The U.S. Morphing to Resemble Russia and Hungary

5 mins read

Where are we as a country headed? Is our great experiment in democracy moving toward failure? I feel confident that our democratic republic will not perish from an aggressive intervention such as we are witnessing in Ukraine, a war that I feel less optimistic about daily. No. I fear that our government and way of life are being destroyed by a slowly spreading cancer that is subtly, or not so subtly, attacking us on many fronts. 

Worldwide, democratic forms of government are being attacked, literally and figuratively, at an increasing pace and intensity. Democracy is failing and authoritarianism is rising as more citizens appear to be accepting of a minority, one-party state dominated by a powerful leader. Much of that acceptance seems to be based, at least partly, on “moral principles” espoused by the extreme religious right in our country. It is happening in Russia and Hungary as well as in the United States; the parallels among the countries are becoming obvious.

Let’s start with Russia. Vladimir Putin is not limiting his forces to conflicts with Ukraine’s military but is actively involving his forces in war crimes. He is intentionally and brutally murdering civilians in violation of international law. According to Newsweek, “Civilians have reportedly been shot in the back of the head with their hands tied behind their backs, as Ukrainians have discovered mass graves with hundreds of bodies in areas previously occupied by Russian troops for several weeks. There have additionally been growing reports of rape as well as the indiscriminate bombing of Ukrainian cities.” Yet, that didn’t stop Russia’s Deputy of the State Duma Vyacheslav Nikonov from declaring, “In the modern world, we are the embodiment of the forces of good. This is a metaphysical clash between the forces of good and evil… This is truly a holy war we’re waging and we must win.” Yet, according to Russian politicians, Russia is taking the moral high ground.

According to Human Rights Watch, Putin started down this road in 2013 when he  proclaimed himself to be a defender of conservative values and the traditional family. It was then that Russia passed the “gay propaganda” law which was “aimed at protecting children from information promoting the denial of traditional family values” and “bans the promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors — a reference universally understood to mean a ban on providing children access to information about LGBT people’s lives.” Sound familiar?

Putin’s ally and friend, Viktor Orbán of Hungary has been openly critical of the multiculturalism of Western democracies and immigration, and has rejected “adaptable family models,” i.e., same-sex marriage, in favor of “the Christian family model.” According to Foreign Policy Magazine, Orbán “has cast himself as the defender of ‘traditional Christian values,’ a narrative he hopes will rally his rural base.” Sound familiar? This tactic is a common one with rural politicians in the United States and the American Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which, incidentally, will be meeting in Hungary next month with the keynote speaker of none other than Viktor Orbán. There appear to be many Republicans in the U.S. who are attracted to this despotic, authoritarian type of government.

We are in the throes of a lurch to the extreme right here in the U.S. and on our way to accepting a minority, one-party state bent on forcing its views on the rest of us. We are following the path of Russia and Hungary. Look at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill which other states are striving to emulate. Or look at Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s push to have gender-affirming medical care and counseling for minors considered child abuse under state law. Look at the attack on schools and public libraries where conservatives have mounted challenges to books related to race, sex, gender, and other subjects (especially LGBTQ+ topics) they deem inappropriate. Those are only the start.

We do not live in Russia or Hungary, but our country resembles them more every day. It is morally reprehensible.

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Dr. Hank Cetola is a Professor Emeritus at Adrian College, Adrian, MI, and the founder of Lenawee Indivisible. He can be reached at

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