Discover more from Postliberal Order
The Postliberal Future of the Republican Party
El American’s Péter Heltai interviews Gladden Pappin in Budapest
Today at El American, you can find Péter Heltai’s interview with me in both English and Spanish. We sat down last week in Budapest at the Scruton Café to discuss family policy, conservatives’ recent interest in Central Europe—and how both relate to the future of the Republican Party.
An excerpt follows. Read the rest here!
A week ago you appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight in a wider report on Hungary. You said that many things the United States used to take for granted are still present in Central Europe. What did you have in mind?
There’s been a lot of interest in Hungary and Central Europe in America, which has increased since the 2020 election. American conservatives have been looking for some good news and some signs of normalcy.
When you come to Central Europe where conservative governments are strong and have been leading countries like Hungary or Poland for years, you see many signs that life is simply normal. Conservatives tend to be portrayed as having extreme views, authoritarian or even fascist. However, it’s normal to have a strong concern for your national identity or the integrity of your borders. Men are still masculine and women are still feminine. Families are important and defended. Central Europe is a great reminder for us that certain things in a society have to be taken for granted.
Still, it’s quite surprising that the most-watched political commentary show in the U.S. dedicates a longer segment and even a short documentary to a small Central European country.
If one thinks about it a bit, it’s actually not that strange on the left. Throughout modern history, there have been small countries that are emblematic of something. Cuba on the periphery of the United States is one of the greatest examples.
The increasing attention around Hungary can be explained by the shock after the defeat of Trump on the American right when many people also thought the election had been stolen. This real desperation and the need to look for places where those things conservatives value and want are still present. I believe it was partly that also that drew Tucker Carlson’s attention to Hungary. The country has had a conservative government for 12 years and therefore there has been some time to see what policies could be implemented and to take the measure of those.
Did you move to Hungary six months ago to prove or disillusion the hopes of the American Right?
I came to Budapest with my wife and two children as a visiting fellow at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium, which is a large educational organization devoted to promoting the native talent of the region. Budapest indeed has become a kind of center of conservative discourse throughout the West and it’s great to be a part of it.
I can give you an example: we got used to it in America that politics approaches social questions in a modern liberal way. This approach treats people only as individual consumers. What’s the alternative to that? Nothing else than the family as the nucleus of society.
Esztergom Basilica, as seen from the nearby chapel of St. Thomas Becket
You wrote extensively about Hungarian family policy far before visiting the country.
It’s been very inspiring to see what Hungary has been doing in the field of family policy and it ought to inspire many Western leaders as well. For instance, before getting into policy measures, the new Constitution of 2011 made the importance of the family central to society, laying down a firm basis for future plans. It’s not only about creating measures and strategies but creating a mindset for further decisions.
I think people have experienced how true it is even more during the pandemic, and when they returned to their families became more aware of it as the ultimate battleground. I see it as an issue conservatives can offer something around positively. It’s not just the restrictions of abortion which, of course, I support but a positive mission for which a lot of ordinary people can stand up.
Some also criticize you for promoting such ideas in the U.S. as Hungary’s family policy, which requires much more state control than the American public could accept.
There’s a difficulty in U.S. politics: the Left focuses only on socialistic measures on society as a whole and the Right is more individualistic. This made America the place of the ‘American dream’ where you can go and become rich through your own enterprises.
But throughout Europe, and Latin America too, social conservatism has a long tradition and means of public support for people or families in need, and it’s definitely not something you should avoid as a conservative. Over the last few years on the American Right though there’s been a discussion that the American dream might not be enough. This draws more attention to models like Hungary.
Apart from this, it seems there’s a difficult atmosphere for promoting the family even in general. The younger generations are taught the dangers of overpopulation or to remain childless to save the planet.
These are elite ideological trends pushed by some groups of the climate change industry. To me, in a simple way, economy goes back to the household and to the family as the original word in Greek literally means “household management”. Every large economy has to decide where it’s going to put its fundamental resources.
A society that is not focused on the family is an aging society where there are incredible intergenerational tensions as the growing population of the elderly puts more demands on the shrinking population of the young. It doesn’t sound so healthy to me in any way, even from a purely economic standpoint. At the same time, an increasing number of people realize that they’ve been told a lie about the joys of single life and the dangers of having children.
Read the rest at El American.