jueves, 30 de agosto de 2018

BlackRock’s Decade: How the Crash Forged a $6.3 Trillion Giant

Ten years later, its shrewd moves are a master class in capitalizing on others’ risk. By
Annie Massa

Our memories of the 2008 U.S. financial crisis primarily concern losses: Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, homebuyers, insurers that made reckless bets, and American taxpayers who shouldered billions of dollars in bank bailouts. What about the big wins? One stands out.

BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest money manager, may never have grown as far and as fast as it did without the unprecedented changes brought about by the recession. The business now towers over its competitors; its $6.3 trillion in assets under management exceeds the size of Germany’s economy.

The story of how BlackRock reached its current position is also the story of the financial industry over the past 10 years. The rise of exchange-traded and index funds and low-fee investing; lower risk tolerance on consumers’ part and higher anxiety within institutions; the government’s scramble to understand this crash and prevent future ones—all of these played to BlackRock’s benefit.

BlackRock Outpaces Its Peers

Assets under management

Data: Company reports; compiled by Bloomberg

BlackRock declined a request to interview Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink or any company executive for this story. Asked to comment on how the crisis shaped 10 years of growth, BlackRock spokesman Brian Beades offered, “We have always worked to anticipate our clients’ changing needs, and we deliberately evolve our business to meet them.”

The tale of that evolution post-crisis begins with Barclays Plc, which was looking to boost its capital reserves after rejecting U.K. government bailout money. The bank put up one of its crown jewels for sale: the iShares ETF unit, part of the fast-growing, San Francisco-based fund management subsidiary Barclays Global Investors Ltd. (BGI).

BlackRock was no stranger to transforming itself through deals, including previous acquisitions of Merrill Lynch Investment Managers and State Street Research & Management Co. When iShares came up for sale, BlackRock was able to seize the opportunity in a big way, sweeping in with a $13.5 billion cash and stock offer—not just for the ETF unit, but for all of BGI. “They were in a position to play offense while everyone else was scrambling,” says Kyle Sanders, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co.

The 2009 deal more than doubled BlackRock’s assets under management and has proved hugely valuable since: Riding a wave of investment in passive products, iShares had $1.8 trillion in assets as of the end of June. That gives BlackRock a commanding lead on its closest competitors, Vanguard Group and State Street Corp., which had about $936 billion and $639 billion in ETF assets, respectively. IShares accounted for 28 percent of BlackRock’s assets under management at the end of 2017, according to the company’s yearend report. Plenty of growth potential remains: ETFs are still nascent outside the U.S. The company predicts the global market for the funds will more than double by the end of 2023, to $12 trillion, driven by continued downward pressure on financial advisory fees and investors’ rising willingness to use bond ETFs for easy exposure to fixed-income markets.

At the same time, as the U.S. financial system was struggling to get back on its feet, BlackRock found new opportunities to sell its financial risk software, known as Aladdin. Called an “X-ray machine” for financial portfolios by BlackRock Chief Operating Officer Rob Goldstein, Aladdin can predict what a variety of worst-case scenarios would do to a portfolio, including how a 2008-style crash would affect a client’s holdings today. Its users include pension funds, insurance companies, and competing asset managers who pay to license Aladdin based on which of its capabilities they use.

By 2010, the software already was a vital growth area for BlackRock. “We’re having more conversations with more institutions as they reassess what they need under this new regulatory environment,” Fink said during an earnings call that year. In the throes of the recession, Aladdin was used on about $7 trillion of positions, according to a report released by the company. Today it watches over more than $18 trillion. Thirty percent of Aladdin business revenue comes from outside the U.S. BlackRock’s technology unit, of which Aladdin has become the linchpin, saw about 12 percent compound annual growth over the past five years, driven in no small part by network effects—few rivals can match its reach. Technology remains just 5 percent of overall revenue, but Fink told Bloomberg Markets last year that he’d like to see it grow to 30 percent by 2022.

The most significant development in BlackRock’s business, however, may have been the one least likely to show up in its balance sheet: The crisis gave it new clout and gravitas. Fink understood the complicated derivatives that tanked the financial system better than most; his early career was spent structuring and trading mortgage-backed securities, the same kinds of products that triggered the collapse. When the New York Federal Reserve needed a firm to manage Bear Stearns’s portfolio of toxic assets, it turned to BlackRock—not just because of Fink’s stature, but also because it lacked the conflicts of interest a bank could have had in accepting the job. Timothy Geithner, who was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before becoming U.S. Treasury secretary in 2009, maintained close contact with Fink. In one 18-month period from 2011 to 2012, he was in contact with Fink more than any other corporate executive, according to a Financial Times analysis of his publicly available diary.

Larry Fink

Fink’s influence didn’t hurt when BlackRock and other asset managers worked to convince the Financial Stability Board, a global regulatory body whose members include the Federal Reserve, that their business shouldn’t be deemed “too big to fail.” The designation comes with higher capital requirements and recurring stress tests. Because they manage other people’s assets, the argument went, they don’t take the kind of high-stakes bets with house money that led banks to seek bailouts.

BlackRock’s elevated profile on Wall Street remains evident. When Fink wrote CEOs a letter earlier this year warning that they should be able to explain how their companies contribute to society, it made international headlines. He routinely meets with world leaders, including in July, when he participated in a dinner U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May hosted for President Donald Trump.

Yet BlackRock hasn’t entirely avoided scrutiny—its cozy relationship with Washington officials has been a source of more attention. The Campaign for Accountability, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, launched a project in June tracking the revolving door of BlackRock executives in and out of halls of power; these include Brian Deese, a climate adviser to the Obama administration who joined BlackRock to run sustainable investing in 2017, and Carol Lee, who went from BlackRock’s compliance department to be securities compliance examiner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last year. “At BlackRock, understanding local market, policy, regulatory, business, and investment dynamics is integral to serving our clients,” says Beades.

BlackRock’s post-crisis success might be easy to overlook, especially as it’s competing with government-reconstituted giants including JPMorgan Chase & Co. On top of that, private equity firms have vastly increased the scope of their investments in the last decade—particularly Blackstone Group LP, the firm BlackRock spun out of—and tech companies such as Google and Amazon.com Inc. have begun flirting with asset management.

Despite the fierce competition, BlackRock’s growth is among the starkest examples of how a financial company can build itself into an empire, even as the system is upended. With the Trump administration’s continued rolling back of protections put in place after the 2008 recession, that skill may yet prove its value again.
BOTTOM LINE - Calculated caution left BlackRock in a position to grow when other institutions were squeezed. Influence may yet prove to be its most valuable asset.

The Biggest Legacy of the Financial Crisis Is the Trump Presidency

How the forces Obama and Geithner failed to contain reshaped the world we live in.

By Joshua Green

Laid-off employees exit Lehman Brothers’ office carrying their belongings on Sept. 14, 2008, in New York.

It was late January 2010, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sat slumped in a leather chair as the afternoon sun cast shadows across his ornate corner office. He’d just gotten off the phone with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The economy was, if not exactly healthy, light-years ahead of where it had been when he took the job a year earlier—a moment when the world teetered on the brink of another Great Depression. The financial contagion had been halted. Growth had returned. The stock market was 10 months into a bull run that continues to this day.

But Geithner had the weary resignation of a beaten man. I’d been following him for months for a long magazine profile, and this was our valedictory interview, his chance to pull back and make his best case that the Obama administration had rescued the country from financial ruin. Geithner had every confidence they’d made the right choice by focusing single-mindedly on restoring growth rather than indulging what he derisively called the public’s clamor for “Old Testament justice.” But his sales pitch kept dissolving into fatalism.

Three days earlier, Massachusetts voters had delivered a jarring rebuke, choosing a Republican to fill Democrat Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in a special election that threatened to bring Obama’s agenda to a halt. It was an early sign of the political backlash that has followed the financial crisis like aftershocks from an earthquake. I asked Geithner if he thought popular opinion would ever shift in the administration’s favor. “In the end, what people care about is, What did you do? Did it make things better or not? That’s what you’ll be judged by,” he replied. “Now, will it vindicate the president over time? It should, but I’m not sure it will.” He sighed, then gave a dismissive wave. “I think probably not.”

Geithner’s cynicism was prescient—yet he still didn’t grasp the full scale of the public’s wrath or how long it would endure. He and Obama saw the crisis primarily as a macroeconomic event that could be solved through a series of aggressive technical fixes. As they arranged the mergers, bailouts, and Fed lifelines that rescued corporations from Citigroup to General Motors to Goldman Sachs, they prided themselves on their ability to tune out the public’s justified anger at the greed and recklessness exhibited by financiers and mortgage lenders. This extended even to some clear-cut abuses of the public trust that occurred on their watch, such as when American International Group Inc.—by then a ward of the state—decided to hand out bonuses.

What was so surreal about this period was not Obama’s conviction that growth was a magical elixir that would set everything right. It was his belief that achieving it required him to protect, rather than punish, those who’d driven the economy into the ground. Summoning the chief executive officers of the major banks to the White House in the spring of 2009, Obama told them, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” Like flagellants, he and his economic team were willing to absorb the lashing that should rightfully have been directed at his Wall Street guests, in the belief that shielding them advanced a higher purpose.

Ten years after the crisis, it’s clear Obama was foolish to think public sentiment could be negated or held at bay. Financial crises are every bit as much about politics as economics. How could they not be? Millions of people lost their job, their home, their retirement account—or all three—and fell out of the middle class. Many more live with a gnawing anxiety that they still could. Wages were stagnant when the crisis hit and have remained so throughout the recovery. Recently the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. workers’ share of nonfarm income has fallen close to a post-World War II low.

But personal material conditions alone didn’t drive the public response to the crisis. There was a moral component as well. A bitter irony dawning on Geithner at the time of our meeting was that a substantial number of Americans saw the rising stock market not as a gauge of economic revitalization but as an infuriating reminder that the financial overclass responsible for the crisis not only got off scot-free but was also getting richer in the bargain. The iniquity stung. One complaint voters at campaign rallies still share with me is that no Wall Street figure of any consequence served jail time as a result of the meltdown. By contrast, the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted more than 1,000 bankers after the savings and loan crisis of the 1990s.

Donald and Melania Trump walk in the inaugural parade on Jan. 20, 2017, in Washington.

In a democracy, the pitchfork-wielding masses will eventually make themselves heard. The story of American politics over the past decade is the story of how the forces Obama and Geithner failed to contain reshaped the world. The day-to-day drama of bank failures and bailouts eventually faded from the headlines. But the effects of the disruption never went away, unleashing partisan energies on the Left (Occupy Wall Street) and the Right (the Tea Party) that wiped out the political era that came before and ushered in a poisonous, polarizing one. The critical massing of conditions that led to Donald Trump had their genesis in the backlash. And the rising tide of economic populism among Democrats makes it all but certain that the next presidential election, and Trump’s possible successor, will be shaped by it, too.

The biggest effect of the financial crisis and its aftermath was a loss of faith in U.S. institutions. Initially, and not surprisingly, this loss of confidence was concentrated in the financial sector. When Obama was first elected president during the depths of the crisis, Gallup reported that confidence in banks had fallen to an historic low. An overwhelming number of Americans (86 percent) cited economic issues as the country’s most pressing problem. But as time went on, the blame spread. Antipathy toward Wall Street eventually became distrust of the government, which not only struggled to mitigate the effects of the meltdown but also began producing its own crises, including a debt default scare in 2011 and a shutdown two years later. In 2013, five years into the recovery, Gallup discovered that Americans no longer considered “economic issues” to be the most pressing national problem: “Government” had replaced them as the top concern.

That shift in blame didn’t happen by accident. The other reason the financial crisis became such a powerful shaping force in our politics is that Republicans (and later Democrats such as Bernie Sanders) weaponized it for their own ends. The architect of this strategy was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. During the final months of George W. Bush’s presidency, when Lehman Brothers went under and the global economy looked poised to follow, the Kentucky senator helped push through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (aka “the bailout”), a bipartisan bill Bush signed into law a month before the 2008 election. At the time, McConnell lauded TARP’s passage as “one of the finest moments in the history of the Senate,” a comment that earned him the enmity of conservative hard-liners forever after.

But three months later, when Obama was established in the White House, McConnell made the cold-eyed calculation that public anger over the crisis could be harnessed for political gain. He fought the government’s ability to distribute the TARP funds, stoking resentment about bankers and other unworthy parties getting handouts. McConnell made no apologies for this. “We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals,” he told me in 2010. “Because we thought—correctly, I think—that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.”

The ensuing polarization helped Republicans win the House in 2010 and the Senate four years later. McConnell failed to achieve his goal of making Obama “a one-term president,” mainly because Democrats flipped the script in 2012 and painted Mitt Romney as a Wall Street-friendly “vulture capitalist.”

But anger in politics is a lot like a forest fire—it can quickly burn out of control. By the time Trump declared his candidacy in 2015, Americans of every persuasion had soured on the “elites” running both parties, something his Republican opponents didn’t understand until far too late. Today, his campaign is remembered as having been driven mostly by anti-immigrant animosity. But at Steve Bannon’s insistence, Trump spent loads of time attacking Wall Street on behalf of the forgotten little guy and fanning the suspicion that a cabal of political and financial eminences was screwing ordinary people.

When I interviewed Trump just after he’d locked up the Republican nomination, he told me that he intended to transform the GOP into “a workers’ party. A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”

His closing message in the campaign consciously evoked the disgust so many people had come to feel toward Wall Street and Washington. His final ad on the eve of the election flashed images of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and sought to implicate them, and Hillary Clinton, in what Trump called “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” He added, “The only thing that can stop this corrupt machine is you.” It’s no surprise this message struck a chord: What is Trump if not the embodiment of a balled fist and a vow to deliver Old Testament justice?

Since his inauguration, of course, Trump has proved to be anything but the scourge of Wall Street. His central legislative achievement is a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that has delighted financial elites and pushed markets higher, even as it polls so badly with rank-and-file voters that GOP politicians are hesitant to campaign on it.

Democrats have responded to Trump with a kind of cathartic disinhibition, throwing off the shackles Obama had imposed by holding bankers harmless and agreeing to cut entitlement programs to balance the budget. Lately, the energy on the Left has been around big, budget-busting ideas such as free college tuition and Medicare for all that are themselves a response to the crisis—a ratcheting up of demands on the government by those unhappy with the narrowness of the recovery.

Lurking among these proposals is a long-thwarted desire to square accounts with the Wall Street-Washington establishment that has steered the political economy since the crisis. This is most evident in Elizabeth Warren’s new bill, the Accountable Capitalism Act, which would greatly empower workers at the expense of their corporate bosses while redistributing wealth from the 1 Percent downward (the moral element is right there in the title).

Among the political and financial cognoscenti, these proposals are mostly considered outlandish and have been met with a combination of eye-rolling and derision. They should probably be taken more seriously, since they’re another expression of frustration with a system that hasn’t produced a satisfying recovery for tens of millions of Americans.

Predicting how this energy will further shape our politics is all but impossible. When Geithner and I sat in his office back in 2010 contemplating what might lie ahead, neither of us could have fathomed (nor could anyone else) that one consequence of the financial wreckage would be President Donald Trump. The lesson that stands out all these years later is the same one Geithner was just coming to appreciate: Ignoring popular sentiment always has political consequences, and they’re often ones we can’t possibly imagine.

martes, 21 de agosto de 2018

As Midterms Near, Democrats Are More Politically Active Than Republicans

No partisan gap in views of election’s importance

Across a range of political activities – from attending political rallies to donating to campaigns – voters who back Democratic candidates for Congress are reporting higher levels of political activity than GOP voters. But both sets of voters share a view that the upcoming election is important: About three-quarters in both parties say it “really matters” which party wins control of Congress in this fall’s election.

The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted July 31-August 12 among 4,581 adults, including 4,000 registered voters, finds that 14% of voters say they have attended a political rally, protest or campaign event in the past year.

Among registered voters who favor the Democratic candidate in their House district, 22% say they have attended a political event, compared with just 8% of those who support the Republican candidate.

The differences are more modest in the shares saying they have donated to political campaigns; still, 23% of Democratic voters say they have done this in the past year compared with 18% of Republican voters. Democratic voters are also more likely to have contacted an elected official (36% vs. 28%) and volunteered for a campaign (9% vs. 5%).

However, Republican voters are slightly more likely than Democrats to say they have expressed support for a candidate on social media (39% vs. 35%), while Democrats are a bit more likely to have expressed opposition to a candidate on social media (35% vs. 31%).

Overall half of Democratic voters (50%) report having participated in at least one of four campaign-related activities asked about on this survey (excluding social media activities). This compares with 40% of Republican voters.

In both parties, especially among Democrats, there are educational differences in reported political activism. Nearly two-thirds of college graduates who support the Democratic candidate in their House district say they have engaged in at least one of the four political activities, compared with 39% of Democratic voters who have not completed college. Among Republicans, the educational differences are less pronounced (45% of college-plus Republican voters, compared with 37% of non-college Republicans).

The survey finds no significant gender differences in political activism among voters in either party. About half of men (51%) and women (49%) Democratic voters say they have engaged in one of the four activities, compared with roughly four-in-ten men (40%) and women (39%) Republican voters.
No partisan gap in views of importance of midterms

Given a four-point scale on the importance of partisan control of Congress, a majority of registered voters (68%) place themselves at the top of the scale, meaning it really matters to them which party gains control. This opinion has changed little since February, when 65% said which party gained control of Congress really mattered.

Large majorities of voters who support a Democratic candidate (78%) or a Republican candidate (75%) say partisan control of Congress really matters; among those who do not express a preference for a major party candidate or say they are unsure, far fewer (23%) say it really matters.

While the overall partisan gap is modest, it varies substantially within subgroups of voters. For example, nearly seven-in-ten Democratic voters who are younger than 35 (69%) say it really matters which party wins control of Congress, compared with less than half of younger Republican voters (44%). By comparison, there is no partisan gap in these views among voters 50 and older.
Age differences in levels of political activism

Older voters are more likely than younger voters to report participating in many forms of political engagement. The divide is starkest in political contributions: In both parties, those 65 and older are about three times as likely as those under 35 to have made a financial contribution to a candidate or groups working to elect a candidate.

In contrast to most other forms of participation, younger voters – both Republicans and Democrats – are more likely than older voters to say they have attended a political rally, protest or campaign event in the past year.

Older voters are more likely than younger voters to report participating in many forms of political engagement. The divide is starkest in political contributions: In both parties, those 65 and older are about three times as likely as those under 35 to have made a financial contribution to a candidate or a groups working to elect a candidate.

Over four political engagement measures, the partisan gap between supporters of Democratic candidates and supporters of Republican candidates generally holds up across different age groups.
Political activism on social media

Overall, fairly comparable shares of Republican and Democratic voters say they have used social media to publicly express support or opposition for a candidate, elected official or political campaign on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.

However, there are substantial educational differences within parties – and the patterns differ among Republican and Democratic voters.

Supporters of Republican candidates with a college degree are substantially less likely than those without a college degree to say they have used social media to express support or opposition for candidates, elected officials, or political campaigns on social media.

The opposite pattern holds among Democratic supporters. Democrats with a college degree are significantly more likely than those without a four-year degree to say they have expressed support or opposition to political figures on social media.

lunes, 20 de agosto de 2018

The Great Chinese Disconnect

To address understandable American anger, China must admit it’s a superpower -- and start playing by global rules.

Trump captured Americans’ resentment about China’s rise.

It was late November 2016, and my Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Wang Yang, was visiting Washington, D.C. Over the course of my tenure as U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the vice premier and I had developed a warm and candid relationship. Since this was to be our last official meeting, I decided to do something a bit different: take him to rural Virginia for a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

While we were surrounded by our usual phalanx of security, we effectively sat alone, with the exception of our two closest aides. Shortly after we were seated, the vice premier leaned in close and almost whispered to me, “Can you explain what just happened in your presidential election?” Clearly, the Chinese were just as surprised by the results as we were.

I told the vice premier that we were still trying to understand the outcome ourselves, but that it was important for him to appreciate that China had played a significant role in the election. As the translator spoke into his ear, he shot me a somewhat surprised look. I explained that then-candidate Donald Trump’s “tough on China” rhetoric had tapped into an underlying strain of thought in the U.S. that Wang and other Chinese leaders needed to understand.

For years, Americans were told that China was a developing country and shouldn’t necessarily be held to the same standard as developed nations such as the U.S. But China’s success had severely undercut that line of reasoning. The Chinese economy was growing at 6 percent or more annually. Chinese cities, roads, ports and bridges were rising seemingly overnight. The world’s low-cost manufacturer was rapidly becoming a global technology hub. And the Chinese government was investing billions of renminbi in support of its “Made in China 2025” industrial plan. The disconnect between rhetoric and reality was profound and growing by the day.

At the same time, Americans felt that at least some of China’s success had come at their expense. They were seeing their middle-class jobs and once-prosperous lifestyles disappearing. China wasn’t playing fairly; it was consistently violating its international commitments and tilting the playing field to advantage Chinese firms. Economic complexities aside, the fact that Americans were, in part, paying the bill for such behavior had begun to sink in with millions of my fellow citizens.

Candidate Trump, of course, didn’t create these imbalances; he was simply very effective at tapping into this growing resentment. With or without Trump, the U.S.-China relationship was moving quickly toward a crossroads.

The point I was making to the vice premier is that, as China has risen to become a global power, the dynamic between the two countries has unquestionably changed. Meanwhile, too many Chinese actions and policies have not.

In fact, Chinese officials still frequently rely on the outdated rhetoric that China is merely a developing country. The developing nation narrative is clearly at odds with the observable reality of modern China, and it logically runs counter to China’s lofty goal of establishing a “new model of great power relations” between the U.S. and China — a dynamic focused on fostering cooperation and competition but avoiding confrontation, which, historically, has been the defining feature of relations between existing and rising powers.

It is hard to be both a poor, developing nation and the other party to a “new model of great power relations.” The formulation assumes the existence of two great powers. In the modern world, though, being a great power requires leadership. It requires being a good steward of the global economy, not just benefiting from it. It requires playing by the same rules and competing fairly, not relying on state resources to support domestic industries and innovation. If China wants to be the world’s other great power, it is manifestly in its interest to start acting like one.

To be fair, we have seen China emerge as a global leader on certain issues — such as climate — and, in recent months, President Xi Jinping has spoken consistently about China assuming a larger role in world affairs. In other areas, however, particularly those tied to economic and trade policy, the rhetoric continues to surpass the policies.

In part, it was this disconnect between words and reality that gave Trump his political resonance in the U.S. China is a great power. China has risen and, in so doing, has lifted 800 million people out of poverty. But, if China doesn’t change its approach to economic competition, I fear that today’s trade war will be nothing compared to the heightened tensions to come. Frankly, our domestic political system will demand action and President Trump will look like the mild first incarnation of a trend rather than an outlier.

The irony, of course, is that in so many important respects the economic and personal ties between the U.S. and China are deeper than ever:
The U.S. hosted roughly 130,000 Chinese graduate students during the 2016-2017 academic year. On average, each of those Chinese students spends more than $26,000 per year in the U.S.
Chinese direct investment in the U.S. expanded dramatically to $46 billion in 2016, before a steep decline in 2017. That investment has hyper-charged a range of sectors in all corners of our country.
In less than 10 years, spending from Chinese tourists in the U.S. has more than quadrupled to over $20 billion annually. Xi and then-President Barack Obama agreed to offer new 10-year tourist visas to citizens of both countries, so we can expect that number to grow.

In large part, China’s progress wouldn’t have been possible without the stable global economic order that the U.S. has underwritten and secured for the last 70 years. In that time, this system has limited conflict and led to the greatest increase in prosperity the world has ever seen. Without question, particularly over the last two decades, China has reaped the benefits of this rules-based order not just by competing aggressively but, it must be said, at times exploiting the existing system. That must change.

If it doesn’t, I fear that the stated goal of this “new model of great power relations” — competitive cooperation — will fall victim to China’s inability to change course. Then the politically plausible options for navigating China’s rise over the decades to come will be narrowed down to one: confrontation.

14% of Americans have changed their mind about an issue because of something they saw on social media

For most Americans, exposure to different content and ideas on social media has not caused them to change their opinions. But a small share of the public – 14% – say they have changed their views about a political or social issue in the past year because of something they saw on social media, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted May 29-June 11.

Although it’s unclear what issues people changed their views about, within the past year a variety of social and political issues – from the #MeToo movement to #BlackLivesMatter and #MAGA – have been discussed on social media.

Certain groups, particularly young men, are more likely than others to say they’ve modified their views because of social media. Around three-in-ten men ages 18 to 29 (29%) say their views on a political or social issue changed in the past year due to social media. This is roughly twice the share saying this among all Americans and more than double the shares among men and women ages 30 and older (12% and 11%, respectively).

There are also differences by race and ethnicity, according to the new survey. Around one-in-five black (19%) and Hispanic (22%) Americans say their views changed due to social media, compared with 11% of whites.

Social media prompted views to change more among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (17%) than among Republicans and Republican leaners (9%). Within these party groups, there are also some differences by gender, at least among Democrats. Men who are Democrats or lean Democratic (21%) are more likely than their female counterparts (14%) to say they’ve changed their minds. However, equal shares of Republican and Republican-leaning men and women say the same (9% each).

Previous survey work with slightly different question wording showed similar overall partisan differences. In 2016, the Center asked social media users whether they had “ever modified” their views about a political or social issue because of something they saw on social media. Two-in-ten said yes and 79% said no, with more Democrats and Democratic leaners than Republicans and Republican leaners saying they had modified views.

Although most people have not changed their views on a political or social issue in the past year because of social media, those who have also tend to place a high level of personal importance on social media as a tool for personal political engagement and activism. Among all social media users, people who changed their views on an issue are much more likely than those who didn’t to say such sites are important when it comes to getting involved with political or social issues important to them (63% vs. 35%) or finding others who share their views about important issues (67% vs. 38%). Just over half whose views changed (56%) say social media is personally important in providing a venue to express their political opinions, compared with a third of social media users who have not changed a view in the past year (33%).

While Americans who haven’t changed their views put less personal importance in social media, majorities see these platforms as helping give a voice to underrepresented groups; highlighting important issues that might otherwise go unnoticed; or helping hold powerful people accountable for their actions. Those who have changed a view thanks to social media are somewhat more likely to agree that these statements describe social media well. At the same time, majorities in both camps also agree that social media distracts people from issues that are truly important or makes people think they are making a difference when they really aren’t.

sábado, 18 de agosto de 2018

Trump’s approval ratings so far are unusually stable – and deeply partisan

President Trump during his speech at the “Make America Great Again Rally” at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa on July 31. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Over the course of an eventful first 18 months in office, President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have remained remarkably stable. There has also been a wider gap between Republicans’ and Democrats’ views of Trump than for any other U.S. president in the modern era of polling.

Four-in-ten Americans approve of Trump’s job performance while 54% say they disapprove, according to a Pew Research Center survey in June. Trump’s approval ratings have hardly moved in surveys conducted by the Center this year, and his current rating is nearly identical to the 39% who said they approved of his performance in February 2017, shortly after his inauguration.

Trump’s steady ratings early in his tenure are unique among recent presidents. And while his ratings are also the most polarized along party lines, this divide represents a continuation of a trend seen in assessments of recent presidents, including Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

An average of 84% of Republicans say they approve of Trump’s job performance, compared with an average of just 7% of Democrats, according to Pew Research Center data collected over the past year and a half. This 77-percentage-point gap is even larger than the partisan divides seen in average ratings of Obama (67 points) and Bush (58 points) during their presidencies. (A Pew Research Center report last year documented the parallel growing partisan divide in political values that has occurred over the past decade.)

The growing partisan gap in assessments of U.S. presidents has been driven by more negative ratings among members of the party that’s out of the White House. The 7% of Democrats who approve of Trump is lower than the 14% of Republicans who approved of Obama and the 23% of Democrats who approved of Bush during their respective administrations. Out-party ratings of the president were higher in previous decades. For example, an average 31% of Democrats approved of Ronald Reagan’s job performance.

Trump’s support among Republicans is comparable to the ratings other presidents have received from members of their own party. The 84% of Republicans who approve of the job Trump is doing is similar to the 81% of Democrats who approved of Obama’s job performance over the course of his administration and the 81% of Republicans who approved of Bush during his two terms.

Approval ratings have fluctuated for other recent presidents

Looking at approval ratings from individual surveys over time, the trajectory of Trump’s ratings during his first term differs from those of his recent predecessors. Trump began his administration with assessments far lower (39% approval) than those of other recent presidents at the outset of their administrations, including Obama (64% approval) and George W. Bush (53% approval).

While Trump’s ratings today are about the same as they were 18 months ago, other presidents saw far more change.

Approval ratings for Obama, Bill Clinton and Reagan all moved lower during their first two years in office, and by December of their second years, their ratings were in the low-to-mid 40s.

Bush’s approval ratings moved sharply higher in September of his first year – they reached 86% in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks – before beginning to steadily decline. George H.W. Bush also saw his approval ratings improve in his first year before they turned lower and closed his second year in office about where they had started.

Trump’s approval rating is 8 percentage points lower than Obama’s was in June 2010 (40% vs. 48%) – a much smaller difference than was seen at earlier stages of their respective presidencies.

The share of the public approving of Trump’s job performance is not very different from the share approving of Clinton (42%) or Reagan (44%) 18 months into their administrations. However, Trump’s disapproval rating at this point is higher than both of these predecessors: 54% disapprove of Trump’s handling of the job, compared with 44% who said this of Clinton in June 1994 and 46% who disapproved of Reagan’s handling of the job in June 1982. (Fewer Americans say they “don’t know” how to rate Trump’s job performance at this point in his presidency than said the same thing at similar points for most of his predecessors.)

How Trump is seen by partisan ‘leaners’

Trump’s approval rating is broadly positive among independents who say they lean toward the Republican Party, though not quite as high as among self-identified Republicans. Through Trump’s first year and a half in office, an average of 71% of Republican leaners approve of his job performance, compared with 84% of Republican identifiers.

This is broadly similar to patterns in past administrations: During Obama’s time in office, an average of 81% of Democrats approved of how he handled his job, compared with 72% of Democratic leaners. An average of 81% of self-identified Republicans approved of George W. Bush’s job performance, compared with 70% of those who identified as GOP leaners.

Very small shares of both Democrats (7%) and Democratic-leaning independents (8%) say they approve of Trump. Similarly, Democratic leaners’ views of George W. Bush closely tracked the views of Democrats during his presidency. For both Obama and Clinton, Republican leaners were modestly more positive in their ratings than GOP identifiers.

Across individual surveys fielded since he took office, Trump’s approval rating has been largely stable among Republicans, Republican leaners, Democrats and Democratic leaners alike.

viernes, 17 de agosto de 2018

For Most Trump Voters, ‘Very Warm’ Feelings for Him Endured

Also: A detailed look at the 2016 electorate, based on voter records

In the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, an overwhelming majority of those who said they had voted for him had “warm” feelings for him.

By this spring, more than a year into Trump’s presidency, the feelings of these same Trump voters had changed very little.

In March, 82% of those who reported voting for Trump – and whom researchers were able to verify through voting records as having voted in 2016 – said they felt “warmly” toward Trump, with 62% saying they had “very warm” feelings toward him. Their feelings were expressed on a 0-100 “feeling thermometer.” A rating of 51 or higher is “warm,” with 76 or higher indicating “very warm” feelings.

The views of these same Trump voters had been quite similar in November 2016: At that time, 87% had warm feelings toward him, including 63% who had very warm feelings.

This report is based on surveys conducted on Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel. The Center tracked views of Trump among the same groups of Americans in March 2018 and at three points in 2016, including in November shortly after the election. In that survey, respondents reported whom they had voted for.

When state voter files – publicly available records of who turned out to vote – became available months after the election, respondents were matched to these files. Self-reported turnout was not used in this analysis; rather, researchers took extensive effort to determine which respondents had in fact voted. And unlike other studies that have employed voter validation, this one employs five different commercial voter files in an effort to minimize the possibility that actual voters were incorrectly classified as nonvoters due to errors in locating their turnout records.

This study also includes a detailed portrait of the electorate – which also is based on the reported voting preferences of validated voters. It casts the widely reported educational divide among white voters in 2016 into stark relief: A majority of white college graduates (55%) reported voting for Hillary Clinton, compared with 38% who supported Trump. Among the much larger share of white voters who did not complete college, 64% backed Trump and just 28% supported Clinton.
Views of Trump among Clinton voters, supporters of other candidates

Many voters who ultimately supported Trump in the general election did not always feel so warmly toward him. In April 2016, shortly before Trump secured the Republican nomination for president, a substantial share of those who would go on to vote for him in November expressed mixed, or even cold, feelings toward him: While most (65%) either viewed him warmly or very warmly, about a third (35%) felt either cold or neutral toward him. About one-in-five (19%) of those who ended up voting for Trump had very cold feelings for him at that time (rating him lower than 25 on the 0-100 scale).

Yet just a few months later, after Trump had wrapped up the GOP nomination and the general election campaign was underway, Trump voters’ feelings toward him grew more positive. And in the wake of his election victory, the feelings of these same Trump voters turned even more positive. In November 2016, 87% of Trump voters said they had warm feelings toward him; and in March of this year, 82% did so.

While most Trump voters continued to have very positive feelings for him, Clinton voters – and voters who supported Gary Johnson and Jill Stein – continued to have even more negative views of Trump.

This March, an overwhelming share (93%) of verified voters who had backed Clinton in the 2016 election gave Trump a cold rating, with 88% giving him a very cold rating. Only 3% of those who voted for Clinton felt at all warmly toward Trump. In fact, a majority of Clinton voters (65%) gave Trump the coldest possible rating (0 on the 0-100 scale).

A large majority of verified voters who reported voting for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein in 2016 also viewed Trump very negatively this spring. Among voters who said they voted for either of these candidates, 84% gave Trump a cold rating, with 70% rating him very coldly.
From cold (or neutral) to warm

About a third of Trump’s November 2016 voters (35%) had cold or neutral feelings toward him earlier that year. By September 2016, a 57% majority of these voters had warmed to him, including 24% who felt very warmly. And shortly after the election, three-quarters of these once cold or neutral voters (74%) felt warmly toward him, including 43% who rated him very warmly.

Among the 65% majority of Trump voters who felt warmly toward him in April 2016, there was much less change in opinions about him. Of this group, 90% or more maintained warm feelings toward him in September and November 2016.

And among both of these groups of verified voters who cast ballots for Trump in November – those who felt warmly toward Trump in April 2016 and those who did not – opinions about Trump changed little between November 2016 and March 2018.
Four types of Trump voters, based on their views in 2016 and 2018

Comparing Trump voters’ feelings about him in April 2016 with their views in March 2018 divides them into four groups: Enthusiasts, who had warm feelings for Trump at both points; Converts, who were initially cold or neutral but warmed over time; Skeptics, who were cold toward Trump in April 2016 and cold again in March 2018; and Disillusioned Trump voters, who were initially warm toward him but were cold or neutral in March 2018.

Enthusiasts make up the largest share of Trump voters (59% of verified voters who reported voting for Trump); they gave Trump warm ratings on the feeling thermometer in both April 2016 and March 2018. Their loyalty to Trump was evident in the primary campaign: In April 2016, six-in-ten Enthusiasts (60%) said they wanted to see Trump receive the nomination compared with just 14% of the other groups of Trump general election voters.

Converts make up the next largest share of Trump voters (23%). These voters were cold or neutral toward Trump prior to his receiving the Republican nomination. In April 2016, nearly half of Converts (44%) favored Ted Cruz for the GOP presidential nomination. But in September 2016, during the general election campaign, 73% of this group had warm feelings for Trump, including 31% who gave Trump a very warm rating. By March 2018, 71% gave him a very warm rating.

Skeptics, like Converts, had cold or neutral feelings for Trump in April 2016. Unlike Converts, however, Skeptics did not have warm feelings toward Trump nearly two years later, after he became president. Skeptics, who constitute 12% of Trump voters, reported voting for him, and their feelings for the president became somewhat warmer in the wake of the election. But their views of him grew more negative after he became president.

A very small segment of Trump voters, the Disillusioned, had warm feelings for him in April 2016 – and reported voting for him that November – but had cold or neutral feelings for him in March 2018. The Disillusioned make up just 6% of Trump voters.

Looking at the average thermometer ratings for Trump from 2016 to 2018 among three groups of Trump voters (there are too few of the Disillusioned for this analysis) underscores the different trajectories in feelings toward Trump among the Converts, Skeptics and Enthusiasts.

In April 2016, the average thermometer ratings for Trump among both Converts and Skeptics were very low (27 among Converts, 24 among Skeptics). By contrast, the average rating among Enthusiasts was 85.

Shortly after the election, both Converts and Skeptics warmed considerably toward Trump, but there were sizable differences in views of the president-elect among the two groups: In November 2016, the average rating for Trump among Converts was 22 points higher than among Skeptics (79 vs. 57).

By March 2018, the average thermometer rating among Converts was 85, slightly higher than it had been shortly after the election. The average rating among Skeptics plummeted more than 20 points (from 57 to 33). The average thermometer rating for Trump among Enthusiasts remained very high over the course of the 2016 campaign and into the second year of Trump’s presidency (88 in March 2018).
In March 2018, modest gender gap in views of Trump among supporters

In April 2016, men who ended up voting for Trump gave him somewhat higher average thermometer ratings than did his women supporters. There were no gender differences in November 2016, following the election. But a significant gap is now evident. Among voters who had reported voting for Trump, men gave him an average thermometer rating of 80 in March 2018, unchanged from November 2016. The average rating among women Trump voters was 74, down 7 points from shortly after the election. There were comparable gender differences during the primary campaign in April 2016, when the average rating for Trump was 6 points higher among men (67) than women (61) who said they voted for him.

The oldest Trump voters, those in the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945), gave him the highest average thermometer ratings in March of this year (82) and in November 2016 (87). There were more modest generational differences in April of that year.

Trump voters without a four-year college degree have rated him consistently higher on the thermometer than have his supporters with a four-year college degree or more advanced education. In March of this year, the average rating among Trump voters who had not completed college was 80, compared with 72 among college graduates.

An examination of the 2016 electorate, based on validated voters

One of the biggest challenges facing those who seek to understand U.S. elections is establishing an accurate portrait of the American electorate and the choices made by different kinds of voters. Obtaining accurate data on how people voted is difficult for a number of reasons.

Surveys conducted before an election can overstate – or understate – the likelihood of some voters to vote. Depending on when a survey is conducted, voters might change their preferences before Election Day. Surveys conducted after an election can be affected by errors stemming from respondents’ recall, either for whom they voted for or whether they voted at all. Even the special surveys conducted by major news organizations on Election Day – the “exit polls” – face challenges from refusals to participate and from the fact that a sizable minority of voters actually vote prior to Election Day and must be interviewed using conventional surveys beforehand.

This report introduces a new approach for looking at the electorate in the 2016 general election: matching members of Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel to voter files to create a dataset of verified voters.

The analysis in this report uses post-election survey reports of 2016 vote preferences (conducted Nov. 29-Dec. 12, 2016) among those who were identified as having voted using official voting records. These voter file records become available in the months after the election. (For more details, see “Methodology.”) Among these verified voters, the overall vote preference mirrors the election results very closely: 48% reported voting for Hillary Clinton and 45% for Donald Trump; by comparison, the official national vote tally was 48% for Clinton, 46% for Trump.

This data source allows researchers to take a detailed look at the voting preferences of Americans across a range of demographic traits and characteristics. It joins resources already available – including the National Election Pool exit polls, the American National Election Studies and the Current Population Survey’s Voting and Registration Supplement – in hopes of helping researchers continue to refine their understanding of the 2016 election and electorate, and address complex questions such as the role of race and education in 2016 candidate preferences.

It reaffirms many of the key findings about how different groups voted – and the composition of the electorate – that emerged from post-election analyses based on other surveys. Consistent with other analyses and past elections, race was strongly correlated with voting preference in 2016. But there are some differences as well. For instance, the wide educational divisions among white voters seen in other surveys are even more striking in these data.
Among validated voters in 2016, wide gap among whites by education

Overall, whites with a four-year college degree or more education made up 30% of all validated voters. Among these voters, far more (55%) said they voted for Clinton than for Trump (38%). Among the much larger group of white voters who had not completed college (44% of all voters), Trump won by more than two-to-one (64% to 28%).

There also were large differences in voter preferences by gender, age and marital status. Women were 13 percentage points more likely than men to have voted for Clinton (54% among women, 41% among men). The gender gap was particularly large among validated voters younger than 50. In this group, 63% of women said they voted for Clinton, compared with just 43% of men. Among voters ages 50 and older, the gender gap in support for Clinton was much narrower (48% vs. 40%).

About half (52%) of validated voters were married; among them, Trump had a 55% to 39% majority. Among unmarried voters, Clinton led by a similar margin (58% to 34%).

Just 13% of validated voters in 2016 were younger than 30. Voters in this age group reported voting for Clinton over Trump by a margin of 58% to 28%, with 14% supporting one of the third-party candidates. Among voters ages 30 to 49, 51% supported Clinton and 40% favored Trump. Trump had an advantage among 50- to 64-year-old voters (51% to 45%) and those 65 and older (53% to 44%).

For a detailed breakdown of the composition of the 2016 electorate and voting preferences among a wide range of subgroups of voters, see Appendix. For the survey methodology and details on how survey respondents were matched to voter records, see “Methodology.”
2016 vote by party and ideology

Voter choice and party affiliation were nearly synonymous. Republican validated voters reported choosing Trump by a margin of 92% to 4%, while Democrats supported Clinton by 94% to 5%. The roughly one-third (34%) of the electorate who identified as independent or with another party divided their votes about evenly (43% Trump, 42% Clinton).

Similarly, voting was strongly correlated with ideological consistency, based on a scale composed of 10 political values – including opinions on race, homosexuality, the environment, foreign policy and the social safety net. Respondents are placed into five categories ranging from “consistently conservative” to “consistently liberal.” (For more, see “The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Wider.”)

Virtually all validated voters with consistently liberal values voted for Clinton over Trump (95% to 2%), while nearly all those with consistently conservative values went for Trump (98% to less than 1% for Clinton). Those who held conservative views on most political values (“mostly conservative”) favored Trump by 87% to 7%, while Clinton received the support of somewhat fewer among those who were “mostly liberal” (78%-13%). Among the nearly one-third of voters whose ideological profile was mixed, the vote was divided (48% Trump, 42% Clinton).
Religious affiliation and attendance

As in previous elections, voters in 2016 were sharply divided along religious lines. Protestants constituted about half of the electorate and reported voting for Trump over Clinton by a 56% to 39% margin. Catholics were more evenly divided; 52% reported voting for Trump, while 44% said they backed Clinton. Conversely, a solid majority of the religiously unaffiliated – atheists, agnostics and those who said their religion was “nothing in particular” – said they voted for Clinton (65%) over Trump (24%).

Within the Protestant tradition, voters were divided by race and evangelicalism. White evangelical Protestants, who constituted one out of every five voters, consistently have been among the strongest supporters of Republican candidates and supported Trump by a 77% to 16% margin.

This is nearly identical to the 78% to 16% advantage that Mitt Romney held over Barack Obama among white evangelicals in Pew Research Center polling on the eve of the 2012 presidential election.

Among white mainline Protestants (15% of voters overall) 52% said they voted for Trump and 44% reported voting for Clinton. This, too, was very similar to the mainline Protestant split in 2012. Clinton won overwhelmingly among black Protestants (96% vs. 3% for Trump).

White non-Hispanic Catholics supported Trump by a ratio of about two-to-one (64% to 31%), while Hispanic Catholics favored Clinton by an even larger 78% to 19% margin.

Among all voters, those who reported attending services at least weekly favored Trump by a margin of 58% to 36%; the margin was similar among those who said they attended once or twice a month (60% to 38%). Those who reported attending services a few times a year or seldom were divided; 51% supported Clinton and 42% supported Trump. Among the nearly one-quarter of voters (23%) who said they never attend religious services, Clinton led Trump by 61% to 3o%.
Demographic and political profiles of Clinton and Trump voters

As the pattern of the votes implies, the coalitions that supported the two major party nominees were very different demographically. These differences mirror the broad changes in the compositions of the two parties: The Republican and Democratic coalitions are more dissimilar demographically than at any point in the past two decades.

In 2016, a 61% majority of those who said they voted for Clinton were women, while Trump voters were more evenly divided between men and women. Whites constituted nearly nine-in-ten (88%) of Trump’s supporters, compared with a smaller majority (60%) who voted for Clinton. Clinton’s voters also were younger than Trump’s on average (48% were younger than 50, compared with 35% for Trump).

Among Clinton voters, 43% were college graduates, compared with 29% of Trump voters. And while non-college whites made up a majority of Trump’s voters (63%), they constituted only about a quarter of Clinton’s (26%).

About a third of Clinton voters (32%) lived in urban areas, versus just 12% among Trump voters. By contrast, 35% of Trump voters said they were from a rural area; among Clinton voters, 19% lived in a rural community.

The religious profile of the two candidates’ voters also differed considerably. About a third of Clinton voters (35%) were religiously unaffiliated, as were just 14% of Trump voters. White evangelical voters made up a much greater share of Trump’s voters (34%) than Clinton’s (7%). One-in-five Trump voters (20%) were white non-Hispanic Catholics, compared with just 9% of Clinton voters. And black Protestants were 14% of Clintons supporters, while almost no black Protestants in the survey reported voting for Trump.
How did 2016 voters and nonvoters compare?

The data also provide a profile of voting-eligible nonvoters. Four-in-ten Americans who were eligible to vote did not do so in 2016. There are striking demographic differences between voters and nonvoters, and significant political differences as well. Compared with validated voters, nonvoters were more likely to be younger, less educated, less affluent and nonwhite. And nonvoters were much more Democratic.

Among members of the panel who were categorized as nonvoters, 37% expressed a preference for Hillary Clinton, 30% for Donald Trump and 9% for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein; 14% preferred another candidate or declined to express a preference. Party affiliation among nonvoters skewed even more Democratic than did candidate preferences. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents made up a 55% majority of nonvoters; about four-in-ten (41%) nonvoters were Republicans and Republican leaners. Voters were split almost evenly between Democrats and Democratic leaners (51%) and Republicans and Republican leaners (48%).

While nonvoters were less likely than voters to align with the GOP, the picture was less clear with respect to ideology. Owing in part to the tendency of nonvoters to be politically disengaged more generally, there are far more nonvoters than voters who fall into the “mixed” category on the ideological consistency scale. Among nonvoters who hold a set of political values with a distinct ideological orientation, those with generally liberal values (30% of all nonvoters) considerably outnumbered those with generally conservative values (18%).

Voters were much more highly educated than nonvoters. Just 16% of nonvoters were college graduates, compared with 37% of voters. Adults with only a high school education constituted half (51%) of nonvoters, compared with 30% among voters. Whites without a college degree made up 43% of nonvoters, about the same as among voters (44%). But nonwhites without a college degree were far more numerous among nonvoters (at 42%) than they were among voters (19%).

There also were wide income differences between voters and nonvoters. More than half (56%) of nonvoters reported annual family incomes under $30,000. Among voters, just 28% fell into this income category.

Trump blasts Cuomo again for America 'was never that great' comment

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is running a tense reelection campaign, is facing backlash after putting a twist on Trump's 2016 campaign slogan.

President Donald Trump took more swipes at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday, asking how he will "survive" co-opting the president's catch phrase into a one-liner of his own.

Cuomo, who is running a tense reelection campaign, is facing backlash after putting a twist on Trump's 2016 campaign slogan.

“We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great," Cuomo said earlier this week.

Trump fired back in a series of tweets on Friday, his latest taunt to the governor of his home state who he says promised to never run for president against him. The president ripped Cuomo on "his really dumb statement about America's lack of greatness" and questioned why anybody would vote for him.

"How does a politician, Cuomo, known for pushing people and businesses out of his state, not to mention having the highest taxes in the U.S., survive making the statement, WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, IT WAS NEVER THAT GREAT? Which section of the sentence is worse?" Trump wrote on Twitter.

"When a politician admits that 'We’re not going to make America great again,' there doesn’t seem to be much reason to ever vote for him. This could be a career threatening statement by Andrew Cuomo, with many wanting him to resign-he will get higher ratings than his brother Chris!" the president added. "I have already MADE America Great Again, just look at the markets, jobs, military- setting records, and we will do even better. Andrew 'chocked' badly, mistake!" Trump wrote.

The latest attacks came after Trump on Wednesday tweeted, "'WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, IT WAS NEVER THAT GREAT.' Can you believe this is the Governor of the Highest Taxed State in the U.S., Andrew Cuomo, having a total meltdown!"

For weeks, the president has been laying into the New York governor. Trump was raised in Queens and had his business career in Manhattan, so his personal relationships with New York politicians span decades. He also has taken to more regularly attacking New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Cuomo's primary opponent has also weighed in on his "never great" comment. Cynthia Nixon said the gaffe was "just another example of Andrew Cuomo trying to figure out what a progressive sounds like and missing by a mile."

The Woman Behind the New York Campaign to Take Down Trump

Progressive favorite Zephyr Teachout promises to retool the powerful New York prosecutor’s office to go straight after Donald Trump. She’s not the only one. Is this the road Democrats want to go down?

Zephyr Teachout, the would-be next attorney general of New York, sits tight against the desk in the former doctor’s office she’s using for her campaign headquarters, her very pregnant belly barely visible above the desk’s metal top. She runs her hands through her hair like a law professor lecturing on a particularly thorny constitutional question. She lays out precisely how she could, if elected, use her office put Donald Trump in prison.

Teachout’s headquarters is in East Harlem, just a few miles northeast of Trump Tower, but a world away from its pink white-veined marble, mirrors and brass. Until earlier this year, this was a husband-and-wife urology and ophthalmology practice. Her press team operates out of an erstwhile exam room. Teachout takes the former urologist’s office for herself, empty except for her cellphone and laptop, and piece of poster paper sitting on the floor on which is written “SIGN THE CLIMATE PLEDGE.”

Teachout is a 46-year-old professor of law at Fordham University, where she teaches classes on antitrust and the Constitution. As a young lawyer from Vermont, Teachout joined the Howard Dean campaign as director of internet organizing; a magazine story from the time described her as “a slight, freckled lawyer” who “darts around the office in a pair of silver shoes with the balletic, boyish energy of Peter Pan.” The shoes are gone now, but the energy is unchanged, even with Teachout due to give birth to her first child in October.

If all goes according to plan, the baby will be born just after the primary and just before the general election, and will be just beginning to babble when Teachout takes office and turns the full force of the nation’s most prestigious and powerful state legal office against the president of the United States. “This is war time. This is a total crisis moment,” Teachout says. “It calls for Churchill. It calls for bringing out new ideas.”

The New York AG’s office is known for the firepower of its prosecutors and the ambition of its occupants. Robert Abrams saw himself as taking the place of federal regulators defanged in the Reagan era; Eliot Spitzer unearthed an obscure 70-year-old law to go after the financial wrongdoing of Wall Street billionaires. Eric Schneiderman compelled the president to fork over $25 million to settle Trump University fraud lawsuit.

Teachout is another type of force entirely, a professor with expertise on both corruption and the Constitution, whose skills seem uniquely tailored to this strange moment in American politics. She may never occupy the office—she’s tied for second in a four-person race, with close to half of likely voters undecided—but her anti-Trump battle plan has already shaped the contours of the race, with other occupants competing to out-anti-Trump one another, virtually guaranteeing the office will have a strong focus on the president. Nationally, it represents maybe the most extreme example of a specific new theory of Democratic politics: that the President of the United States represents a red-level threat alert to the republic, and that the first job of Democratic politicians, and especially Democratic prosecutors, is to stop him.

“We need someone in the AG’s office who is going to dig under every rock,” she says, promising “new tools” and “cutting-edge theories” about how a state-level prosecutor can go after the business, charity and personal empire of a sitting president.

Teachout first drew political attention for her long-shot primary campaign against Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014, in which she grabbed a surprisingly large share of the vote and pushed Cuomo to govern from the left in his second term. After a failed bid for Congress, her political career seemed done until New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was forced to resign in a sexual harassment scandal in May, and she quickly declared that she was in the race to succeed him.

Zephyr Teachout points to Trump Tower during a campaign stop on June 5, 2018, in New York.

She’s made the traditional promises of an AG, of course, saying she’ll police Wall Street and clean up Albany; she’s pledged to curb the influence of the real-estate industry. But the meat of her campaign is a very specific message: If elected, she wants to refocus the attorney general’s office on investigating Trump, his family, his associates and his businesses for possible money laundering, bank fraud and larceny. She wants the office to start preparing itself on Day One for the possibility that Trump could fire Robert Mueller or otherwise try to gut the special counsel’s investigation. If Trump pardons members of his family or his associates, Teachout says, the office needs to be ready for that, too—prepared to bring charges under state law when applicable.

This has turned Teachout into something of a star of #TheResistance, and would-be attorneys general around the country are paying heed. In Minnesota, Democratic nominee for AG Keith Ellison launched his campaign telling ABC News that he wanted to be the “legal resistance” to the Trump administration at the state level, even as he conceded that it would be a “mistake” to dwell too much on Trump; In Florida, Democratic front-runner Sean Shaw has pledged to catch the Sunshine State up with anti-Trump lawsuits other states have filed.

Can Democrats both be the party of preserving civic norms and the party of “Lock Him Up”?

But it has also led to critics, even within the Democratic Party, who fret over the prospect of law enforcement officials vowing to investigate their political opponents—and consider this personality-focused approach a dangerous direction for a prosecutor’s office to take, regardless of who the president is. It strikes some liberals as an uncomfortable mirror of the revenge-driven practices they deplored when President Barack Obama was the target—the progressive equivalent of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who once described his life as attorney general as, “I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.”

The critique gets to the heart of what it means to be a Democrat in the Age of Trump, or a principled officeholder of any party, where the job consists both of moving an agenda forward and also defending the system itself from a leader who flouts the norms that kept it healthy in the first place. Can Democrats both be the party of preserving civic norms and the party of “Lock Him Up”?


If it were any almost other candidate, tilting at the White House like this would seem like a pointless exercise. And even Teachout’s AG campaign can seem a little quixotic: She has never held office, and never run a campaign with any real support from her own party establishment.

But legal experts take her expertise on the Trump front very, very seriously. She literally wrote the book on political corruption—Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United, published in 2014—and after Trump won, she was one of the first to recognize what kind of Constitutional problem the president was creating by failing to divest himself from his businesses. Writing in The New York Times less than two weeks after the election, Teachout identified the “emoluments clause”—a heretofore obscure provision of Article 1 of the Constitution—as essentially an anti-bribery rule, one of several constitutional provisions written to prevent foreign powers from influencing domestic affairs. Running an international hotel and golf business essentially guarantees Trump is taking money from foreign powers, potentially giving wealthy individuals and governments leverage over presidential decisions. The emoluments clause, she argues, is a cornerstone of American democracy—one that we’d simply never needed to enforce before, because no president had chosen to retain control of a multinational company while holding office.

“She had a laser-like clarity from Day One about what the Constitution means,” said Norm Eisen, a former government ethics official who co-founded the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, whose board Teachout joined last year. Along with the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., Teachout and CREW helped assemble a long-shot lawsuit against Trump accusing him of violating the emoluments clause by accepting gifts from foreign and state governments through his D.C. hotel, which earned $40 million in revenues in Trump’s first year in office. The suit is still working its way through the courts: Late last month a federal judge rejected Trump’s bid to dismiss the lawsuit, so now lawyers from both AGs’ offices are allowed to review financial records of Trump’s businesses and interview employees of the Trump Organization.

In putting the emoluments lawsuit together, what was striking, Eisen said, was “how practical she was. There were many scholars who wanted to help, but not every law school professor or activist has sound ideas about the law in its application to actual cases. Zephyr knew that in order for the case to have a broad-based legal foundation it must satisfy all of the legal tests, including conservative originalism. She crafted a case that I believe Antonin Scalia would have loved.”

New York never joined the suit, however, even though it is where most of Trump’s businesses are located. At the time, Teachout tried to get Eric Schneiderman to join the case in Maryland and D.C., meeting him at the legendary, checked-tablecloth Italian restaurant Carmine’s on the Upper West Side. (A spokesman for the AG’s office said that they were continuing to investigate the matter.)

After Trump’s election, Schneiderman wasn’t shy about crusading against the excesses of the administration, taking 150 legal actions against the Trump administration on issues ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.Teachout’s campaign in many ways is based on the premise that he could have gone much further. She argues that the office has largely been defensive, stopping bad things from happening. As Teachout tells it, it is time to go on offense: “We need shields,” she says, “But we also need swords. It is not enough to be defensive in this moment.”

She also thinks she can go further than Barbara Underwood, Schneiderman’s successor—though she credits Underwood for suing the Trump Foundation for violations of tax and campaign finance law, triggering a state investigation that could lead to criminal prosecution. “She has done more to take on Donald Trump in the last two months than Eric Schneiderman did in seven years,” Teachout said.

(When I called the AG’s office for comment, Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Underwood and previously for Schneiderman, declined to address the substance of Teachout’s critique but did say, “If you want to write a bullshit piece that disparages the people in this office and their legal work, go ahead and do that.”)

This is someone whose entire career is based on shady business deals and we are going after the heart of his power. I don’t know what we will find, but I would be very surprised if we would find nothing.” Zephyr Teachout

If Teachout wins, she already has her game plan. Her first priority in office, she says, is to file an emoluments lawsuit that forces Trump to release his tax returns and his business records, and to divest from his businesses in New York—the cradle of the Trump empire. The second priority is to investigate Trump’s business and foundation under two obscure state laws known as 63(12) and 1101, which could lead to the kind of civil criminal actions that in extreme cases allow the AG to dissolve the corporation. She also says she would seek broad criminal jurisdiction from the governor when necessary to pursue criminal charges in case any illegality is found on the part of Trump or his family.

She doesn’t have much doubt she’ll turn it up. “He is already violating the law,” she adds. “As much as he is making money off the presidency and off of anything illegal, we have to investigate, and if there are crimes we will prosecute them. This is someone whose entire career is based on shady business deals, and we are going after the heart of his power. I don’t know what we will find, but I would be very surprised if we would find nothing.”

She’s already notched one win. Teachout has been pushing since the start of her campaign for Cuomo to provide the attorney general’s office a criminal referral, necessary if Underwood is going to pursue charges in the foundation case. Last month, the governor did, a move that that has largely been credited to Teachout’s advocacy—but that Teachout says is still too limited.


Teachout’s focus on Trump has helped turn what once looked like a long-shot candidacy into a serious threat to front-runner Letitia James, New York City’s public advocate. She is currently tied with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney for second place, while former Hillary Clinton and Cuomo aide Leecia Eve runs in fourth.

And it has also transformed the AG’s race into a contest of who can out-Teachout Teachout in taking on Trump. The rhetoric has turned dramatic. In a recent ad, her rival Maloney sits calmly in his living room and says: “I feel like there’s a group of men who have shown up with Donald Trump in the front yard and they’re getting ready to tear this house apart. And I’m going to stand in the hallway with a baseball bat, because I don’t have a choice. My kids are upstairs asleep.”

James, in an interview with Yahoo News, said: “The president of the United States has to worry about three things; Mueller, Cohen, and Tish James. We’re all closing in on him.”

The four main contenders for the Democratic nomination for New York attorney general (clockwise, from upper left): Letitia James, Sean Patrick Maloney, Leecia Eve, Zephyr Teachout. | AP; Getty Images

But critics look at all this posturing, the promises to go after one man, and wonder what has become of the basic fairness principle that goes with holding American office. Are Teachout and her fellow candidates really promising to spend the powers of their state office taking on a sitting president personally?

“The job of the attorney general is to be the chief law enforcement officer for the people of the state. It is not to be the lead lawyer in a political movement against Donald Trump,” said Richard Brodsky, a former longtime New York lawmaker who ran for attorney general in 2010. “It starts getting into very dangerous territory, that the marginal and political responsibilities of the AG become paramount over the constitutional responsibilities. Donald Trump is detestable, but we are still a nation of laws, not persons, and the job of New York AG is not to be Donald Trump’s chief tormentor.”

When Teachout appeared on MSNBC in May and told Ari Melber that she was open to prosecuting members of the Trump administration, she drew a sharp response on Twitter from Brendan Nyhan, a professor at the University of Michigan and an expert on political norms, who tweeted that she risked undermining the rule of law: “Democrats should not rationalize Zephyr Teachout’s behavior—what if the NY AG was a Republican who ran on investigating President Hillary Clinton? We must not go down this road. The powers of prosecutors are vast and easily abused.”

In an interview, Nyhan elaborated: “It is worrisome when any candidate for a prosecutorial office announce their intention to pursue a prosecution for someone from the other party before they have examined the evidence in that office,” he said. He compared Teachout’s comments to those of James Comey, who made it be known what he thought of Hillary Clinton’s email practices before declining to bring charges.

“If you are asked if you would investigate broad allegations of criminal misconduct, the answer can obviously be yes,” he said. “But that is different from campaigning on the promise that you specifically prosecute someone from an opposing political party.”

Teachout rejects this notion entirely. No one would fault her for promising to take on the pharma industry in her campaign, as its abuses have been widely reported. And she isn’t throwing lawsuits and seeing what sticks, either. “It is fully appropriate to say, ‘These are the facts we have. We have many reasons to believe these businesses are engaged in illegality.’ But if they aren’t, they aren’t.”

She would agree with Nyhan and her critics in more ordinary times, she says—which, she insists, these are not, with a president unabashedly profiting off his office. “To look at the available evidence and not see that there is a serious problem with this administration is nuts,” she says. “That doesn’t mean I am going to telegraph to you where a case will lead, but I am unapologetic about saying that there is enough to start an investigation here and here and here. A criminal investigation into his foundation. A criminal investigation into his family and his business and himself. I mean, let’s look.”

There is a risk, too, for the Democratic Party: That the “lock him up” approach could turn into a litmus test for highly activated anti-Trump voters in the Democratic primary, making life harder for candidates around the country. “We are just happily sitting back watching the food fight on the left,” said Zach Roday, communications director for the Republican Attorneys General Association.

All of this has led to Teachout becoming something of a favorite punching bag on the right, too. Fox News has particularly targeted her, especially after Teachout cut a video promising to bring prosecutions against ICE agents who commit criminal acts, with both Tucker Carlson and “Fox & Friends” getting their licks in.


On a scorching hot August day in New York, Teachout ventured out to Bushwick to endorse Julia Salazar, a 27-year-old member of the Democratic Socialists of America running for the state Senate against a 15-year incumbent. There was no real press presence to speak of, and no real people either, except for a few volunteers from both campaigns who stood in the background to hold campaign signs for the Facebook Live broadcast. It is part of Teachout’s strategy: even before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upended the career of Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House and the boss of the Queens Democratic machine, New York was awash in primary challengers to establishment Democrats up and down the ballot.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shares a laugh with Zephyr Teachout after endorsing her attorney general campaign on July 12. | Getty Images

Teachout, who was running against the establishment from the left back when “the resistance” still referred to World War II, supports nearly all of them, including Cynthia Nixon, who is mounting her own long-shot campaign for governor. They see themselves as harnessing the liberal anger at the Democratic establishment that has been bubbling throughout the country; the primary challengers, who are mostly women, and mostly women of color, are now running as a slate in the September primary.

Over the rumble of the subway cars on the way back to Harlem (“What, you really think we can afford a car service?” an aide said), Teachout remarked at her shock at seeing in the Washington Post the week before a story about how the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., had gotten a key second-quarter revenue boost from the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. “I mean, an actual prince!” she said with a laugh. “The Constitution recognizes kings, princes and foreign potentates. This is just outrageous.”

The story, though, made plain what she says has been obvious all along: “This is a president who makes very clear that how his businesses are doing impact how he feels. He is advertising it. He is creating the honey pot, and he is not denying it. He says, ‘Saudi Arabia, why should I dislike them? They give me lots of money.’”

She doesn’t see herself as promising that Trump will be led out of the Oval Office in handcuffs; rather, she’s promising to follow the law and arguing that the law is already pointing pretty strongly in one direction. On Day One, as she sees it, New York will join the emoluments lawsuit. To know the scope of the emoluments violation, Trump’s tax returns will be required, as will other financial records. If Trump refuses to comply with the court request, the nation will be in uncharted political territory, and Teachout, the law professor, thinks that the Constitution is clearly on her side.

“When you have a president who is making money off the presidency, you have to go after both the presidency party and the money part. And we have to stop it. All I can promise is tenacity. We can’t stop where we have stopped before.”