System Decay

Orbán Doesn’t Have It In Him To Be Just A Politician Again

It was only a matter of time – but it happened eventually. Orbán declared open war on opposition-led cities.

After the local elections in October 2019 when Orbán’s party didn’t win in half of the big cities and Budapest (to absolutely everyone’s surprise) there has been speculation on whether he would crack down on the rebellious cities – or whether he would return to be a politician again and cooperate like a good boy, pretending to take the people’s interest at heart.

LOL. It made me crack up just typing it. There was no chance of the latter. Orbán thinks that he is people’s interest. That he is the people. Or that the people don’t matter, only h3 does and that he would stay in power. As in every autocracy, by definition, where everything is about the autocrat, not about citizens. Of course, autocrats are free to believe that they are really doing good when they grab power and lash out with it. But they don’t.

Ultimately, it was a question of Orbán’s personality and what stage of life he happens to be in right now. Such an exposure to someone’s mental state is not healthy, not even if it’s your spouse, but here we go. No one said that an autocracy is healthy or that submitting to one is a sign of mental health.

I always snort when I hear someone calling Orbán a “talented politician”. At the very least we should stop using the word “talented” to describe someone who is good at hurting others. It confuses people to hear a positive adjective to describe evil. Like “talented serial killer”.

But it would be even better if we would stop using this word for the political skills of Orbán. He had merely waited until the economic crisis and the incompetence of his predecessor landed a supermajority in his lap. A constitutional supermajority, enough not to have to deal with political opposition anymore. And then he was unstoppable – in  much the same way a lone football player can score without opposing team or a goalkeeper to stop him.

When the universe dropped him a supermajority, Orbán set out to demolish the last resistance to his power. Because supermajority wasn’t enough. That’s how “talented” he is.

In his system there is no more resistance to his power. Not institutionally, not legally, not financially. He did so by putting die hard loyalist into key positions and by rewriting the law and the constitution (a million times). Anyone can do that with a supermajority, all he needs is a lack of inhibitions and contempt for everyone in the world. This is not “talent”, folks. This is just contempt for you.

Orbán may be very “talented”, just not when there is opposition in the game. Or free media or any kinds of civilizatory minimums. In football terms he had landed a game where there is no opposing team, and he still needs his entire gang of underlings to score.

Unless we call policy success a goal, because then he didn’t score, not once, he figured he doesn’t need to score anymore – he only needs to keep himself in power and that can be achieved by other means. It doesn’t require good governance (i.e. to score with the public). In the absence of an enemy team, he doesn’t need goals to win.

In the complete absence of political opponents one can be forgiven for confusing “talent” with luck. But if the opposition were back in the game, “talent” would have to show itself. And if it doesn’t, maybe it was always just the lack of inhibition, an inflated sense of self-importance, an ageing despots little dream of writing history and being the trendsetter for Europe – even if the trend is a downward slide on a very slippery civilizatory slope.

Dealing with an opposition, no matter how incompetent or fragmented they are, appears to be beneath Orbán. He had long thought he was past that – even if he kept reminding himself and his followers to the danger of complacency. What he understood rationally, he appeared to lose by allowing himself to become detached from reality. Because it was more comfortable.

Now he has to go back to being just a politician again – or openly crack down on dissent and give up the pretense of being democratic. Does he still have it in him?

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