It’s not just that Trump and Erdogan share strongman tendencies like hostility toward the press and a belief in themselves as saviors to their respective nations, or that Trump’s designated national security adviser has cozy ties with the Turks. More important, the two leaders share an anti-establishment message that aligns in ways that indicate to Turks, at least the pro-Erdogan among them, that relations will improve with a Trump-led United States.
They are likely to be mistaken, however, as the U.S. president-elect holds views on issues like Syria, Iraq and Islam that run counter to Turkey’s interests and Erdogan’s religious views.
Perhaps the congratulatory tone of the pro-Erdogan press reflected the Turkish leader’s well-known pragmatic streak—a signal to Trump Tower that the Turks are willing to look beyond the Islamophobia of the campaign and do business with the new American president. At the same time, it is unlikely that anyone within Trump’s inner circle reads the Turkish press, suggesting that the endorsements really were heartfelt expressions of joy among Turkey’s pro-government elite and Erdogan’s broad constituency.
This should not actually be surprising, given the strikingly parallel anti-establishment messages that the two men have employed to achieve electoral success. Like Erdogan’s supporters, the predominantly middle-class and rural voters without college degrees who delivered the White House to Trump are deeply suspicious of the elites.