Ron DeSantis speeding up 'GOP’s authoritarian lurch' with moves copied from Hungary's Orbán: analyst
Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at the 2021 Student Action Summit. (Gage Skidmore)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been described as a competent Donald Trump, but he's probably got more in common with Hungary's right-wing authoritarian ruler, according to one political analyst.

The Republican governor has gained a reputation as an aggressive culture warrior as he readies a likely presidential run -- possibly as soon as 2024 -- but his policy agenda strongly resembles what Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has done to his country, argued Vox senior correspondent Zack Beauchamp.

"Orbán has recently emerged as an aspirational model for many on the Trump-friendly right," Beasuchamp wrote. "During his presidency, many observers on both sides of the aisle compared Trump to the Hungarian autocrat — and not without some justification. But after a 2018 visit to Hungary, I concluded that Trump was not competent or disciplined enough to implement Orbán-style authoritarianism in America on his own. The real worry, I argued, was a GOP that took on features of Orbán’s Fidesz party."

DeSantis' agenda in Florida signals the GOP's accelerating shift in that direction, especially the newly signed "Don't Say Gay" law that conservative writer Rod Dreher, during a recent panel interview in Budapest, claims was modeled on a strikingly similar law in Hungary, which he said the governor's press secretary confirmed to a conservative reporter.

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"When I asked DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw about a possible connection, she initially denied knowing of Hungarian inspiration for Florida’s law," Beauchamp wrote. "After I showed her the quote from Dreher, she did not respond further. Dreher did not reply to two requests for comment."

DeSantis' punitive crackdown on Disney for criticizing that law mirrors Orbán's use of regulatory powers to punish his political enemies, which the Florida governor has also done to educators, social media companies and his state's Democrats, and Beauchamp is concerned that he's seen as the heir apparent to Trump -- and possibly even a challenger.

"He has shown little interest in moderation or consensus-building instead centering his governing philosophy on using policy to own the libs," Beauchamp wrote. "While Trump may have been an ideological catalyst for the GOP’s authoritarian lurch, DeSantis is showing how it could actually be implemented in practice. The consequences for democracy in Florida, and America in general, could be dire."