Saturday, April 15, 2017

Presidential Powers

"What I do," said Our President, "is authorize my army."  Presumably, this follows consultation with "my generals."  L'état, c'est moi.

Tomorrow, another president who shares that attitude expects to formalize that same relationship with the state he leads.  Turkey will go to the polls to decide whether Recep Tayyip Erdogan may legally assert presidential powers that will serve to legitimize his authoritarian rule.  It is very probable that his referendum will succeed: according to international monitors, he has stacked the deck in his favor.  He has muzzled the press, arrested opposition leaders, and led a massive purge of potential adversaries from positions of influence — down to the level of schoolteachers.

In truth, though, his suppression of opposition may not have been necessary.  Most Turks, like most Americans, vote ideologically rather than rationally.  Conservative Muslims, Erdogan's "base voters," are more impressed by the symbolic value of the enormous new mosque under construction on an Istanbul hilltop than the potential for loss of personal freedoms or estrangement from NATO and the European Union.  Are conservative Christians in the United States any less impervious to reality? 

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