Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Quigley Delivers Floor Speech on Rise of Authoritarianism

Nov 4, 2021
Press Release

Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke from the floor of the House of Representatives to discuss the growing threat of authoritarianism in this country and around the world, specifically in relation to the rule of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Video of Quigley’s speech is available HERE and the text of his speech as prepared for delivery is available below:

Madam Speaker,

Author and historian Timothy Snyder said in his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century that “history does not repeat but it does instruct.”

We must constantly work to preserve our democratic institutions from those who wish to threaten them.

One of the most powerful lessons from the last century is that democracy is deeply fragile and, most importantly, it can fall to authoritarianism.

However, there are those in this country who are ignoring the lessons of the past or worse.

The most popular TV programs, Facebook groups, and social media networks are those that spread deliberate or negligent misinformation - for partisan gain, sure, but for financial gain especially.

In 2018, the American Institutional Confidence Poll found that only 69% of Americans believed democracy is always preferable to any other kind of government.

The remaining 31% either reported that they were open to authoritarianism under some circumstances or that they were so disillusioned with politics that the type of government didn’t matter. 

While 69% may not seem alarming, it is nearly the same number of Hungarians that reported that democratic values such as multiparty elections were “very important,” the year that autocratic Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban began his ascent to power.

Alarmingly, American conservative pundits have been praising Orban and his brand of strongman authoritarianism for months.

Orban’s rule has been marked by state control of the media; restrictions on LGBTQ and immigrant communities; and suppression of free speech, a free media, and political opposition.

Despite Orban’s assault on global democratic values, conservative commentators here at home have endorsed his policies and hold him up as an example of what Americans should look for in a leader.

These pundits have praised him for rejecting immigrants and refugees and have embraced his brand of ethno-religious nationalism.

Praise for autocratic leaders and authoritarianism is dangerous.

Perhaps, many believe that what has happened in Hungary – the swift consolidation of political power and the manipulation of political institutions – could not happen here. 

But one of the important lessons of the Trump Presidency is that we cannot afford to be complacent. 

Over the past four years, we watched media and leaders on the Right excuse or even support former President Trump as he leaned into authoritarianism and incited violence.

During his time in office, former President Trump’s actions often echoed those of strongmen like Orban. 

He used his office to target his political rivals, including the efforts in Ukraine that he was ultimately impeached for, 

treated the Department of Justice as his own personal police force, 

violently put down protests against him, 

used the presidency to enrich himself, 

embraced showmanship and bravado over policy, 

and intentionally inflamed political tensions to his own benefit.

I believe history can and should continue to inform us, but we don’t have to look back very far. 

The trends developing around the world and in our own country are warning us about the threat of authoritarianism.

At a time when political polarization has led to violent attacks on democratic institutions across the country and in this very room, it is reckless for the Right to be feeding into these divisions.

 They are preying on deep ideological divides in this country and on their followers’ fears. 

They exploit economic anxieties and concerns over immigration and globalization. 

They advocate for a society where the voices of those who offer different opinions are threatened or silenced.

A poll just released by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 40 percent of those who subscribe to the farthest-right media agree with the statement that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

These statistics should be alarming to all of us.

But those who peddle in incendiary and harmful rhetoric are using the trends toward authoritarianism to their cynical advantage.

Authoritarianism thrives on polarization and uncertainty. 

And those who exploit – not repair – these cracks in our democracy do so for the explicit purpose of increasing their own power.

We must recognize their true intentions and work to preserve the democracy they seek to threaten. 

No matter our political affiliation, we must resist the urge to tolerate authoritarian politics.

Conservative media have an obligation to present Orban and others like him as they truly are – repressive demagogues who threaten liberty and the rule of law.

We must continue to recognize our common interests and those that have made our country the envy of the world - Our freedoms of expression, our economic mobility, and our deep cultural richness.

Orban’s rule is a warning for how a democracy falls into authoritarianism.

The greed and cynicism of pundits promoting him is how the conditions are created for rulers like him to seize control.

All of us are responsible for defending the values of our democracy – a free press, protecting the rights of minority communities, and free and fair elections.

Thank you and I yield back.