Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Texas and Turkey, Rick Perry and Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Mark Kleiman notices that "Rick Perry and the rest of the theocrats are upset that some gay teenagers will get to participate in the Boy Scouts." As reported in USA Today:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry once wrote a book about the Boy Scouts and the group's role in upholding conservative values, so it's probably to be expected that he is upset by its decision to allow openly gay scouts.

"The Boy Scouts of America has been built upon the values of faith and family for more than 100 years and (Thursday's) decision contradicts generations of tradition in the name of political correctness," Perry said in a statement. "While I will always cherish my time as a scout and the life lessons I learned, I am greatly disappointed with this decision."

The Boy Scouts of America's vote overturns a 22-year ban on openly gay scouts. The organization will continue to ban openly gay adults from leadership roles, such as scoutmaster. [....]
The juxtaposition of this little incident with the current news from Turkey reminds me of some comparisons I have often found myself musing about over the past decade.

Am I the only person who can't avoid seeing interesting parallels:

(a) between Turkey's AK Party and the Texas Republican Party—both of which combine a heavily pro-business unleash-the-market orientation (which helps explain why magazines like the Economist look so favorably on the AKP) plus a fair amount of crony capitalism with often-intolerant cultural conservatism, moderately theocratic tendencies, opposition to abortion, uneasiness about the theory of evolution, and a culture-war mentality infused with deep resentment against the "elitism" of secular, cosmopolitan, big-city types who they think look down on them ...

    ... and, specifically ...

(b) between Governor Rick Perry and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan—both of whom combine a bullying tough-guy macho style with a tendency to shoot their mouths off and blurt out embarrassing and offensive statements ... that draw unfavorable comments from outsiders and sometimes complicate life for their political colleagues, but don't seem to bother their core supporters?

=>  Of course, like all analogies, this one has its limits. Texas is a big state, and the Republican Party does control almost all the state-wide apparatus of government there, but Texas is part of a much larger country with a two-party system, a solidly established political regime of representative government, and a relatively independent legal order. And despite the similarities between Perry and Erdogan, Erdogan seems to be a lot smarter—which can be interpreted as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on where one thinks Erdogan and the AKP are taking Turkey.  Erdogan also gets more of a free pass on his most absurd and egregious statements than Perry does.  Just for example, I've noticed that very few people I know are aware of this one (and those who have heard about it don't seem to take it very seriously):
[Sudan's ruler Omar al-]Bashir, who in March [2009] became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC at The Hague, is among heads of state and government that İstanbul will host for an economic summit during the 25th session of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC) of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

In March 2006, Erdoğan visited Darfur. “I do not believe that there has been assimilation or genocide in Darfur. In any case, verses of the Quran reject tribalism and clans,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying when asked his opinion on Darfur.  [....]

“Gaza and Darfur should not be confused with each other. Fifteen-hundred people were killed in Gaza. If there was something like this in Darfur, we would follow that to the end as well,” Erdoğan said  [....]
(Foreign Minister Davutoglu managed to arrange for Bashir to skip the conference in Istanbul, thus avoiding potential diplomatic embarrassments, but Erdogan has persistently stuck to his genocide denial about Darfur and his staunch support for his good pal Bashir. Has Rick Perry ever said anything that ignorant and morally despicable?  If so, I missed it.)

Perry seems to have managed to make himself Governor-for-Life of Texas, but the powers of the Texas Governor are relatively limited.  Erdogan, for his part, clearly wants to make himself President-for-Life of Turkey, which would bring a lot more power and fewer restraints.  (And if he can get the Turkish constitution changed the way he's now trying to, the combination of Erdogan's strong popular support and the fecklessness of the opposition parties probably means that he could get himself elected and re-elected President indefinitely.)

And so on.

It is worth reflecting that for western observers who lean toward the most positive and optimistic assessments of where the AK Party is taking Turkey, the possibility that the AK will turn out to be roughly analogous to the Texas Republican Party is, in effect, the best-case scenario.  Let's hope that best-case scenario proves to be (more or less) on-target.

—Jeff Weintraub