Ten years ago Hungary was a thriving democracy, but today without violence or revolution it has officially declared itself an authoritarian state.
In 2010 Viktor Orban was elected Prime Minister on a wave of populism by fear-mongering LGBTQ citizens and his promise to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, by demagoguing immigrants, and creating bogeymen for Hungarians to fear, like a Muslims “takeover,” the “failing” EU, and George Soros, all of this despite very anti-democratic comments and being perceived as a “clown.”
Since then he “built a wall” to keep out foreign “invaders,” turned to Putin and Russia as a key ally, attacked the media as “fake news” and essentially sidelined them, increased his power, officially declared the country a “Christian” nation despite its founding as a secular country, and if all if this sounds familiar, one of Orban’s key advisors is Trump’s former advisor Steve Bannon.
After years of inching away from democracy, then letting the new normal set in, and inching farther way from democracy again, today Monday March 30th the Hungarian parliament willfully and overwhelmingly handed the entire control of the country over to one man, Viktor Orban.
Spreading “fake news” or “rumors” will be met with up to 5 years in prison.
Leaving quarantine will land you up to 8 years in prison.
Hungary’s democracy is gone. Gone. And they won’t be getting it back because their largely conservative population doesn’t want it back. They’ve been primed by Orban’s state run media that democracy can take a back seat during Orban’s pursuit to “Make Hungary Great Again.” (His actual slogan.)
This is a warning. This type of “soft” fascism, where democratic tools are used to undermine democracy itself, has already been exported to other countries, like Poland.
Think about where we were five years ago and think about how far conservatives have fallen.
Today the press is “fake news.” Today conservatives look to Russia and shun the EU. Today conservatives ignore outright corruption and allow their leaders to profit from their businesses while funding the leader’s family with taxpayer money. Today the only requirement to being a conservative is your unquestioning loyalty to its leader. Today conservatives fought to give up the greatest constitutional check on the executive, the power of the purse. Today conservatives fought for a president’s right to fire those investigating him, and cheered their demise. Today conservatives fought and cheered to allow a president to bribe foreign governments to interfere in our elections. Today conservatives fought and cheered for the “unitary executive theory,” that if a president does something illegal, even if it is for his own re-election, then must be legal. Today conservatives are taught to embrace conspiracy theory, racism, and xenophobia from a propaganda network calling itself news.
Republicans have put us on this path. This is your future. The 2020 election is your most significant election in this generation’s history.
If you still think it cannot happen here then just remember one fact, Bannon exported Trumpism to Hungary and this is the result.
CNN’s Brian Stelter attempted to debunk what he called a “left wing conspiracy” that Fox News’ Shepherd Smith was forced out because of a secret meeting between Bill Barr and Rupert Murdoch, citing reporting that Smith was considering leaving for weeks.
First, what is Donald Trump’s Attorney (General) doing secretly meeting Rupert Murdoch, with the owner of his propaganda network, right after Trump complains on Twitter about Fox polling finding a majority of Americans approve of impeachment and removal?
Second, CNN’s Brian Stelter is dead wrong. While it may be true Shepherd Smith was ready to quit Fox News over their dangerous deeper turn to propaganda, there has been a concerted effort by Trump and his administration to push out critical voices at Fox.
Trump attacks Megyn Kelly, boycotts debate with Kelly as moderator, next interview with Kelly is *fawning*, and Kelly is out a few short months later.
Trump attacks Howard Kurtz after he “crossed bright red line” for embracing Kim Jong Un, Kurtz goes right back to licking Trumps boots again.
If you still support Donald Trump you have no interest in a democracy and you need to come to terms with this.
Let me be very clear. Today is the day we warned you about in 2016. We warned you. We told you Donald Trump is an authoritarian and many of you didn’t seem to care.
It’s always been a concern because you didn’t seem to care after he mocked people for their disabilities, admitted to being a sexual predator, praised Nazis, lies on average 6 times a day, colluded with Russia, hired white supremacists, bowed to Putin in Helsinki, separated children from their parents to discourage future legal and illegal immigration, and banned people from the country because of their religious beliefs.
And now, Trump is abusing his power by declaring a false national emergency to build a border wall with our closest ally Mexico by re-appropriating $8 billion taxpayer dollars from funds already set aside by Congress for other uses, all over something that he originally promised his supporters Mexico would pay for.
Founding father James Madison was very clear in the Federalist Papers in his explanation of why only Congress can appropriate funds and it was the job of the president to spend those funds exactly how Congress laid out. What Madison called “the power of the purse” was to serve as the legislative branch’s biggest check on executive overreach.
The importance of Congress’ power of the purse keeps showing up several times in the writing of our founding fathers, most notably Alexander Hamilton in “The Federalist Papers Number 78” where he explained the judicial branch was the weakest of the three branches of government because it had, “no influence over either the sword or the purse.”
It is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy that separated us from the monarchy of England who had total control of how and where taxpayer money was spent. (Remember “no taxation without representation”? We fought a war over it?)
I’m old enough to remember five years ago when conservatives blew their tops when Obama used executive orders to protect Dreamers, saying he “ruled by fiat” and was a “king.”
For example here is Vice President Mike Pence in 2014 as the Governor of Indiana saying, ”It would be a profound mistake to overturn immigration laws with a stroke of a pen.”
And here is Donald Trump himself tweeting, “Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress”
The reality was no laws were changed, no laws were created, all Obama’s executive actions were doing was simply de-prioritizing the prosecution of Dreamers, illegal immigrants who came here as children. Something Fox News and Republican media failed to tell their viewers is several previous presidents including George W. Bush used that same executive lever, for example with the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative where gang members increased in priority to be prosecuted by the DOJ, and this was not at all out of the ordinary. Even Donald Trump himself touched that exact same lever when he undid Obama’s executive order.
But even if you honestly still believe Obama was acting like a tyrant, as so many Fox News host would say, why is Donald Trump actually circumventing Congress and smashing a fundamental pilar of our democracy specifically spelled out in Article I of our Constitution doing something that is to be supported?
Do you not see how far you are willing to excuse an erosion of democratic norms just to win at any cost?
Do you not see you are being conned? How everything about this so-called emergency is a lie.
Donald Trump waited 26 months to call for his emergency, made zero effort to build a wall during the two years Republicans had absolute control of all three branches of government, and during his announcement even said he didn’t have to call for an emergency and could have waited, but he just wanted to move faster.
That’s not what someone does in an emergency, because there is no border crisis.
Border crossings are at a 50-year low according to Trump’s own government statistics.
The spikes in border apprehensions we are seeing at the southern border are in-fact family units crossing the border and turning themselves over to authorities as part of the legal process of seeking legal asylum.
Yes to seek legal asylum you must be physically present within the United States borders, regardless if you cross legally or not or present yourself at a port of entry. There is no other way, despite Fox News’ many claims to the contrary.
And we have over 100 years of scientific studies that unequivocally show illegal immigrants commit crimes and are incarcerated at far lower rates than the native-born population.
Not just here in America, but in every country. Here is Europe’s statistics: https://www.europol.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/tesat_2018_1.pdf
And at the end of the day, a border wall with Mexico wasn’t born out of any evidence-based observations, but was cooked up by Roger Stone as a mnemonic device for Donald Trump after recognizing he had zero understanding of immigration policies and needed him to remember to stay on message.
So today when you watch your Fox News and listen to your Republican radio, and you hear them try to make the case to go along with an invented emergency just so Donald Trump can keep a campaign promise that was never rooted in reality, recognize they had to lie and cheat and subvert our democracy in order to convince you to move your opinions to where you are today.
They’ve convinced you to ignore provable factual observations, to see others as lesser than you because of their nationality, and democracy isn’t that important, all in an effort for political wins.
I don’t think you want authoritarianism, but this is what you’ve convinced yourself to support.
You’ll say to yourself, “Well Trump had to do it.” No he didn’t. He’s not the first president to lose a policy fight. To understand the better argument usually wins, that’s democracy.
You’ll say to yourself, “But we need border security!” We do have border security. Both Republicans and Democrats listened to the experts and found the best compromise on their competing ideas and funded border security. That’s democracy.
You’ll say to yourself, “But we have to stop those illegals!” We do. The number one way people are in the country illegally by far is they overstay their visas. A wall won’t address that. We use evidence to make our arguments. That’s democracy.
You are giving up all of this, and more to pursue a strategy of win at any cost. That is not democracy. That is something else.
We need you to recognize this or be comfortable with what type country you want to live in. Because if you truly want to live in a constitutionally limited democratic republic, you need to come back.
Let’s do a quick rundown of where we are ahead of Trump’s prime-time address, which is being written by Stephen Miller and many believe will be about his claims of a “crisis” at the southern border.
Donald Trump is a Racist
We need to get this out of the way, right away. Ask yourself, why are we only talking about a border wall with Mexico and not Canada?
If drug flow into the United States is your main concern, and if there are three main drug corridors on our southern border, but with Canada there are five main drug corridors, why are we only talking about a border wall with Mexico?
Donald Trump has already told you he thinks Hispanic countries are “shithole countries,” and that he would like to see more European immigrants.
And the over 100 instances we’ve cataloged of racist comments, racist policies, hiring known white supremacists into his administration, retweeting known white supremacists, retweeting those same known white supremacists again, and defending white supremacists as “very fine people.”
Donald Trump is a racist.
White House Will Claim a Crisis at the Southern Border
During the shutdown negotiations, Donald Trump’s administration has tried to find numbers that look scary because they are numbers and pass them off as their rationale for a southern border wall.
Fox News (surprisingly) already debunked the Trump administration’s claim that a big number of 4,000 terrorists entered the United States through the southern border. The real number is six suspected terrorists, who were all let go.
In a press conference with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, where Trump took credit for a shutdown, Trump claimed ten terrorists were captured at the Mexican border. That was a lie.
Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security couldn’t find that number:
Instead, DHS would only say that it apprehended, on average, ten “known or suspect[ed] terrorists” per day who attempted to enter the country “by air, sea, or land” from October 2017 through September 2018.
To be clear: An average of ten “known or suspected” terrorists who tried to enter the country anywhere by any means, is not “Ten terrorists were captured at the southern border.”
“In FY17, CBP recorded the lowest level of illegal cross-border migration on record, as measured by apprehensions along the border and inadmissible encounters at U.S. ports of entry,”
In that report, it’s very clear illegal border crossings haven’t changed in over five years, and down 80% from their peak of 1.6 million crossings back in 2000.
Table 1: Southwest Border Apprehensions and Individuals “Inadmissible” at Ports of Entry Compared by Fiscal Year
And Trump’s own Department of Justice hasn’t prosecuted a single terrorist from the southern border.
If there was any credible threat we would have seen thousands, as the Trump administration has claimed, of terrorists being tried openly in a public court of law. But there hasn’t been any prosecutions because there hasn’t been any terrorists.
According to Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security the number of terrorists entering the United States via Mexico is a whopping zero per ever (emphasis added):
At year’s end there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.
You’ve heard this talking point a lot from Republican media, “Walls work.” They’ll point to Jerusalem as their prime example.. which may not be the best example.
But they’ll conveniently neglect to mention the Maginot Line, the Great Wall of China, and thousands of other walls that didn’t work throughout history including the Berlin Wall, which one famous Republican once asked for it to be taken down.
The reality is, if they are looking for a physical barrier to stop illegal immigration… we already have that. From PolitiFact:
The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, authorized about 700 miles of fencing along certain stretches of land between the border of the United States and Mexico.
The act also authorized the use of more vehicle barriers, checkpoints and lighting to curb illegal immigration, and the use of advanced technology such as satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles.
At the time the act was being considered, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were all members of the Senate. (Schumer of New York is now the Senate minority leader.)
Obama, Clinton, Schumer and 23 other Democratic senators voted in favor of the act when it passed in the Senate by a vote of 80 to 19.
So much for Democrats being against border security.
But this all begs the question, if we already have a physical barrier, shouldn’t that already satisfy the Trump need for one? What’s the point of spending money to build physical barrier if there is already a physical barrier?
The reality is it doesn’t make sense, it’s not practical and it was never meant to be. In 2014 when Trump was exploring a presidential run after leading the racist “birther” movement, his aides Roger Stone recognized that Trump isn’t the smartest cookie in the box and designed “the wall” as a memory trick so Trump can stay on message about immigration.
As Mr. Trump began exploring a presidential run in 2014, his political advisers landed on the idea of a border wall as a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration.
So there is no evidence, no research went into this idea, it was just a way for a stupid man to remember his racist talking points.
The Government Shutdown is Trump’s Fault and Republicans Can End It At Any Time
Back in December, the Republicans, Democrats, and Trump and the White House all agreed on a budget deal that would fund the government until February. The Senate brought the budget deal to the floor for a vote on December 19th and unanimously passed the bill 100 – 0.
The next day Paul Ryan and the House were all set to vote on the same budget deal until Donald Trump was catching up on cable news during his nine hours of “Executive Time” and saw pundits like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh raking him over the coals for not securing a border wall in the two years Republicans had total control of all three branches of government, then backed out of the budget deal causing parts of the government to shut down.
Once Democrats were sworn into office, after historic wins where Trump’s immigration and wall policies were the central argument, the first bill to pass was the same Senate bill that passed 100 – 0 a few weeks prior.
Now all Mitch McConnell in the Senate has to do is bring up that same budget to vote again, which he already knows he has the votes for, having previously passed unanimously, but refuses. His reasoning is he won’t bring a bill to the floor that he knows the president won’t sign.
Mitch McConnell is obstructing again.
Donald Trump would most likely veto any spending bill that does not have funding for his border wall, but the United States Constitution is very clear, you only need a 2/3rds majority to override a presidential veto. That bill previously passed unanimously. It has the votes. McConnell is just doing what he does best, obstruction.
So Republicans can reopen the government. They just don’t want to because it would make their president look bad. The reality is Republicans in Congress, which is a co-equal branch of government, can open the government at any time.
Instead they’re trying to blame it on the Democrats, even though it was Donald Trump who went back on the deal. It was Donald Trump who said he would “proudly” hold the mantle. It was Donald Trump for months would say at rallies “we could use a good shutdown.”
Trump is a racist. The idea for the border wall was nothing more than a gimmick created for a candidate who had zero interest in policy. We already have physical barriers at our border. And Republicans can open the government at any time.
The loss of the Republican soul just to win at any cost is one of the most dangerous trends facing our democracy today. The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh is more proof of how far Republicans are willing to go to undermine our democracy just to “own the libs.”
Let’s take a moment and check to see how far we have come.
Sexual Assault – Republicans have no problem with sexual assault, this is very clear first voting for Donald Trump, who bragged about his ability to grab a woman’s pussy because he’s famous, and the large support behind Brett Kavanaugh. They’ll question her motivation for coming forward now in the 11th hour, ignoring the fact that she came forward before Kavanaugh was even nominated. They’ll deflect and claim Dr. Ford was lying because she said she was afraid of flying yet she took an airplane to Washington D.C., ignoring the reality that many of us are afraid of needles but we still get our flu shots and this has no effect on our credibility. Democrats turned on Al Frankin when his sexual assault accusations became public, Republicans have shown they are only interested in protecting victims of sexual assault when it is politically convenient for them.
Cheating – Republicans wouldn’t give Merrick Garland a hearing, a violation of their Constitutional duties, then invoked the ‘nuclear option’ to force two and possibly more partisan activist judges on the Supreme Court. They’ll give bullshit answers like, “Oh the Biden rule!” which didn’t apply to the Garland situation and nobody ever took seriously enough to even consider it as a rule. Or “Oh Democrats are obstructionists!” forgetting they obstructed ALL of Obama’s federal judge nominees and Merrick Garland, and there are 49 Democrats in the Senate… if every Republican votes together Democrats have no power! The lies they will tell themselves to rationalize their cheating is outrageous.
Perjury – Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath. He repeatedly claimed Ford’s accusation has been “refuted” by others who she said attended the party — even though the other attendees have said no such thing. Kavanaugh said he “did not travel in the same social circles” as Ford, but he did. Kavanaugh attempted to fabricate an alibi by suggesting he did not drink on weekdays and was out of town almost every weekend night of the summer of 1982, but his calendar clearly refuted this. Kavanaugh said he had no connection to Yale University prior to attending undergrad and law school there, but he was a legacy admittee. Kavanaugh cited Maryland’s drinking age in explaining his behavior, even though he was too young to legally drink in any case. These are just a few examples of lying, under oath, while in a job interview for a seat on the highest court in the country. Republicans do not see a problem with this.
Law and Order – It’s a sham. Republicans are only out to win at all costs. (See: Merrick Garland, nuclear option, Kavanaugh) The FBI investigation was limited by the White House to only 9 individuals that did not include Dr. Ford or Brett Kavanaugh, which is typical for an investigation of this type, as well as the over 40 individuals who came forward and was willing to give their testimony. There was no effort to look into the lies Kavanaugh told under oath. Now the Kavanaugh confirmation process is over they can now go back to protecting Donald Trump, the first president to ever continue to own, operate, promote, and receive profits from over 400 businesses he has never divested from, and which as we learn more and more through intrepid reporting, Trump is a tax cheat.
The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process has shown Republicans have not learned from their support of credibly accused sexual predators, such as Donald Trump, and instead are willing to ignore women, ignore their credible stories, ignore broken laws, willing to accuse Democrats of their own sins, and cheat their way to victory at any cost.
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un just completed the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a leader from North Korea and to Trump’s (and mostly to South Korean President Moon‘s) credit, they pulled off a first-of-its-kind summit.
But after the world had a chance to get past the spectacle, and look at the substance, it was a major bust.
The end of the summit culminated in a document signed by Trump and Un that promises a lot, and isn’t clear on how.
For example the agreement does not elaborate on what steps North Korea will take to denuclearize, no new commitments, no timetables, no definitions, all very important items for an international agreement. There were no real breakthroughs other than two leaders shaking hands.
This was the most bare-minimum statements our two countries could hope for, and right-wing news is already promoting it as the biggest event in human history.
The reality is the only actual positive good for world peace the agreement commits to is holding further negotiations led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a “relevant” North Korean official at “the earliest date possible.”
More diplomacy is always better than no diplomacy, but make no mistake what happened in Singapore was nothing but a photo op, as Fox News would say, between two dictators.
While Fox News made a slip of the tongue, we’re not. Trump has clear authoritarian tendencies that were on full display on foreign soil, such as:
Trump praised the dictator Kim Jong Un as “handsome.”
And as a sign of our newly found friendship with foreign dictators, Trump really went out of his way for appeasement and to make a good impression by not pushing hard on any of his stated goals, while giving up major concessions.
Got America to agree to no demands for “verifiable” or “irreversible” denuclearization. A break from CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization) agreements in the past, such as the Iran deal that Trump ripped up for being “too weak.”
In 1992 North and South Korea signed a joint agreement of denuclearization, to not “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons.’’ North Korea broke this agreement and since done all but use them on an adversary.
In 1993, North Korea entered into bilateral talks with the United States, and promised to abandon the “threat and use of force, including nuclear weapons.”
In 1994, North Korea accepted the U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework/Six-Party Talks, under which Pyongyang offered to freeze its plutonium producing reactors and “eventually” dismantle them. They broke it.
In 2000, North Korea released a U.S.-DPRK joint communique in 2000 pledging a freeze of work on long-range missiles “of all kinds.” They broke it.
In 2005, North Korea agreed to six-party talks and to the “verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner.” A year later they detonated their first nuclear bomb.
In 2007, North Korea agreed to normalizing relations and to an Action Plan to “shut down and seal” the plutonium-producing reactors at Yongbyon, with a view to its “eventual abandonment.” They didn’t.
Later in 2007, North Korea entered into a second round of implementation plans with the U.S., pledging to “disable” all of its nuclear facilities, again with a view to later “abandonment.” They now have a nuclear weapon they can put on a missile that can hit America.
Why we got screwed
Donald Trump fashions himself this great deal-maker, but by almost any count we came away with nothing concrete on the side of North Korea and gave them concession after concession after concession.
Of course the recovery of American remains is important, especially to the families of our fallen, which we’ll be sure to see plastered all over Fox News for a few weeks to boost Trump’s historically low approval ratings.
But at the end of the day if Kim Jong Un still has nukes that can hit Denver, we’re not checking his promises, we’re not interested in inspecting his facilities, we’re asking for North Korea to be honest and just volunteer how much nuclear material they have, and there are less U.S. troops stationed in the Korean DMZ and we’re no longer coordinating with our allies in the region, these are all dangerous recipes for future families asking for the remains of their brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.
Today Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell triggered the “nuclear option” and changed Supreme Court nominations from a 3/5ths majority, which is 60 votes, to a simple majority, 51 votes. The Republican theft of the Supreme Court is complete, with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch.
Ever since Ronald Reagan nominated the anti-civil rights Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, and failed, the civil discourse in selecting judges to sit on the highest court in the land have steadily eroded. And now the Republicans have killed it.
Republicans have obstructed federal judge appointments for decades, causing Democratic Senator Harry Reid to change the filibuster for lower court judges in 2013. And then when the shoe was on the other foot the Republicans all went ballistic when Democrats refused to appoint just 10 of George W. Bush’s most radical nominations, out of a total of 214.
Finally, after Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia unexpectedly passed away, within an hour Mitch McConnell made an unprecedented move to refuse his Constitutional duty and made it clear he would deny any nomination by then-president Barack Obama, who had 11 months left in his term.
Democrats could have made trouble, they could have broke the rules, but they didn’t. In this hyper-partisan environment, the Republican answer was to ensure going forward things will be even more partisanship and we will continue to see more traditions and norms that are not set in law fall away.