The Amsterdam News in Harlem pointed to the irony that Black soldiers fighting for the rights of Serbs and Poles would return to lynching at home…

By 1920, with the war won, peace made after a fashion, and Wilson lying incapacitated in the White House, the great fear persisted. A panic spread that on May Day there would be a Red rising throughout the country. In many cities the National Guard as well as armed police were out in force, with machinegun posts installed on the streets of Boston. As Hochschild’s next two-word paragraph reads: “Nothing happened”. The threat was entirely imaginary….

If nothing happened that May Day, something worse had happened, as America drew in upon itself. Behind the assaults on radicals lay a deeper resentment or even hatred of immigrants. Tens of millions of immigrants had arrived in the US in the forty years before the First World War: Italians, Poles, Jews and many others. They had been greeted with intense hostility. Albert Johnson, a congressman from Washington state, railed in the House against “wops, bohunks, coolies and Oriental offscourings” (as a further plus ça change, a newspaper he owned derided conservationists “who tremble every time a tree is cut down”).

Nor was he a lone crank. Theodore Roosevelt insisted that “This is a nation, not a polyglot boarding house”, and Wilson himself said that “Men of the sturdier stocks of the north of Europe” had given way to “multitudes of men of the lowest class from the south of Italy and men of the meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland”….

One awful coda to the story is described by Hochschild, the massacre of Black residents in May 1921 in Tulsa, the town where the Wobblies had been persecuted four years earlier. Tulsa had an unusually (if comparatively) prosperous Black community… On the usual spurious rumour that a Black man had threatened a white woman, white mobs rampaged through this quarter for two days, killing, looting and setting scores of buildings on fire. The National Guard intervened only to arrest Blacks, although it’s reckoned that at least 300 were killed. The best explanation the Los Angeles Times could offer was that “Bolshevik propaganda … was the principal cause of the race riot”….

In December 1920, The Times reported that “America is seriously alarmed by the wave of immigration from the poverty-stricken portions of Europe … In Poland alone 311,000 persons have applied for passports to the United States…“The leaders of the Republican Party regard the flood of immigrants as a menace to America and the Americans, and have decided to give it immediate attention in Congress”.

So they did, with harshly restrictive immigration acts passed in 1921 and 1924 designed to maintain the predominance of those sturdier stocks… No one who reads Adam Hochschild’s admirable but sombre book … will feel quite the same about the land of the free or the Statue of Liberty. 

That’s true. You can’t read American Midnight without seeing today’s MAGA movement as the latest outbreak of anti-progess, anti-tolerance, anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-labor, anti-reality Americanism.

They’re Hard at Work All Around the Nation

The political party that claims to support workers and “family values” is thinking not enough school children work in slaughterhouses. From The Guardian:

The governor of Arkansas signed a bill that rolls back protections against child labor, eliminating state requirements to verify that children are at least 16 before they receive a job.

In Ohio, lawmakers are considering a bill that would let 14- and 15-year-old children work year-round until 9pm each day.

Lawmakers in Minnesota have filed a bill that would permit children aged 16 and 17 to work construction jobs.

In Iowa, legislative proposals would allow children at least 15 years old to sell alcohol and children at least 14 years old to work specific jobs in meatpacking plants. The Iowa bill would also protect companies from liability if a child got sick or injured or died while at work.

Reports by the New York Times have exposed the hiring of migrant children to work dangerous jobs at factories and elsewhere, flouting federal law.

Meanwhile, the forced birth movement forges ahead. Who else can we jail when a woman ends a pregnancy, aside from doctors, nurses, pharmacists and Uber drivers?

For decades, the mainstream anti-abortion [i.e. forced birth] movement promised that it did not believe women who have abortions should be criminally charged. But now, Republican lawmakers in several US states have introduced legislation proposing homicide and other criminal charges for those seeking abortion care.

The bills have been introduced in states such as TexasKentuckySouth CarolinaOklahoma and Arkansas. Some explicitly target medication abortion and self-managed abortion; some look to remove provisions in the law which previously protected pregnant people from criminalization; and others look to establish the fetus as a person from the point of conception.

Finally, the Sunshine State’s mini-Mussolini promises great things ahead. From press critic Margaret Sullivan:

The Florida governor Ron DeSantis likes to brag that he’s just getting started with his rightwing agenda…. He means it as a promise, but it ought to be heard as a threat. That’s particularly true for women whose abortion rights already are being dangerously curtailed and for gay and transgender students who are already being treated as lower life forms. It’s particularly true for those who care about voting rights and press rights, and for those who cherish the power of books and free expression as a foundation of societal well-being….

“DeSantis rules by an authoritarian playbook,” wrote Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago….

Let’s review some of what has happened on his watch with the help of a rubber-stamp Republican state legislature.

The Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as “don’t say gay”, prevents teachers from talking about gender identity and sexual orientation in some elementary-school grades.

The so-called Stop Woke Act restricts how race is discussed in Florida’s schools, colleges and even private workplaces.

Another law pulled a slew of books from public school libraries while they are reviewed for their supposed suitability…. 

Florida’s medical boards now bar transgender youth from gender-affirming medical care such as hormone therapy. State law bans most abortions beyond 15-weeks gestation; a new bill would tighten that to only six weeks.

And, of course, never forget that true liberty means ready access to guns: Florida residents may soon be able to carry firearms without a state license.

Governor courage-to-be-free also wants to limit press rights, including supporting a challenge to the landmark US supreme court decision that for decades has given journalists enough protection from defamation lawsuits to let them do their jobs.

When DeSantis signed into law new restrictions on voting rights, he did so in a room where local reporters were shut out. Fox News, however, got special access….

DeSantis also got his legislature to establish a new and completely unnecessary election crimes office. After the first few cases turned into a legal embarrassment, he got his rubber-stampers to change the law again.

That’s why it’s appalling to see the media lavish him with so much fawning coverage…. The media should be delving into the substance of [his] record, including the kitchen-table economic issues that have nothing to do with performative anti-woke nonsense, instead of letting DeSantis play at will on his favorite field of divisive social issues….

Given all of this, it’s a scary thought that he’s just getting started.

It’s said that the individual states of the Union are “laboratories of democracy”. They’re where policies are often proposed and tried out before they reach the national level.

It’s bad enough Republican experiments like these are happening all over the country. We’ve got to make sure they never escape the labs.

Connecting Global Dots

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo looks at the big picture

It’s interesting to step back sometimes and consider … our times. Today we have our ongoing battle over democracy and authoritarianism in the U.S. The UK is in its latest stage of its ongoing national self-immolation. Italy has just elected its first far-right government since Benito Mussolini’s rise to power in the early 1920s. Russia, which has made itself into the international clarion of rightist nationalism, is stumbling through a succession of largely self-inflicted catastrophes in its war of choice in Ukraine.

Let’s go back to the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring unsettles or topples governments across the Arab Middle East. But it triggers long-running civil wars in Syria and Libya. The first especially, but also the second, are the main drivers of the European Union migrant crisis of 2015, in which some 1.3 million refugees/migrants requested asylum in the EU, the most in any single year since World War II. Given the closeness of the vote and the great focus on the migrant crisis in 2015 and 2016, it’s very hard to imagine the UK leaves the European Union without this chain of events … beginning in December 2010.

Less obvious is that you can make a looser but I think still fairly persuasive argument that these events play a key role in the rise of [MAGA-ism] in the United States….The rise of [MAGA-ism] is part of a long progression within the United States. [However, their leader’s] particular platform — to the extent you can call it that — focused on “the wall” and immigrants from Mexico and Central America….

But there’s a somewhat different commonality I am focusing on.

The [reactionary] right is, paradoxically, highly internationalized if not internationalist. There’s a deep confluence and sharing of ideas, imagery and programs between the U.S. and Europe. The narratives of “our out of control migration” and white Christian cultures under threat was a common, interwoven and reinforcing pattern on both sides of the Atlantic….

These are of course only the barest thumbnail outlines of recent history and its relationship to the present…. Why this interests me is that migration flows and their intensity are going to increase over time. The most basic reason is climate. Our potential climate futures range from really bad to truly catastrophic. But anywhere on that spectrum you have lots of people trying to move from places that are less habitable than they used to be or are in the throes of political and economic instability for those same reasons. Telecommunications and transport technology greatly accelerate that process.

A century ago a poor peasant in India or Ecuador may have known in a general way that there were vastly richer societies in Europe and North America. But they couldn’t really know the details and it was close to impossible to get there anyway. Today, almost everyone in the world can see through electronic media how people live in Europe, North America, and other parts of the affluent world and — though it’s hard and often dangerous — it is possible to get there.

What we can draw from this is that the accelerating patterns of global migration which are so central to the politics of the last decade and have helped reshape politics in Europe and North America will almost certainly continue to intensify.

Understanding the Plague of Christian Nationalism

The political ideology known as “Christian nationalism” has little to do with Christianity. Journalist Sarah Posner explains it for Talking Points Memo:

Christian nationalism has been all over the news lately, but it is neither a new term nor a new phenomenon in American politics. The label gained greater usage during [the former administration] because of [that president’s] mobilization of the Christian right around his strongman politics. Interest in the ideology — and the term — grew even more following the January 6 insurrection, where Christian nationalist rhetoric and symbols were on full display, sometimes violently. …Its threat to democracy has never been more vividly apparent.

Many on the Christian right have long rejected the term, but Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has embraced it, and even started selling “Proud Christian Nationalist” t-shirts. “I am being attacked by the godless left because I said I’m a proud Christian Nationalist,” she tweeted in response to criticism. “They hate America, they hate God, and they hate us [no, but we do hate you].

Although Greene made it more popular, not all Christian nationalists wear the label on their sleeve, or a t-shirt. So how can you tell who is a Christian nationalist?

The Christian Founding Mythology

Christian nationalists believe that God had a “providential hand” in America’s founding. They contend that, carrying out God’s will, the founders intended America to be a “Christian nation.” They insist, falsely, that the founding documents prove both this intent and that the separation of church and state is a “myth.” God also intended government to play a limited role in people’s lives, they assert — but to the extent government carries out its functions, it should be done from a “biblical worldview”….

The leading proponent of this revisionist history undergirding contemporary Christian nationalism is David Barton, a prolific writer and energetic speaker whose false and misleading claims about this history have been thoroughly debunked by historians and researchers. Nonetheless, his extensive writings and lectures maintain a kind of doctrinal status within the religious right. Barton first made national headlines in 2004 when the Republican National Committee hired him as a political consultant during the presidential campaign to mobilize evangelical pastors and their flocks. Today, he remains an influential fixture in Christian right circles through his extensive writings, lectures, radio show, and other programs produced by his WallBuilders organization.

The impact of the perpetuation of this ideology is clear. A recent poll by the University of Maryland found that 61 percent of Republicans support officially declaring the United States a Christian nation. That number is far higher — 78 percent — among Republicans who identify as evangelical or born-again.

Restoration and Dominionism

A corollary of the Christian nation founding myth is that if the founders were carrying out God’s will, then any erosion of America’s “Christian heritage” must be fought by patriotic Christians who seek to rescue America from ungodly forces and “restore” it to its Christian foundation. Based on claims that the Bible calls on Christians to “take dominion” over earthly institutions, Christian nationalists contend that it is the duty of Christians to run for office and seek political and judicial appointments to ensure the government crafts law and policy from a [supposed “biblical” perspective].

In nearly two decades of reporting on the Christian right, I have seen this directive manifest itself in myriad ways: activists engaging in “spiritual warfare” and vetting political candidates, evangelical pastors mobilizing “to restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage”, candidates running for president to Christianize government, governors holding mega-prayer rallies in professional basketball stadiums — all building toward the movement attempting to foment a coup. Greene’s call for the GOP to “lean into biblical principles” showed how the decades-long quest to elect “biblical worldview” representatives continues to bear fruit, and in increasingly radical ways.


A key element of this dominionist vision is the claim that Christians are persecuted by social, cultural, political, and legal changes that they claim have undermined the Christian nation. Much of the supposed subversion of Christian heritage and values, and the attendant claimed persecution, stems from both conspiratorial thinking about political adversaries and apocalyptic claims about their ambitions. From the Cold War to the present, perceived enemies of the Christian nation have included Communism, Marxism, socialism, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., mainline Protestantism, atheism, secular humanism, feminism, abortion rights, the “homosexual agenda,” Islam, political correctness, President Barack Obama, “gender ideology,” COVID mitigation policies, the “deep state,” critical race theory, and “wokeness.” Many of these figures, beliefs, and policies might ostensibly have little in common, but they are imagined as conspiring to form a single movement to undermine America — as Greene put it in her tweet, the “godless left.”

In practical legal and political terms, these persecution claims, litigated in the courts and in the court of public opinion by well-funded lawyers and activists, have led tocataclysmic erosions of church-state separation, the reversal of Roe v. Wade, ongoing assaults on LGBTQ rights, and the accompanying elevation of religious freedom rights — for right-wing Christians. 


Subversions of church-state separation, and the imposition of fundamentalist religion to deprive others of their civil and constitutional rights, are in and of themselves signs of a democracy in danger. But since the 2020 election, the Christian right’s embrace of [the] stolen election lie — fueled by the belief that [the unreligious, con man president] is a savior of the Christian nation — has contributed to direct threats to the electoral process itself….

The QAnon movement, which claims that a deep state cabal of satanic pedophiles is running a secret sex trafficking ring inside the government … is not just a conspiracy theory. It is another means of energizing right-wing white Christian voters, who have been steeped in this kind of conspiracism for decades, to take extreme steps to “save” the Christian nation that (they believe) [the ex-president] has so ardently defended. Polling by the Public Religion Research Institute has found that QAnon adherents “express strong Christian nationalist beliefs,” with 71 percent agreeing with the statement that “God has granted America a special role in human history,” and 55 percent saying they believe being a Christian is “at least somewhat important to being a ‘true American.’”

Finally: Is [You Know Who] A Christian Nationalist?

The Bible is just a prop for [him], and, like autocrats throughout history, he uses religion and religious leaders to consolidate the support of enraptured followers. It doesn’t really matter whether [he] himself is a Christian nationalist, since he is a salvific figure to Christian nationalists, one who can achieve their long-sought goals by crushing the “godless left” and giving them more power. One of the leading contenders to be [the former president’s] successor, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, is abusing his current office to engage in fascistic crackdowns on migrants, public education, and LGBTQ kids while making direct Christian nationalist appeals. In recent political speeches, DeSantis has been using a verse from Ephesians 6 (“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”), but with a notable substitution: instead of “the devil’s,” he has said “the left’s.” The meaning is not lost on evangelical audiences, who are well familiar with the actual words of the verse….

It’s Out in the Open Now

Leading Republicans are holding a conference in Budapest because, as history professor Andrew Gawthorpe explains, Hungary’s authoritarian regime, “unconstrained by an independent media, democratic institutions or racial diversity – isn’t a cautionary tale, but an aspiration”. From The Guardian:

Long a safe space where conservatives [no, the neo-fascists of the radical right] could say what they really thought, this year the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is hosting an event in Budapest, its first ever on the European continent. Attendees will be treated to panels about “western civilization under attack” and be addressed by American [right-wing] luminaries including the former T____ chief of staff Mark Meadows and media figures like Tucker Carlson and Candace Owens. That Hungary has become an authoritarian state whose leader, Viktor Orbán, has deconstructed Hungarian democracy and become a close ally of Vladimir Putin doesn’t seem to faze anyone involved. In fact, it’s the whole point.

The embrace of Orbán as a role model by many on the right seems at first glance puzzling. . . .  But . . .  for years, Orbán has been playing out the fantasies of CPAC’s attendees, unconstrained by the independent institutions, impartial media and racial diversity which American conservatives see as their foils at home. Where Orbán has gone, American [reactionaries] want to follow. And increasingly, they are doing so.

Central to Orbán’s appeal is that he is a fighter who has turned his country into, according to the organizers of CPAC, “one of the engines of Conservative resistance to the woke revolution”. In some ways Orbán resembles T____, but in the eyes of many [neo-fascists] he’s better understood as the man they wished T____ would be. Where T____ was a thrice-married playboy who boasted of sleeping with porn stars and managed to lose the 2020 election, Orbán seems both genuinely committed to upholding [reactionary] cultural values and has grimly consolidated control over his country, excluding the left from power indefinitely.

Among the terrifying implications of the American right’s embrace of Orbán is that it shows that the right would be willing to dismantle American democracy in exchange for cultural and racial hegemony. Many of Orbán’s admirers . . . see “traditional American culture” as so far degenerated that it may be necessary to wrest power away from a corrupted people in order to make America great again. They count among Orbán’s victories his clampdown on gay and transgender rights and his refusal to allow Muslim refugees to enter Hungary. Upholding a particular set of “Christian” (actually nationalistic and bigoted) values is seen as worth the damage to democracy – the latter might even be necessary for the former.

Things get even more sinister when we consider that America is a vast continent-sized country of enormous cultural and racial diversity. Imposing a conservative monoculture on such a country could only be achieved through one means – governmental coercion. The desirability of doing just that is now openly discussed on the right. Over the past several years, many have been advocating “common-good constitutionalism” – an idea put forward by the [Republican] legal thinker Adrian Vermeule which holds that America should embrace a new interpretation of the constitution focused on, among other things, a “respect for hierarchy” and a willingness to “legislate morality”. As surely as such ideas underpinned the Jim Crow south, such ideas mesh easily with, indeed are required by, any attempt to bring Orbánism to the United States as a whole.

Far from being limited to the trolls at CPAC or obscure writers, such an approach to governing is already being implemented by [Republicans] up and down the country. State laws which ban teaching about race or gender issues in schools have passed in many states, and Republicans have continued their assault on businesses which speak out on these issues. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has moved to use the power of the state to punish Disney for its stance on gay rights. In the face of cultural change which [reactionaries] dislike, the principle of free speech has gone out of the window, and the heavy hand of the state is knocking at the door.

The recently leaked US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade is perhaps the clearest indication of the danger that this trend poses. By removing a fundamental individual right and once again enabling [the radical right] to impose their own moral views on women’s bodies, the decision – if passed as written – will be seen on the right as a landmark in how the power of the state can be used to discipline a degenerated culture and regulate morality. Further crackdowns are sure to follow. Locked out of power on the Supreme Court and facing steep challenges to winning power in America’s unbalanced electoral system, defenders of liberalism will struggle to fight back.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Orbánism, with its rejection of democracy and its willingness to use coercion to enforce a narrow cultural and religious agenda, defines the danger posed by modern American conservatism. The danger is greatest when the two elements come together. Unable to win the approval of the people on whom they wish to force their values, [Republicans] will be tempted to proceed further and further down an undemocratic path. That path has already taken them all the way to Budapest. The fear now is that they will ultimately bring Budapest back to America.


A headline from The Guardian: “Viktor Orbán tells CPAC the path to power is to ‘have your own media’” and that right-wing propaganda like Tucker Carlson’s program should be broadcast ‘24/7’.

From journalist David Roberts on Twitter:

CPAC [is] in Hungary, openly celebrating Orban’s defeat of democracy, openly planning to do the same in the US … it’s just all out in the open now. And still the media can’t seem to convey it clearly to the public. [Unlike the left], the right [with Rupert Murdoch’s money] built a propaganda machine that now effectively immunizes it from consequences no matter what it does. . . . 

It’s important for Americans to understand that Orbán did not defeat democracy with any dramatic police action or coup. There were no troops in the streets. In most ways, the formal *appearance* of democracy is still in place. There are still campaigns; people still vote.

Orbán just gradually exerted more and more control over media, until they are all beholden to him. He ensured that private companies loyal to his regime profited and that those that didn’t suffered. . . .

You might say Hungary still has the body of a democracy, but the soul of democracy is gone. The free flow of information, the level playing field, the fair competition among candidates, it’s all gone, but if you’re not LGBTQ or otherwise marginalized, it can still FEEL normal.

This is the new blueprint for the right: not some dramatic overthrow, but steady erosion of the mechanisms of democracy until only a hollow shell is left and one-party control is, if not inscribed in law, ensured in practice.

In many ways this is *more* dangerous than an explicit bid for autocracy. It deprives opponents of singular, dramatic events around which to rally. It’s incremental, each step a little further than the last, nothing that trips alarms or sparks organized resistance.


Finally, from Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post:

Turnout in midterm elections is traditionally much lower than in presidential years. Voters who are appalled at what the [Republican Party] has become [it’s no longer a normal political party] can send a powerful and definitive message by abandoning their traditional nonchalance this November and voting in huge numbers. We can reject T____ism, both for its cultishness and for its proto-fascism. We can take a stand. It’s up to us what kind of country we want to live in.