Orbán to CPAC: You and Me Against the World

Orbán reminded CPAC attendees that their revenge fantasies can operate on a much grander scale: The United States and Europe, according to Orbán, are “the two fronts in the battle being fought for Western civilization.” This is the kind of language you sometimes hear on the right. It’s not shocking, and again, it’s not new—but if conservatives take anything from Orbán, my guess is that it will be Orbán’s consistent equating of the conservative project and the protection of “The West.”

Orbán made clear the fight for “the West”: It’s the Christians on one side, and everyone else on the other. “The most evil things in modern history were carried out by people who hated Christianity,” he said, which I suspect leaves out a lot. God wants conservatives to fight for the West, Orbán argued, in a passage whose directness might be a function of translation—or, maybe not:

If you believe in God, you also believe that we humans were created in God’s image. Therefore, we have to be brave enough to address even the most sensitive questions: migration, gender, and the clash of civilizations. Don’t worry, a Christian politician cannot be racist, so we should never hesitate to have challenge our opponents on these issues.

Appealing to “the West” is an embellishment of Standard Dogwhistle, taking it back to its etymological roots. Conservatives have fought for decades to get Americans to believe that we are “Christian nation,” and originalists in the courts would have us decide constitutional issues via a New England archeological dig. To harken back to “the West,” well, that’s invoking an even older set of morals, an even more primitive interpretation of what the laws should be and how they should be enforced, an even more rudimentary understanding of good and evil.

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