And it seems his conservative American admirers have taken notice. During Donald Trump’s presidency and in red states like Florida, political punishment became a way of doing business.
Some Republicans and Mr. Orban share the political reward as a strategy of government and a means for the economic power of the state to consolidate partisan political power. The rules are simple: make your enemies pay; let your friends prosper.
We don’t know for sure if one side influenced the other. But the ties between Mr. Orban and his Republican admirers are personal and have grown in recent years. In 2010, Republican political consultants helped organize Mr. Orban’s 2010 election victory, and they continued to help Mr. Orban even as their team branched out to help organize the 2016 Trump campaign. Mr. Trump s He is surrounded by Mr. Orban’s friends in Washington, such as Sebastian Gorka and Kurt Volker. The former president’s health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, attended conferences promoting social-conservative politics with Mr Orban’s former family affairs minister, Katalin Novak, recently sworn in as new president of Hungary.
In Hungary under Mr. Orban, political revenge is common. Mr. Orban initially targeted independent and opposition media by directing state-funded advertisements to pro-government outlets. He used the regulatory power of the state to move business from hostile to friendly hands, beginning with a law that required tobacco vendors to be state-licensed. (Many of these licenses were granted to government supporters.) With tobacco as a model, Mr. Orban launched similar efforts in the banking, energy and telecommunications sectors. Owners whose businesses did not support the ruling party were pushed aside, while party loyalists won. When discontent with Mr Orban boiled over and his party lost many of the country’s major cities in the 2019 local elections, he cut off important sources of revenue for opposition towns so that their mayors appeared incompetent without resources.
As president, Mr. Trump has been accused of political partisanship in numerous cases affecting voters and blue state governments. He refused to give the green light to the New York Gateway tunnel project. His administration initially refused to provide wildfire assistance to California and was accused of raising obstacles in the distribution of hurricane relief to Puerto Rico without the right to vote. When the media reported unfavorably on Mr. Trump’s presidency, he – like Mr. Orban – fought with perceived opponents, repeatedly threatening Amazon in order to punish Amazon and Washington owner Jeff Bezos. Post, and openly criticized the merger of AT&T and CNN’s then-owner Time Warner.
Some red states are now figuring out the recovery policy. In 2018, Georgia’s Republican legislature approved a bill removing a tax break that would have benefited Delta Air Lines after the company decided to end a promotional discount for members of the National Rifle Association. A Texas lawmaker recently threatened to introduce a bill that would prevent Citigroup from underwriting Texas municipal bonds unless it ends its policy of paying travel expenses for employees who have abortions outside the state. ‘State.
Perhaps the best-known recent efforts have come from Florida, where Republican lawmakers voted to revoke Disney’s special tax status after the company condemned Governor Ron DeSantis’ Education Act (known to critics as of “Don’t Say Gay”). It sounded familiar. Last summer, Mr. Orban passed a law banning the posting of LGBTQ content to minors.
Punishment is the bully’s method. By punishing opponents for minor or even imaginary infractions, all but the bravest opponents slip away. And that generates compliance. This is precisely why it is a useful tactic. Only a few need to be targeted for many to toe the party line. Reimbursement also generates loyalty. Friends remain close when benefiting from government largesse.
In Hungary, all this is legal, because Mr. Orban does not respect the rules of his opponents. He does his. As a smart lawyer, Mr. Orban knows that if he can legalize anything, he can use state resources to punish his enemies and benefit his friends without accountability.
Mr. Orban’s party controls everything that matters in Hungary, so it controls the law. Like Mr. Orban, Mr. DeSantis is also a smart lawyer — and for now, his party controls the offices of the secretary of state, attorney general and both houses of the Florida state legislature.
If Mr. Trump is replaced by a more disciplined party leader who can control all three branches and lock in partisan advantage by law, then the clawback could become the currency of the kingdom.
Does political revenge have limits? Elections can replace bullies, as Mr. Trump has now seen. Mr. DeSantis faces the discipline of a balanced public budget.
But these checks assume that constitutional government is still functioning. The opposition in Hungary faces enormous obstacles (such as a predominantly one-sided media environment and rigged rules) to win the elections. Mr. Orban captured and dismantled all the checks on his power. Will the Republican Party succeed in doing the same here? While the election still has consequences, voters will have to say no.
Kim Lane Scheppele, professor of sociology and international affairs at Princeton University, lived and worked in Hungary for many years as a researcher at the Hungarian Constitutional Court. She was also the founding director of the gender studies program at Central European University when the university was still in Budapest.