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Robert Reich: Viktor Orban’s Eugenics And The GOP – OpEd

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addressed a crowd of thousands of American admirers in Dallas, Texas, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Orban described Hungary and America as “twin fronts” in a struggle against globalists, progressives, communists, and “fake news.”

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To fully comprehend Orban’s influence on the Trump Republican Party, you need to understand the Orban has stripped Hungary of its democratic institutions and demonized immigrants. But that’s not all. He has also embraced a form of eugenics, in which he claims that the future of the West is threatened by the “racial mixing” of white Christian Europeans with others. 

On July 23, Orban put it bluntly in a speech at the 31st Bálványos Summer Free University and Student Camp:

The internationalist left employs a feint, an ideological ruse: the claim – their claim – that Europe by its very nature is populated by peoples of mixed race. … 

[We] do not want to become peoples of mixed-race. This is why we fought at Nándorfehérvár/Belgrade, this is why we stopped the Turks at Vienna, and – if I am not mistaken – this is why, in still older times – the French stopped the Arabs at Poitiers.

Today the situation is that Islamic civilization, which is constantly moving towards Europe, has realized – precisely because of the traditions of Belgrade/Nándorfehérvár – that the route through Hungary is an unsuitable one along which to send its people up into Europe. This is why Poitiers has been replayed; now the incursion’s origins are not in the East, but in the South, from where they are occupying and flooding the West. 

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Orban’s words and phrases were familiar to anyone who lived through the Nazi holocaust. After the speech, one of Orban’s closest advisers resigned, calling it “pure Nazi.” 

Prominent American Republicans have rushed to Orban’s defense. On Wednesday, when Orban stopped off at Trump’s (Saudi-sponsored) golf tournament on the way to the CPAC conference, Trump called him a “friend,” adding “few people know as much about what is going on in the world today.” That evening, Tucker Carlson smirked on his Fox television show, “So Viktor Orban is now a Nazi because he wants national borders?” (Last year, Carlson did a special broadcast from Budapest during which he praised Orban’s Hungary as a model for America.) And, of course, Orban gave yesterday’s keynote at CPAC. 

Eugenics was popular at the turn of the last century. Developed largely by Sir Francis Galton — supposedly as a method to improve the human race — it called for arranging reproduction within the human population to increase characteristics regarded as desirable and minimize the undesirable. After the adoption of eugenics by the Nazis to justify their treatment of Jews, disabled people, and other minority groups, eugenics was discredited as unscientific and racially motivated. 

But eugenics has been reborn under another guise — that of white Christian nationalism. It is now presented as the scourge of “racial mixing” between white Christians of European descent, and others. 

It is a small leap from the invasions of Europe by Turks and Arabs centuries ago to the present generation of immigrants swarming over borders and “invading” white Christian nations. 

In Republican primary races this year, few issues have come up more frequently in TV ads than immigration — all featuring the word “invasion.” It’s pure Orban. 

“We’re gonna end this invasion,” says Blake Masters, the Republican candidate for the Senate from Arizona, in one ad. “Invasion” is featured in ads for Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia, Senator Rick Scott in Florida, and Kari Lake(now in a close race in the Republican primary for governor in Arizona). 

And, of course, for the past six years Trump has warned that America is being “invaded” by immigrants.

The word “invasion” has a long history among white nationalists. It has been widely used by supporters of the “replacement theory” — the baseless conspiracy theory that Jews or elites are intentionally replacing white Americans with immigrants and people of color. Both Blake Masters and J.D. Vance, the Republican candidate for the Senate from Ohio (each the beneficiary of $15 million in campaign funding from far-right billionaire Peter Thiel and of a Trump endorsement) claim that Democrats are deliberately trying to “import” immigrants in an attempt to “replace Americans who were born here.”

The racist tropes of “invasion” and “replacement” are intended to stoke fear and drive votes. They also fuel violence. Three years ago, a white gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, killing 23 people, most of them Latino. The suspect was motivated by what he called a “Hispanic invasion” of people coming to the U.S. illegally. The man suspected of killing 10 Black people earlier this year in Buffalo was also motivated by the replacement theory.

The bogus science of eugenics, popular at the turn of the last century but since disgraced and forgotten, has now morphed into white Christian nationalism — which, at its core, is nothing but ugly racism. Along with Trump’s big Lie, it defines today’s Republican Party.

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at robertreich.substack.com. Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

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