I want to conduct a thought exercise in today's column. The current front-runner in most polls across the United States show Donald Trump, a candidate for the Republican Party's nomination in the upcoming presidential election, leading other candidates and on-track to win both the nomination and the election. In the past, many candidates have led, especially this early in the election cycle, only to fizzle out shortly thereafter. Trump's persistent and increasing lead is not only a surprise for most pundits but is largely unprecedented in modern American politics. He currently leads his nearest competitor by nearly 30 points, a margin not seen in such a contested race in recent history. But why is he so popular? What resonates with the American public?
The theme Trump keeps pushing that rings true with most Americans is one of independence. He is often quoted boasting about "buying politicians" and how it is legal to donate money to candidates' election campaigns then demand legislative action. A desperately needed frank commentary on America's lax campaign finance laws. Trump, the narrative goes, is his own man, however. He takes no donations, owes no one any favors and thus when you vote for Trump, you are not voting for some shadowy puppet-master.
Love him or hate him, this narrative actually holds water. His assets are largely in real estate and easily liquidated, should the need arise, leaving him with more money than he or his offspring could spend in several lifetimes. Therefore, he is able to fund his independence. This is perhaps the most attractive aspect of any candidate to the American public. The most fundamental need of a voter is the knowledge that they are voting for the person whose name is on the ballot. Is there any quality you can think of that could be more important? At the extreme, the public would, given the chance, prefer an incompetent and independent politician to a competent one who is beholden to special interests nearly all the time. But the public almost never has the chance and the latter politician ends up being no more competent than the former.
This brings us to our thought exercise. In a world in which corporations and wealthy individuals find loopholes to make unlimited contributions to political candidates, countries and their leaders are really proxies for these companies and individuals, right? It is not really a disagreement between France and the U.K., it is a disagreement between Total and British Petroleum. It is not the United States versus Japan, it is General Motors versus Toyota. You get the point, but how does the average voter benefit from its elected government doing the bidding of a corporation, one which pays no taxes and employs very few people, solely because of the campaign donations that corporation made? The answer is there is no benefit to the voter.
Perhaps this is the reason why Europe, the champion of democracy, is actually the champion of constitutional monarchies. The monarch was, at some point, a stop-gap measure to ensure that the politicians would not stray too far from the voter's intentions. An individual like Donald Trump, whose wealth shields them from being influenced by third-parties, is king or queen, can dissolve legislatures, void laws and lead the country in the right direction. At some point, most of the monarchies were stripped of their powers, yet still may serve this role in the public's mind.
In Turkey's current political crisis, I cannot help but question the intentions of politicians. Some party leaders have been in power for nearly four decades despite never winning an election. Some are terrorists by night and politicians by day, openly praising terror organizations as they ambush police officers and soldiers and kill innocent bystanders. Others have lost touch with what the public really wants. With weakness among all parties, they are surrounded by media organizations that can blackmail them into serving them. There has to be a better way.
How about a two-stage voting system? The top two parties in the general election face off to divide the legislature and power in the government. In this way, a majority of the public will always chose its elected representatives. Both parties receive public funds equally to keep races competitive and clean as they argue their case to the voters. Campaign contributions are banned; this will prevent Turkey from being like the U.K. or Greece where the governing party is opposed by more than 75 percent of the population.
Decisive, strong leadership is the only way out of political and economic crisis, and the United States and Turkey are in the midst of both right now.