Putin, Orban, Netanyahu, Trump, DeSantis Perversions Of The Fight For Democracy

Heather Cox Richardson

Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, a staunch supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine, last week awarded the First Degree of the Order of Glory and Honor from the Russian Orthodox Church to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.

Orbán has dismantled Hungary’s liberal democratic government in favor of what he calls “illiberal” or “Christian” democracy that rejects LGBTQ and women’s rights, claiming that the equality valued by liberal democracies undermines traditional virtue. Kirill called out for praise Orbán’s “great attention to the preservation of Christian values in society and the strengthening of the institution of family and marriage.”

This award makes explicit the link between the Putin regime, which has been committing war crimes against Ukraine’s people, and Orbán, who is such a hero to America’s right wing that the Conservative Political Action Conference has twice gathered in Hungary, most recently just last month. Orbán has called for Trump’s reelection.

The common thread among these groups is a rejection of democracy, with its emphasis on equality before the law, and the embrace of a hierarchical world in which some people are better than others and have the right to rule.

In Poland today, an estimated half a million people marched in the streets to protest the loss of rights for women and LGBTQ people amid an attack on democracy by the nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), which condemned the protest as a “march of hate.” Leaders for PiS claim they are only trying to protect traditional Christian values from Western ideas.

Today is the 34th anniversary of the first democratic elections in Poland in 1989 as the Soviet Union was disintegrating. Former Polish prime minister and president of the European Council Donald Tusk, who called for the march, told the crowd: “Democracy dies in silence but you’ve raised your voice for democracy today, silence is over, we will shout.”

Today is also the 34th anniversary of the Chinese government’s crackdown on demonstrations for democracy in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, with troops firing on their own citizens.

For 22 weeks now, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been protesting in the streets against the plans of right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judiciary, weakening the country’s system of checks and balances by shifting power to Netanyahu, and threatening the rights of minorities and marginalized groups.

In Sudan today, the war between two military generals who seized power from a democratic government continues. Tens of thousands of Sudan’s people have fled the country since the fighting broke out in April.

The political career of Florida governor Ron DeSantis is the epitome of Orbán’s “Christian democracy” come to the United States. DeSantis has imitated Orbán’s politics, striking at the principles of liberal democracy with attacks on LGBTQ Americans, abortion rights, academic freedom, and the ability of businesses to react to market forces rather than religious imperatives. Last week he told an audience that “the woke mind virus represents a war on the truth so we will wage a war on the woke. We will fight the woke in education, we will fight the woke in the corporations, we will fight the woke in the halls of congress. We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob. We will make woke ideology leave it to the dustbin of history; it’s gone.”

But DeSantis’s speech was a perversion of the real speech on which he based it.

On June 4, 1940, nine months into the Second World War, British prime minister Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons. British, Canadian, and French destroyers along with dozens of merchant ships and a flotilla of small boats had just managed to evacuate more than 338,000 Allied soldiers from Dunkirk, in northern France, as German troops advanced.

Britain was fighting fascism, and Churchill warned his people that the war would be neither easy nor quick. But, he promised, “we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender….”

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