The American Republicans are a loveable bunch, but they are not usually known for their deference to other countries. The party’s grand CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) conferences have always been held in the States, and its attendees fired up by renditions of Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless the USA’ and the National Anthem.
God save the soul of anyone who even attempts to deprive the Americans of their patriotic music. That kind of fanfare is here to stay. But, as of May 2022, the venue has changed. CPAC’s most recent get-together took place in Budapest, Hungary. The event’s main organiser, Matt Schlapp, has said that he wants this to be merely the first of many such conferences to be hosted in countries beyond the American mainland. Japan, Australia, and Mexico are all being entertained as possible future locations.
CPAC Hungary brought conservatives from all over the world under the banner of ‘God, Homeland, and Family.’ As a Republican event, it comes as no surprise that most of the speakers, from Rick Santorum to Candace Owens, were American. But the event also gave platforms to politicians, commentators, and campaigners from the broad spectrum of the European Right. Spain’s VOX, France’s National Rally, and Hungary’s Fidesz all sent representatives. The most high-profile of them was the newly re-elected Hungarian Prime Minister himself, Viktor Orbán. He opened the first day with a lively speech to a packed auditorium in the roof of the Bálna centre, outlining a 12-point action plan for reclaiming Western culture from “progressive dominance.”
The Guardian made much of the fact that Orbán used his speech to claim that the path to securing conservative power is to “have your own media.” When lifted from context, the impression created by this quotation is that Orbán supports a one-party state fuelled by government propaganda. In fact, as becomes clear from the context, Orbán inveighed only against the manner in which “the modern Western media aligns itself with the views of the Left.” The idea, then, is not to subordinate all media to the dictates of a ruling conservative elite, but to create new and support existing right-wing outlets that challenge the liberal hegemony represented by CNN, the BBC, and the New York Times.
Liberal journalists have been less eager to report the seventh item in Orbán’s 12-point action plan: “do not get pushed to the extreme.” Orbán risked making himself unpopular with an audience of conservatives with some self-criticism: “extreme conspiracy theories rear their heads from time to time on the Right—just as extreme utopias regularly rear their heads on the Left.” He conceded that “sometimes there is truth” in these theories, but added that, by promoting speculative conspiracy theories as a hasty first resort, “we [conservatives] will alienate a large proportion of the electorate, find ourselves pushed to the margins, and eventually we will lose.” This is a remarkably measured, sensible point from a man whom conventional wisdom would encourage us to regard as an authoritarian purveyor of ‘misinformation.’
On the subject of misinformation, during his speech, Afriforum’s Ernst Roets illustrated the mainstream media’s fundamental moral unseriousness and willingness to sacrifice human wellbeing to political narrative. He referred to a recent series on Tucker Carlson by the New York Times in which the popular talk-show host was criticised for covering racial tensions in South Africa.
It seems Carlson’s coverage of the scapegoating of that country’s European-descended citizens, among other issues, has drawn the ire of the Times. Roets went on to cite a study carried out by his group, which found that South African media is sixteen-times more likely to report on a violent incident on a farm when the perpetrator is white. In the rarefied atmosphere of Western, mediatic hegemony, racial animus and bias are only permitted to exist when they manifest in the right way, carried out by the right villain against the right, predetermined victim (so long as those victims aren’t on the Right, of course).
In terms of ideas, much has been written about CPAC’s shift from an older brand of neo-conservative, neo-liberal Rightism to a more Trumpian flavour, where the latter is painted with the thick and thickly-coated brush of “populism,” “fascism,” and the like, while the American Left scrambles to rehabilitate George Bush Jr. and his era of Republicanism.
Obviously, this wantonly ignores what’s really going on. Viktor Orbán represents the most successful and coherent manifestation of what we might call the new conservative paradigm. Listening to the various speakers with an ear to elements of ideological renewal, one may have been struck by Spain’s VOX spokesman Jorge Buxadé’s call to anti-globalist resistance:
community, family, municipality … we will not allow these to be swept away by the cold winds of the globalist Agenda. We must recover the love for the local.
Gone is the bombast of economic progress as a good in itself. It seems much of the Right has finally recovered from the hangover of an era in which it was necessary to evidence the superiority of Western capitalism over eastern Bolshevism.
So far as economic policy is concerned, the criterion is now increasingly how it allows for the preservation of community life, local culture, and robust birth rates, rather than how far up it pushes the GDP graph-line. There was more Chesterton and less Friedman in the air than, one imagines, has been the case in most previous editions of CPAC.
This came through again during Director of the ECLJ Grégor Puppinck’s intervention, when he described the link between “fatherhood” and “fatherland:”
Family is a reality you cannot “buy.” Family reminds us that the most important things in life are not for sale. It takes virtues rather than money to found a family.
Crucially, moving away from the market as centrepiece of conservatism does not lead to “the state” taking its place, as journalists eager to paint CPAC as the fascist internationale would like to think. Puppinck went on to say that
the destruction of the family doesn’t lead only to the one of the homeland, it also leads to the loss of our true and fundamental freedoms. We know that all dictatorships have in common their will to destroy the family.
It is significant that the above is emerging as a response to social grievances in places as far removed as the U.S. and Hungary. Indeed, CPAC’s new international outlook is proof of a laudable open-mindedness among the Republican Party’s leadership. Alas, this has not prevented the mainstream liberal press from depicting CPAC Hungary as a narrow-minded, mean-spirited, far-Right festival of racial bigotry.
Nothing could be further from the truth. On the (surprisingly few) occasions when mass immigration came up, the focus was on culture and civilization. The event was in fact notable for its multilingual, multi-ethnic character—not just among the speakers but the guests as well.
During a post-CPAC meeting of various party youths, the issue of helping countries in the European neighbourhood to develop economically, so that the issue of mass migration can be addressed holistically and in terms of its (very understandable) root causes, was also brought up. Certainly not the sort of thing one would expect from “haters” and “supremacists.”
The main theme of CPAC Hungary was that the Right should forge deeper international alliances to become as globally well-organised as the Left has been in recent decades. Our opponents should be flattered to see conservatives lifting so much from their own strategic playbook. The fact that they do not feel this way is a sure sign that the Leftists lack the confidence for battle on a level playing field.