Trump is Using the Orban Blueprint for a Bloodless Coup
There is more than one way to create an authoritarian state from a democracy, as we have seen in Russia, Turkey, the Philippines and Hungary. They all, however, share one common thread. They occur when those in power in a democracy are more interested in power, than democracy. The actions of Trump, and the collaborating republicans, suggest that Trump is using the Orban blueprint for a bloodless coup.
Viktor Orban’s first term as Prime Minister of Hungary lasted just four years, from 1998-2002. When his Fidesz Party got two-thirds of the seats in parliament in 2010, he became prime minister for a second time. He immediately set out to ensure it would be the last time he would have to worry about reelection. Orban took advantage of the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment to stir up nationalist populism in Hungary, and concentrated an unprecedented amount of power in his hands. He quickly imposed a conservative agenda on everything from the media to the economy and religion. Orban changed election laws, the role of the judiciary, created a compliant media and weakened the political checks and balances in Hungary. He then redrew the election boundaries, and in the next election his party’s share of the vote dropped from 53% to 44% but his party still won 2/3 of the seats in parliament because of the redistricting.
Orban has also befriended Putin and built a wall on his southern border. He now describes his goal for Hungary as creating an “illiberal state” and argues that authoritarian systems such as China, Turkey and Russia are a more appropriate model than Western liberal democracies.
Last Thursday, Orban met with Vladimir Putin in Budapest, despite EU sanctions against Moscow because of its meddling in Ukraine. During that visit, Orban said “It’s hard to foresee global economic prosperity without Russia.” Putin responded by hailing Hungary as an “important and reliable partner for Russia in Europe.”
Like Orban, Trump is using the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment and a message of white nationalism to implement a conservative agenda. In order to convince the populist that they need a strongman leader, he has used fear of globalization and diversity. If he can maintain enough popular support to keep the GOP on board, Trump can consolidate authoritarian power through more gerrymandering and voter suppression, in exchange for the conservative agenda the Republicans crave. They know their ability to hold onto power is diminishing with the changing demographics of the United States. Now Orban has showed them that they can maintain power with a plurality of the electorate if they continue on the path given to them by the Supreme Court when they gutted the Voting Rights Act.