How does Trump’s case explain Erdoğan?
“How does Trump keep winning?” this is what political scientists are trying to understand. The answer to that question might explain the Turkish case as well.
While international relations enthusiasts were busy examining the article in the Atlantic “The Obama Doctrine,” vox.com featured “The rise of American authoritarianism.” The article explains that Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump is not a cause but actually an effect.
Rather than discuss politicians with authoritarian leanings, the article explains the psychological profile of voters who vote for such politicians.
Not surprisingly, we see “a psychological profile of individual voters that is characterized by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders. People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear.”
The more people start fearing the new conditions surrounding them, the more they look for a strong leader.
“This trend had been accelerated in recent years by demographic and economic changes such as immigration, which ‘activated’ authoritarian tendencies, leading many Americans to seek out a strongman leader who would preserve a status quo they feel is under threat and impose order on a world they perceive as increasingly alien.”
Since the Republican Party positions itself within the status quo, voters favoring authoritarian leaders organize within the Republican Party; the Tea Party is here given as an example. Although all Republican voters might not be for an authoritarian new order, the ones who do so align themselves with the Republican Party.
Thus, what science tells us is Trump might be just the beginning of the new leader type for the Republican Party.
Turkey has been facing a flow of immigrants from Syria. Nearly 3 million do not have a place to return to; their new home will be Turkey. The demographic change is inevitable. On the other hand, the so called “solution process” with Kurdish political actors is long over. Military operations are taking place in eastern Turkey. Civilians in those areas are fleeing. In the last five months, there have been three sensational terror attacks in Ankara. People are anxious, and some parents hesitate to send their kids to school. Shopping malls are nearly empty; even during rush hour, metro stations are not densely crowded.
Trump campaigns under the slogan “Make America great again.” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan outlines quite often that Turkey is facing a second War of Independence. As Trump keeps warning voters about the threat coming from the east, likening the refugees coming from Syria to a serpent, Erdoğan keeps claiming the West actually supports the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Both politicians use the discourse of “us and them.” Both claim the rest of the world is against them. Both claim to be the saviors of the nation and the only ones who are eager to work for the good of the nation. The rest are traitors to them.
Obviously, this discourse is working to gather votes and consolidate power. In Trump’s case with the Republican Party, in Erdoğan’s case with Turkey.
Turkey has entered a much more authoritarian era for sure; whether this is just the beginning of an authoritarian leaders series remains to be seen.