Trump through a Turkish Lens

May 15, 2016

(Note: this is an excerpt from another post)
In a very indirect and convoluted way, I sometimes see (depends on the night) the Trump phenomenon somewhat in terms of Turkish politics in the 90s. That decade there were a number of left-right coalitions in Turkey, a situation that was partially the result of the fact that the two center-right leaders hated each other's guts, as did the leaders of the two center-left parties. In these coalitions, which took place between 1991 and 1999, the right wing parties were generally larger and played a more significant role in shaping the political agenda of the government. 

More and more Americans feeling Trumptilian  

In those days, one of the big issues was privatization. Many of the left's constituents were against it, and felt abandoned by the leaders of the leftist parties, which had signed on to support the privatizing initiatives of successive right-wing dominated coalition governments. Many of the left'svoters would then later end up supporting the Refah and Fazilet parties. 

Necmettin Erbakan in the 90s

In terms of their approach to religiosity in the public sphere, Refah and Fazilet were precursors to today's AKP. But they nevertheless were very different from the AK Party in that, under the domination ofNecmettin Erbakan, the Refah and Fazilet parties emphasized social justice, including economic justice, in a manner that the more corporate AKP does not. 

Similarly in the United States, it seems clear that a lot of voters--Democratic and Republican--feel abandoned by the leaders of the two main parties. So, they'll vote for someone that they think is addressing their concerns.   

The point of the comparison is not to imply that Necmettin Erbakan or Tayyip Erdogan was/is like Donald Trump. But in both cases there was a constituency out there that was ignored by both the left and the right--people feeling that they have been on the losing end of changes taking place in recent decades, and that the traditional parties are not speaking for them. 

Year of authenticity? 

I don't like the silly false-equivalencies between supporters of Sanders and Trump, but there is something that these voters really do have in common: a belief that they are supporting someone who cannot be bought. To me, this seems like a rather unsurprising response to Citizens United and the sense that many people have that they're powerless in the fact of wealthy interests that control the political process.  

And both Sanders and Trump appeal to voters who want an "authentic" candidate. Indeed "authenticity," or at least the hunt for it, has in many ways been one of the most important themes of the 2016 election so far. For this reason, I think that Hillary Clinton could really have some difficulties with Trump in the fall. A fired up Trump base taking on a disspirited Democratic party could overcome a lot of the obvious electoral weaknesses that a Trump nomination would seem to bring. 

Then again, I wonder if Trump's decision to accept GOP money will diminish his status in the eyes of his supporters. On this, I liked Gail Collins' recent piece in the NYT

Ultimately, I think the GOP establishment will get behind Trump--many of them have already. And I wouldn't be surprised one bit if Trump eventually sold his brand to the establishment, much in the way he's rented his name, in recent years, to other operations that he's had little day-to-day involvement in.

I could be wrong, but I wouldn't be surprised if, by November, Trump's actual policies relating to taxation and wealth distribution end up looking a lot like the ones supported by the party's establishment.  

Are you a Turk across empires? Order a copy today, then get another one for your libarary. 

More commentary, photos, and links can be found at the Borderlands Lounge

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