Hungarians react to news of Donald Trump’s victory

November 10, 2016

Faith Church founder Sándor Németh
Faith Church founder Sándor Németh

Donald Trump’s stunning victory in Tuesday’s US presidential election has sent shock waves throughout the world. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, among a very small handful of world leaders who openly endorsed Trump’s candidacy, sees the American businessman as an effective opponent of liberal hegemony in international politics, and while it is unlikely Trump himself has much of an opinion on Orbán or his illiberal policies, it is clear that both men have embraced a rising populist sentiment in their respective countries.

Not surprisingly, reactions in Hungary’s government media, as well as in Jobbik and the extreme-right media, are celebratory of Trump’s victory as another nail in the coffin of elitist liberalism.

But not all of Hungary is reacting so positively to the election results. We have gathered editorials from a spectrum of leading Hungarian media, the statements of opposition party chairmen, and statements from the government itself about Trump’s victory.

Hungarian government

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took to his Facebook page Wednesday morning to congratulate Trump.

“Congratulations. What a great news. Democracy is still alive,” reads the post.

Orbán, one of only three current heads of state in the world to formally endorse Trump, addressed a conference organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Budapest Thursday, commenting on the Trump victory as Western civilization’s return to “real democracy.”

“This is the second day of a historic event, in which Western civilization appears to successfully break free from the confines of an ideology,” Orbán said. “We are living in the days where what we call liberal non-democracy – in which we lived for the past 20 years – ends, and we can return to real democracy.”

Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár congratulated Trump on behalf of the Hungarian government at Thursday’s weekly government press conference, saying that the military and economic relationship between Hungary and the United States was excellent, but that he and the government trust a new political partnership will emerge from a Trump presidency. Lázár said the Hungarian government has had problems not with the American people but with the Democratic party, which had lectured the Orbán government because it considers national interests to be of primary importance, and because of its hostility to immigration. Lázár said he is confident these conflicts will now be over.

“We see the new president and his government as a new beginning, and the world can be hopeful in the new presidency from the perspective of economic stability and peace,” Lázár said. “Then we will see what happens. We shouldn’t underestimate, nor should we have unrealistic expectations, but here we have the chance to rebuild relationships.”

Pro-government media

Media sources close to the Hungarian government attributed the Trump victory to a liberal elite out of touch with ordinary people and with reality. Conservative daily Magyar Idők criticized the “dreamworld” of President Barack Obama and of liberalism at large, charging that Western leaders have been pursuing a system of ideals that is unworkable in reality, and has dictated a discourse on issues that don’t concern ordinary people.

“The shocking result of the American presidential elections really wouldn’t be so strange if this dreamworld were not so mesmerizing and hadn’t become the real home of international media and politics, and if so many leaders of Western civilization hadn’t broken away from real life,” wrote Magyar Idők.

This liberal dreamworld and its architects had scorned and mocked those of their countrymen with different perspectives, because “they are stupid, they listen to populist rhetoric, they are easily led, they believe the lies, they are racist, and are not even worth living with.” Such an elitist attitude, perpetuated in the media and in elite cultural spheres by Robert De Niro, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, George Soros and others, had widened the gap between those with political power and those without.

“For them, the American flag and the national ethos mean something different, because it looks different from a village in Nebraska than it does from a luxury apartment on the top floor of a Park Avenue skyscraper,” the article continued. The election of Trump was a sign to politicians that they must become closer to those they represent and to hear their voices, and to make decisions that might be internationally unpopular but necessary domestically.

Another conservative Hungarian newspaper, Magyar Hirlap, published an opinion piece by Gyula T. Máté which begins with a reference to Hillary Clinton’s “botox-tormented face,” and goes on to make similar criticisms, not only of the American liberal elite but also the European Union.

“[Trump] could win because the underestimated ‘rural American rube’ stood up beside the closed factory cities and the manual laborers of the so-called Rust Belt,” Máté wrote. “Because they had had enough of having their lives sacrificed on the altar of the almighty dollar.”

The same kind of dissatisfaction had prompted Great Britain to leave the European Union months earlier, Máté argued, and Trump’s victory represents a definitive answer to liberal “PC [politically correct] dogma” that could sweep Europe.

“I wonder what awaits the French prime minister (sic), good Francois [Hollande]?” wrote Máté. “And what will happen if Trump sweeps out the Washington mainstream stables? What if something similar gets into the minds of the peoples of Europe, who are increasingly open to revolutions? What happens if the ‘rural rubes’ pop the liberal PC balloon here too?”

Jobbik media

Jobbik-connected news portal alfahir.hu decried the elitism of “Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Manhattan”, declaring Trump’s election to be a “revolution” in response to the “slow backsliding of the white working population.” The election result was less victory for Trump than “the failure of the old elite,” including that of Hollywood which “has spent the last 15-20 years in a heroic struggle for the rights of homosexuals, transgenders, blacks, immigrants, and homosexual transgendered black immigrants, while they humiliated, spat on, and laughed off the white lower-middle class.” Those voting for Trump hadn’t necessarily done so in the belief that he would serve their interests in the long term, but rather because “finally not Barbra Streisand, Cher, Bloomberg or CNN are saying what’s cool, but them: the despised, ridiculed, pitied majority.”

alfahir.hu said the mainstream media is also to blame for disaffecting working white people by giving priority of coverage to special interest stories, and legitimizing “PC” discourse on college campuses, where words like “racist” and “sexist” often come up, while words like “white trash” have come into everyday use. Issues such as transgender bathrooms had dominated the media while tens of millions of people had been left out of the economic recovery, and little had been done to improve conditions for working people.

Trump’s election certainly managed to send “the biggest f**k you in human history” to Hollywood and media elites, the article concluded. But Trump’s election “signals a much smaller change than his opponents are scared of, or that his supporters dream of”.

Jobbik party chairman Gábor Vona posted to his Facebook page: “Not surprisingly, Donald Trump won the American presidential election. We Hungarians respect other people’s rights to form their own destinies and we expect this from everyone. That’s why we congratulate the new president! We wish responsible and wise work for Donald Trump.”

Hungarian opposition

Democratic Coalition (DK) party chairman Ferenc Gyurcsány reacted on his Facebook page:

“Congratulations to Donald Trump, the new president of the United States. He was the one who captured the imagination of the majority of Americans. There’s no reason to panic. The United States is still a country of freedom and democracy, and it is in the interest of the world that it remains so. I don’t think that the troubled relations between Obama and Orbán substantially weakened the Hungarian government or strengthened its opposition. And the opposite state of affairs will not happen under Trump. Orbán must be beaten at home. We can’t expect assistance from Washington. What we can learn from the U.S. elections is that one can overcome the lack of media and funding. Moreover, pollsters are not infallible. From tomorrow on, we will focus on the tasks ahead and the replacement of the Orbán government.”

Socialist Party (MSZP) chairman Gyula Molnár made a short statement on his Facebook page:

“The American people decided. They elected Trump as their future president. This decision must be respected.”

Dialogue for Hungary spokesman Bence Tordai wrote in a piece on the party’s website that while Trump was able to win a lot of support for his war against the elite, he himself is a part of the elite, a member of the super-rich class whose economic policies will only benefit the rich with tax reductions.

“The world is in bad shape with a Trump victory, but voters stunned by his lies are in bad shape as well,” Tordai wrote. “Trump’s presidency doesn’t do anything good for women, for ethnic minorities, for the poor and middle classes, or for the friends of facts and the truth.”

Among the lessons to be learned from the American elections is that “we cannot continue elitist politics that are blind and deaf to the problems, fears and desires of the people!” Tordai wrote. “We shouldn’t trash populism, but understand it, and develop a humanist populism that sets passions into the service of good causes.”

Chairman of the Movement for Modern Hungary (MoMA) party Lajos Bokros appeared on ATV’s Start program this morning, where he expressed his dissatisfaction with Trump’s victory and his doubts that he can lead the country as a businessman.

“I am not happy with this election but naturally the American people chose what they want,” Bokros said. “It isn’t true that this was some kind of rejection of a real ideology. They fed the people lies. Everything that Trump promised was irredeemable,” he said, adding that Trump’s promises to terminate free trade agreements, to build a wall with Mexico, to open factories and to bring jobs back to America were all illusions.

Bokros said there is a big difference between leading a company and leading a country, and he doesn’t believe being a successful business person qualifies Trump to be president, something Hungary had already learned from experience.

“We already made this mistake in Hungary,” he said. “But there is a big difference between the successful leadership of one enterprise and the successful leadership of a country. In terms of leading one company, expenses, gains and profits are relatively easily measured. In the case of a country it is much more complicated. It’s not about one company but 10,000. Plus, the interests which are beyond economics are at least as important as economic ones. Social, environmental and security policy interests all have to be taken into account by a prime minister or president. Based on the debates we see that Trump is not prepared for these things.”

Liberal media

In an article titled “Trump is victorious, the world is now a more dangerous place,” Péter Magyari, a journalist with 444, explains Trump’s victory as perhaps one of the most important consequences of the “cultural counter-revolution” that has swept across the Western world in recent years, the very counter-revolution responsible for the Brexit referendum and the Polish and Hungarian governments.

Magyari’s ominous outlook suggests the Trump presidency may very well be the final nail in the coffins of the European Union and NATO.

“In his campaign, Trump belittled both international organizations,” Magyari wrote. “Because these organizations guaranteed peace in Europe during previous decades, the world may become a more uncertain and dangerous place with Trump’s victory.”

In terms of how the Trump presidency will affect Hungary, Magyari writes: “[We can be] certain that the world’s political emphases will change [with] Trump’s victory. For Hungary, this may also mean that the country will become more defenseless against Russian influence.”

In his piece titled “Twilight of the west?”, András Jámbor, a writer for blog Kettős Mérce, argues that Trump’s victory may be a result of faith being lost in the financial and political system.

“An enormous block of voters in the most developed countries do not feel as though their countries were their own, instead they see [their countries] and leaders as corrupt and unresponsive. [These voters] are inclined to usher in an earthquake to make their feelings known,” Jámbor writes.

According to Jámbor, “the elites” ignored the feelings of the masses by sweeping these problems under the rug. This tactic failed, and inevitably resulted in Brexit and Trump’s victory.

“Does the elite have an answer for this problem? How will they respond to these emerging anti-elite autocrats? How will they earn the trust of the voters? Is it possible for the people to take power in their own hands and build real democratic systems?” he asks.

Index journalist Gábor Miklósi published a piece focusing on the much more immediate consequences of a Trump administration, which were largely covered in this New Yorker piece.

Trump made some pretty serious threats during the campaign, Miklósi points out, including locking Hillary Clinton in prison, suing all the women who accused him of sexual misconduct, and regulating the media reports of him that were too critical.

According to Miklósi, while it is not likely that Trump will throw Clinton in the slammer or sue every woman who made allegations against him, his open praise of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Il, his disregard for basic rights and the defense of America’s allies, his racism, sexism and ignorance of science provide plenty of reason for alarm. Should Trump actually press forward with what – based on his own statements – many believe to be autocratic inclinations, the Trump presidency will be greatest test of the foundations of America’s democratic institutions to date.

But according to Szabolcs Panyi of Index, even with all its problems and challenges, the United States is a strong and developed democracy with strong checks and balances capable of checking presidential power. Trump will be forced to seek consensus with American society, Congress and civil society.

“Regardless of what Trump promises his immigrant-fearing voters, things in America don’t work like things here where it only takes a few months to send soldiers down to the Serbian and Croatian borders to put up a barbed-wire fence, or where it is possible to set the State Audit Office upon fussy civil society organizations,” Panyi writes.

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

Executive Director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) Stefánia Kapronczay told the Beacon: “If the President-elect Donald Trump keeps the promises he made during the campaign, then our sister organization, the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union], will have serious work ahead of it. 

“We are well aware of the difficulties faced by civil rights organizations operating under governments which do not respect the rights of the people. We will closely follow (and hope) the American institutions will be able to protect the rights fought so hard for, including conception procedures, abortion and access to contraception. As a Hungarian human rights organization, we are worried about President-elect Trump’s positive statements about leaders who cannot take criticism and who subordinate their leadership responsibilities to achieve their own political goals. The question is whether there will be any correlation between this and increased pressure from the Hungarian government on NGOs.”

Conservative media

In a piece published in Magyar Nemzet, Szabolcs Tóth described the US elections as a “revolution.”

“It isn’t simply that Hillary Clinton was defeated. Everything that defined America and the fate of the world since the end of the Cold War was defeated,” Tóth writes.

According to Tóth, at this moment Clinton’s defeat is a much more important fact than Donald Trump’s victory, “and this defeat is shared by the entirety of liberal mass media.”

Tóth expressed criticism of the uncritical manner in which mainstream media reported on the campaign, but he also points at the faults of more grassroots outlets such as Breitbart, describing them as “those which do meet the most basic conditions of professional journalism.”

“We can now see that Trump’s victory is a sign of defeat for the now dysfunctional mass media, the pollsters and public opinion researchers, and wishful thinking,” Tóth writes.

According to Tóth, “the leaders’ illiberal ballot revolution is not one [and] the same with the dissatisfied masses that have put them into power. [These leaders] consider increasingly autocratic styles of governance, or the restoration of those systems, as the mechanism through which to stay on top of an increasingly chaotic world.”

Church response

As far as the churches in Hungary are concerned, only one notable religious leader made a clear statement regarding the US elections. Faith Church founder (and the man responsible for creating the country’s only “opposition” television station) Sándor Németh posted this picture on his Facebook page:

Faith Church founder Sándor Németh, Facebook
Faith Church founder Sándor Németh, Facebook