One might think that Turkey would not have the time to pay much attention to the U.S. presidential elections considering the growing refugee crisis along its borders, military escalation in northern Syria and a slowing economy. Turkish media and elites, however, somehow find the time to closely watch primaries in the New World and a topic commonly debated in Turkish newspaper columns is whether the U.S. is becoming more right or left wing.
We already know that Democratic socialist candidate Bernie Sanders's rhetoric draws young crowds to his campaign. His promise for radical change in the American way of government is music to liberals' ears.
What is astonishing to me is that Sanders's political objectives are not radical for Turkey because it was a conservative Justice and Development Party (AK party) government, led by then prime minster and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which achieved many of Sanders's dreams for its own people.
Sanders's main campaign promise, completely free university education, became a reality in Turkey in 2012 when the AK Party government removed all fees from public universities and substantially increased the budget for student grants and scholarships.
While Sanders preaches for a living wage in the U.S., another AK Party government already increased Turkey's minimum wage 30 percent at the beginning of this year.
He is right to talk about a fair and humane immigration policy. The Turkish government is striving for the same by giving work permits to over 2.5 million Syrian refugees already living in the country.
Democrats are jealous of Britain's National Health System (NHS) and Sanders aims to fix the U.S.'s healthcare system, but, just in case you did not know, Turkey has already fixed its system and its people began to enjoy universal healthcare in 2010. Sanders would like to lower prescription drug prices, which is another thing Turkey has already achieved, controlling and decreasing them multiple times over the past 13 years.
U.S. liberals also dream of comprehensive Wall Street reform, but Turkey is ahead of the game. Following a traumatic financial crisis in 2001, it transformed its banking system in 2005 and its financial system was subsequently not affected by the 2008 global mortgage crisis.
Mr. Socialist is talking about major projects like rebuilding U.S. infrastructure from bridges to railways, as Turkey already has. The Turkish government paved thousands of miles of roads and highways, renovated railways and rebuilt bridges. Other major achievements include a third airport and third large bridge over the Bosporus for Istanbul. The government is already looking ahead to invest more in Turkish technology parks and high-tech industrial zones.
While Sanders also seeks to grant comprehensive sick and parental leave for the American working class, Turkish fathers have been enjoying a five-day, paid paternity leave since 2015. Better still mothers have been taking advantage of 16 weeks of paid maternity leave.
Of course, nothing is that perfect in Turkey. Although Turkey has been able to decrease the income gap between rich and poor, we still have a long way to go. We seriously need to resolve the issues stemming from gender inequality and focus more on improving rural economies.
However, it is abundantly clear that most of U.S. liberals' dreams for their country have already been achieved in Turkey. If Sanders really wants to achieve these goals, he might need to seriously consider how to fund these reforms and present his plans to the American people. Perhaps he should call Erdoğan for some advice because, while undertaking these reforms Turkey has also significantly decreased government debt and the budget deficit. Even Republicans might find that appealing. I know certain liberals in the U.S. do not want to recognize Turkey's achievements on these fronts, but facts are facts, my friends.