driesen1_ThierryMonasseGettyImages_viktororbanunhappyflags Thierry Monasse/Getty Images
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Trump’s Role Model

US President Donald Trump and his advisers have evidently learned a great deal from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about racist immigration policies and how to destroy a democracy. Trump is not making America great or even good; he is making it Hungarian.

SYRACUSE – US President Donald Trump did not invent his immigration policy. Instead, he borrowed much of it from his fellow autocrat Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, who fanned anti-migrant sentiment among a large enough share of voters to gain the political power he needed to dismantle Hungarian democracy.

Given Trump’s imitation of Orbán, US liberals who bewail the cruelty and stupidity of Trump’s immigration policies, and conservatives who advocate “border security,” miss the point. Trump is not using such measures to try to make America great; like his role model, he is trying to manufacture an immigration-related crisis to help him establish an autocracy. And although Trump’s efforts in this regard are less far advanced than Orbán’s nine-year-old project in Hungary, he has made more progress than most Americans realize.

Orbán, like Trump, has made demonization of immigrants a defining feature of his administration. Both leaders pursue racist policies of turning back immigrants from the south (mostly Central American asylum seekers trying to enter the United States, and Syrians coming to Hungary). Both justify their policies in part by claiming – with little or no evidence – that immigrants fleeing extreme violence and poverty are engaged in terrorism.

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