What Hungary can teach Democrats about democracy

By Damon Linker, The Week

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s surprise defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, many on the center-left insisted the problem was our institutions: the illegitimate Electoral College, the dangerously anti-democratic Senate, our fundamentally unfair district maps and voting procedures. Many of these objections are perfectly reasonable, but none are sufficient to explain how Trump won — just as the reform of any or all of them would be insufficient to ensure he or a populist-nationalist successor couldn’t win power in the future.

That’s because Trump’s very narrow win in 2016 (like his relatively narrow loss in 2020) was primarily made possible by his small-d democratic appeal to tens of millions of voters. He won — with a little help from the system’s extra-democratic institutions — because many people liked him. But if Trump’s center-left critics can’t see how that could happen here, in their own country, perhaps they can see it in Hungary.

The solid victory of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz Party on Sunday has the populist-nationalist faction of the Republican Party feeling giddy about its prospects — but it’s Democrats still confused about Trump who should be paying close attention to Orbán’s democratic success.


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