The Hungarian Solution

If the current wave of Republican criticism of Mitt Romney—due to his ideological uncertainty and the general incompetence of his campaign—keeps up, here’s a suggestion for a replacement candidate: Viktor Orban.

The longtime leader of Hungary’s right-wing Fidesz Party and Hungary’s prime minister since 2010, Orban seems more committed to carrying out a Tea Party-esque agenda than Romney does. In his two years in office (he also served as prime minister a decade ago, but with a smaller majority and a less radical platform), Orban has slashed unemployment benefits, restricted collective bargaining, and reduced the nation’s retirement benefits. More than that, though, he’s gotten into trouble with the European Union (which at least nominally tries to hold member states to agreed-upon democratic norms) for his move to make the nation’s judiciary answerable to his office, and his purge of TV programs and newscasters who didn’t take the Fidesz line. Independent voices have largely vanished from Hungarian television and radio during his rule. By every account save those carried on Hungarian state media, Orban’s policies have polarized the nation as never before. Budapest has been the site of massive democracy demonstrations, and political scientists note that members of the nation’s parliament, who used to socialize across party lines, now hate each other too much to break bread or get drunk together.

To American ears, it all sounds so very familiar. And the latest overlap between the Orban’s and GOP’s playbook is the news that Orban is changing Hungary’s election law to eliminate voter registration in the final weeks leading up to elections—a shift, clearly intended to suppress late-breaking anti-Fidesz voters, that has prompted leaders of opposition parties to embark on a hunger strike.

The only thing that might keep Orban off the GOP ticket is his affinity for Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But that’s just foreign policy, which, as Mitt Romney demonstrates every day, is a concern that real Republicans just don’t take seriously any more. So what’s the hold-up? Romney has gone about as far as he can go. Time to go to the bullpen and bring in Viktor Orban!

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