Hot Water

Sometimes, I think America’s constitutional democracy is the frog in that over-used parable–the one that gets boiled because the pot of water it’s in is being heated just slowly enough that the frog doesn’t notice until it’s too late.

Every single day brings new evidence of our dysfunction–the capture of one of our political parties by people who range from evil to detached from reality to objectively crazy; the episodes of increasingly militant and unashamed racism and anti-Semitism; the growth of belief in QAnon and other bizarre conspiracy theories; and the public embrace of what most of us previously considered a European form of rightwing nationalism.

The water has become hotter this week, with news that Fox News’ most bankable  and pompous right-wing cheerleader, Tucker Carlson–he of the smarmy sneers and bow ties–had met with Hungarian autocrat and strongman Viktor Orban. As Talking Points Memo reported,

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is billed as a speaker at a far-right conference in Hungary on Saturday, according to a flier for the event. The appearance will come days after the Fox host met with the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Carlson will purportedly offer his insights at MCC Feszt, an event hosted by the Mathias Corvinus Collegium, which the New York Times described in June as a government-funded plan to “train a conservative future elite.

A program for MCC Feszt touts Carlson as speaking on Saturday, delivering a talk called “The World According to Tucker Carlson.”

It’s part of a larger, four-day long program that also advertises a talk from a representative of one of America’s esteemed conservative institutions of higher education: Dennis Prager of PragerU, which makes up for what it lacks in physical space, accreditation, and discernible curriculum in Facebook virality. Prager will deliver a talk on “media and free speech.

MCC, the sponsor of the “Feszt,” reportedly benefits from both $1.7 billion in grants from the Hungarian government and the open support of Orbán, who has characterized his approach to governance as “illiberal democracy.” Orbán’s government has used anti-Semitic imagery to demonize George Soros, a native of the country and a favorite target of the Right, and has pressured universities associated with Soros and his Open Society to close. Talking Points Memo also notes that Orban has “gone out of his way” to clamp down on LGBTQ rights during his tenure.

Josh Marshall–the editor of TPM–commented on the meeting and what it reflects about the direction of the GOP:

One thing that a number of us have been saying for some time is that increasingly over the last decade-plus, the GOP has continued to present itself as a center-right party of government while increasingly operating as a rightist revanchist party on the European model. This intentionally conspicuous hobnobbing with Orbán is part of that story. Obviously, Carlson isn’t formally representing the GOP. But in practice he does. He’s far more influential in conservative politics than any elected official currently in office.

This lurch from genuine conservatism to what Marshall quite accurately labels “rightest revanchism” is one more reflection of the party’s current identity, which is as a White Nationalist cult. When you cut through all the BS, by far the most dominant conviction held by members of today’s Republican Party is a deep-seated, racist belief that the only “real” Americans are White Male fundamentalist Christians.

That belief is the reason Republicans in Congress have stopped legislating in favor of performative insanity. The party is no longer about policy or actual politics of any kind–liberal, conservative or even (as it sometimes seems) fascist. The GOP is interested only in maintaining power, but not in order to govern– it needs that power in order to protect White Male Christian privilege, and to ensure the continued dominance of “real” Americans over all of us “others.”

The members of today’s GOP now realize that White Christian Male cultural domination will inevitably erode in the absence of a governing autocracy committed to its preservation, and they are willing to trade both the American Idea and the rule of law for a despotism that will protect that domination. With his visit to Viktor Orban, Tucker Carlson has made that willingness impossible to ignore.

The water in the pot is getting very, very hot.


  1. Bravo Professor! But one additional and key ingredient of their assault on democratic republic form of government: branding people like you and I who call them out for what they are as left-wing Marxists.

  2. Tucker is just a mouthpiece for the billionaires who own him. Remember, both Hillary and Joe have said that this period of time will be rated by historians as to whether autocracies or democracies managed their countries better.

    If you look at every colony of the USA, it’s ruled by right-wingers. Every. Single. One.

    We are not a democracy; the word was used as an ideal or process of becoming. Never made it there before the “wolves,” as Jefferson was afraid of destroyed it.

    With a press and two captive parties, I’d be looking at the Fed or US Central Bank to see exactly what the wolves are doing. Unfortunately, US politics is a theater with actors and actresses for every role. The media gives play-by-play commentary just like the Olympics, but the sport is a real competition. 😉

  3. Speaking of billionaires: This passage from today’s blog is somewhat incomplete: “The GOP is interested only in maintaining power, but not in order to govern– it needs that power in order to protect White Male Christian privilege, and to ensure the continued dominance of “real” Americans over all of us “others.”

    It’s not entirely about white privilege. It’s about corporate/banking wealth too. To these disgusting wretches, money = power = more money, etc., etc. In a perverse way it is quite similar to people hoarding toilet paper when they thought the stores would close. Funny thing about those times last year: Cat litter was also in short supply. One can only wonder…

    Hoarding, as discussed in earlier blogs, is a basic and essential survival behavior of our most primitive ancestors. Then it was water and food. Today, it’s money and power. We are a species who lusts for the basics while being wrapped in a community-dependent society while, at the same time, insisting that everyone should live and reproduce.

    We’re seeing how well that’s worked out since history began being recorded.

  4. “The members of today’s GOP now realize that White Christian Male cultural domination will inevitably erode in the absence of a governing autocracy committed to its preservation, and they are willing to trade both the American Idea and the rule of law for a despotism that will protect that domination.”

    Sheila’s words above for some reason immediately took me back into Hitler’s bunker as depicted in the movie “Downfall”, an Austrian/German production written from interviews with survivors of the Nazi party, books, documents, files and diaries found in the bunker after the suicides. Will Tucker Carlson be among the suicides or those who did not join the suicides but escaped to flee capture by the Russians. Trump is still calling for his troops to attack democracy just as Hitler continued calling for his troops, who no longer existed, to attack the incoming Russians with his dying breath. Can Mar-A-Lago be Trump’s version of Hitler’s bunker and who of the GOP will be found with him if he commits political suicide by continuing his calls for attack? Will McConnell, McCarthy, Jordan, Carlson, et al, be found with Trump?

    Do not tout Lindsey Graham’s current support for vaccines as turning against the anti-vaxxers; he has been hanging out with those unvaccinated and unmasked GOP members. He has noticed the water heating up and is paving a way to his own escape route.

    The perfect metaphor for Trump and his GOP followers can be summed up by the fact that this country ran out of toilet paper during their reign in the White House for the first time in its history. But is that the way history books will report the past almost six years; or are those years to continue to become our future? The GOP doesn’t seem to notice the water is heating up.

  5. The modern day biologist claim the boiling water frog fable originated in the 19th Century is a myth. Most of us progressives will jump out long before 212F. However, to Sheila’s point, Will a sufficient number toward the middle jump out early enough to vote in favor of an alternate story aligned with the promise upheld by our Constitution. America loves catchy fables with the power of storytelling behind it.

  6. The only thing that will end this is giant losses in the next few elections by Republicans, so get ready to fight for it.

  7. To expand on the “white male privilege”, I saw an interesting editorial in the NY Times Yesterday. The basic premise was that while Republicans seem irrational, a lot can be explained by substituting “white male privilege” when ever you see the word freedom. Republicans talk about freedom from wearing masks, they are really talking about protecting the white male privilege of being told what to do etc….

    So the next time you hear the new Republican code word “Freedom”, substitute the phrase “while male privilege” and you will be amazed at how much more rational Republican policies will sound.

  8. Coincidence is an amazing thing. As America has gotten more corrupt and has abandoned its concern for human rights abroad, the struggling attempts at democracy in Europe are faltering. Check out the rise of the “The Brothers of Italy” party there….

    It ain’t just us in the pot, folks…

  9. When Tucker finishes cavorting with authoritarians such as Orban in Hungary (whatever the pretended organizing ism in Budapest fueled by Soros hatred) he should while in the area run over to see Putin in order to bring back more political wisdom to his Trump lovefest at Faux Gnus. We all want to hear more about how those who would destroy our democracy are doing so in the name of freedom, freedoms they would destroy as fascists or, in the case of Rupert, where destruction of our democracy is secondary to making money via utilization of the very freedoms he is helping destroy with his Faux drivel.

    We best jump out of the water while we can. How? Let’s start with an end to gerrymandering by politicians and assign that decennial task to independent commissions. Thence to the demise of the electoral college, an obselete relic, thence to legislative relief in such areas as stock holding and publication of tax returns of candidates for federal office, thence. . . If we can turn off the fire, perhaps there’s no need to jump out of the pot, or at least have the option.

  10. I wonder if anyone will protest this assembly in Poland? Or if anyone will protest Tucker Carlson at the airport?

    I remember the 60’s and how my generation pressured the government to leave Viet Nam. I remember Martin Luther King and the civil rights activists. I remember the end of apartheid in S. Africa and the fall of the Berlin wall. These memories bring me hope when I hear the insanity of the current GOP.

    Now we have Black Lives Matter. We had many protests after DT was elected. If DT was to run for POTUS again, I think he would again meet with defeat.

    There are voices everywhere who are rebutting Tucker Carlson on other news outlets. Of course, the problem is that people have hunkered down in their silo’s and have therefore become prey for the sociopathic manipulation of people like Tucker Carlson. I never listen to him. Rather than connecting us social media has divided us.

    I suspect that at some point we will have another 60’s because so many Americans still value democracy. We already have a civil war of words. I just hope it is limited to words.

  11. I am impressed by the clarity that Marshall’s piece brings to the issue. Thank you, Sheila, for bringing it t us. “White Nationalist cult,” sums it up, perfectly.
    Peggy, you are so right, as well.

  12. Robin,

    I share your dreams, but…we live in a different world than the 60’s. Trust is government is terrifically low: billions of PPP money stolen by crooks, billions of unemployment funds the same, Biden putting cronies into ambassadorships, DEMs torn in two by “our way or the highway” PROGs, different COVID guidance daily (poor education, no one understands the complexity of science), scary inflation, roaring inequality, etc.. People are hunkering down, trying to take care of themselves. And the young…glued to their screen worlds, enjoying legal pot, creating their personal (not country-identified) brand with tattoos, hair, etc., living it up (in their minds, while they can). The streets are empty…if they fill, the number of guns out there is stunning…not just rural, not just inner-city, not just white. MLK/RFK are a dim memory – what fools? DOWN A BIT TODAY, SORRY.

  13. We created (or, more accurately, didn’t adequately resist the planting of) the seeds of our own destruction by accepting propaganda (advertising) on steroids assaulting us 24/7 in exchange for what was once entertainment to fill empty hours. Now that the capability is there, not surprisingly, it is being used for both good and evil.

    The evil uses of it by people who want to turn our freedom into their wealth has no more iconic face than Tucker Carlson who takes pleasure in selling the creation and maintenance of anger and fear among some of we the people for substantial wealth. What’s more important than he though are the ones hiring him as a wealth returning investment at the expense of the republic.

    Are we still in control of the future of democracy and our rights? Nobody honestly knows anymore. The best we can do is wage the war for freedom to the best of our ability and hope for a good outcome.

  14. If you love America, you’re in an abusive relationship.
    One of my way younger friends says his generation is far beyond
    performative patriotism. It’s all globalist now.
    I did my time in the late Fifties marching for equality and against
    religion. I’m just spectating now, from outside the pot.

  15. Well said, Sheila. Whether myth or metaphor, the water has been heating up and it has been ignored. Red Baiting was “just politics”, Nixon Southern Strategy and Reagan dog whistles, “just politics” – nothing to worry about (this water is getting hotter though)

    The Media (even MSNBC and its ilk) being “even handed” – If the GOP is starting to embrace the crazy right wing, then for “even handedness” the Democrats must be embracing a crazy left wing.

    Even the discussion of “tribalism” – “even handedness” says that there are two tribes, so it the GOP is full of Orban worshiping bigots, the Democrats must have a tribe of left wing crazies

    The water has gotten very hot, but we were told not to say anything.

    Idle question
    Why is it that the “right” can call everyone a “commie socialist” and use it to great effect? They can smear the term “liberal” very effectively as well.

    The “left” has no such labels – “Nazi” “Fascist” they sound hysterical. “Conservative” never took a hit like the once “equal and opposite” “liberal”.

    I guess they are just better at PR — and slowly boiling water.

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