May 29, 2018

Axios AM

Good Tuesday morning, and welcome back.

Situational awareness: For the fourth year in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors meet in the NBA Finals — the first time in North America’s four major team sports that the same teams made the championship four times in a row. (

  • It's LeBron's eighth consecutive finals. (ESPN)
1 big thing: A global women’s liberation movement

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A record number of women running for office in America. The #MeToo movement taking down men worldwide. Ireland voting two-to-one to legalize abortion. Some Silicon Valley companies promising to make 50% of their workforce female. Young women increasingly dominating men in high school and college classrooms. 

  • What's happening: Everywhere you look, women are rising and forcing results.
  • Why it matters: It's sparking debate about whether this is a landmark, '60s-style liberation and empowerment — but on a global stage. 
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who successfully pushed for legislation mandating sexual harassment training in the Senate, tells me: "[T]here was bound to come a moment when the unfairness of it all bubbled over into electoral success. ... [W]hy does it suddenly feel like a mass movement — a.k.a., a global juggernaut? I would say that a lot of women have been waiting in the wings wondering if they can do it, and suddenly they are."
  • Katie Couric, who recently examined gender equality in a National Geographic episode called "The Revolt," adds: "It feels like a historic, watershed moment. ... Think of what we can accomplish when more than half the population has a real seat at the table.”
  • It's not just politics. Tech companies are trying to improve their perpetual gender imbalance, the Financial Times reports, by "training staff in unconscious bias, ... insisting that shortlists include women, improving referral incentives, ... enhancing maternity rights and showcasing female role models on social media."

The data:

  • After upsetting headlines about harassment in Silicon Valley, women feel increasingly empowered and hopeful. Tech companies are taking steps to improve figures for women in their workforces, which range from 45% at Pinterest to 35% at Facebook to 26% at Microsoft, according to Recode.
  • Women will account for 55% of the full-time undergraduates in U.S. colleges this fall, according to a Department of Education projection, a trend that led The Atlantic to call men the "new minority on campus."
  • A record number of women are running for Congress this fall, and the N.Y. Times calculates that roughly half of the women running in primaries have won so far. Cook Political's David Wasserman says this Democratic primary season "is defined by women trouncing men," with women winning in 69% (45 of 65) of races where they faced a male non-incumbent.
  • From the Senate, Klobuchar cites this stark statistic: More than 1,900 men have been U.S. senators. Only 52 women have been senators in the history of the country — and 23 are serving today.

Axios future editor Steve LeVine says the trend looks like a third spike in the century-long women's revolution:

  • The themes — the rise of women politicians, outrage against sex crimes, the secularization of Europe — aren't new. If you include Anita Hill's 1991 Senate appearance during the confirmation hearing for Justice Clarence Thomas, they go back decades. But they are a culmination. 
  • Leandra Zarnow, a history professor at the University of Houston, traces it back four decades, "reflecting persistent activism by women to make inroads into politics and policy, before and ever since women leaned on the United Nations to declare 1975 International Women’s Year."
  • Zarnow tells us that what we are watching is different, a long time coming, and around the world — "a global upsurge of outrage and engagement around women’s rights that feels different because of its hefty volume and tone."
  • The first wave, going back to the 19th and early 20th centuries, brought women the right to vote. After the suffragettes, the second acknowledged wave started in the 1960s and took up pay, sex, reproduction, abortion and general equality. 
  • After that, gender historians divide, identifying third and even fourth waves. But we're clearly witnessing a distinct and powerful societal shift.

Be smart: Despite the promising current surge, equality for women remains elusive and distant. As Leandra Zarnow, the history professor, put it: "The 21st century is not a post-feminist era. More work needs to be done." 

2. Trump 101

A trio of new stories give useful glimpses into how President Trump operates:

  • N.Y. Times, "With ‘Spygate,’ Trump Shows How He Uses Conspiracy Theories to Erode Trust": "[T]wo former aides said Mr. Trump had resisted using the term 'deep state' for months, partly because he believed it made him look too much like a crank. But Mr. Trump saw that it played well in the conservative news media, and so in November, he began using it."
  • WashPost, "With new West Wing cast, Trump calls shots": "Rather than struggling to manipulate the president to follow their personal agendas, the senior staff members of Trump’s Year 2 — or 'Season 3,' in Trump’s reality television parlance — focus on trying to curb his most outlandish impulses while generally executing his vision and managing whatever fallout may follow. Most of all, officials said, they 'get' Trump."
  • The Daily Beast, on the alliance between Trump and Harvey Levin, founder of the celebrity site TMZ: "Even before Trump’s political ascendancy, TMZ landed 'exclusives' with him ... [During the campaign,] the website and TMZ’s Fox TV show went from covering celebrities and scandal to covering Trump in a favorable manner. ... After Trump was in office, Levin benefited with a series of 'exclusives' that he published on TMZ."
3. Freeze frame: Day 494

What we learned on Monday, May 28, 2018 — Day 494 of President Trump:

  • Reuters: "North Korea has dispatched top officials to the United States and Singapore, ... the latest indication that an on-again-off-again summit with U.S. President Donald Trump may go ahead."
  • Bloomberg: "What Letter? Trump Proceeds Like Summit With Kim Is Still On ... Tweet makes no reference to Thursday’s decision to pull out."

HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan issued this statement on the Unaccompanied Alien Children Program: "These children are not ‘lost’; their sponsors — who are usually parents or family members and in all cases have been vetted for criminality and ability to provide for them — simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made."

  • Wait! What? Backstory from the N.Y. Times, "Did the Trump Administration Separate Immigrant Children From Parents and Lose Them?": "Losing track of children who arrive at the border alone is not a new phenomenon. A 2016 inspector general report showed that the federal government was able to reach only 84 percent of children it had placed, leaving 4,159 unaccounted for."
  • Be smart: The fact that it's not new doesn't make it OK.
4. Pics du jour
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and his wife, Karen, pay Memorial Day respects to their son, Marine Second Lt. Robert Kelly, lost to a land mine in Afghanistan in 2010 at age 29.

  • See our new map of the hometowns of the 6,940 U.S. service members who have died since 9/11. Average age: 26½.
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
5. What's working in Dem primaries

Candidates who support a single-payer (government-paid) health care system — or at least some expansion of government health coverage — are winning important Democratic primaries, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports:

  • Why it matters: Republicans see this as an advantage, and a shift too far to the left for voters in swing districts. And the Democratic establishment had backed more moderate candidates in some of these primaries.
  • The big picture: Single-payer supporters are still a minority within the Democratic Party, but they've pulled off some successes so far and gained more ground than they've ever had before.
  • The problem for Dems: To win the House majority, Democrats will need to flip several suburban or swing districts that tend to elect moderates.
  • What's next: California and New Jersey hold their primaries a week from today. Between them, those states include more than a dozen competitive seats, making them a crucial part of Democrats' strategy.
  • 2020 outlook: Most of Democrats' leading presidential prospects have endorsed some form of single-payer.
6. The talk of tech: "Founder friendly" era boosts startup stars

"Silicon Valley financiers are losing leverage to star entrepreneurs ... Founders of highflying startups are increasingly wresting control of their companies from venture-capital backers and extracting huge pay packages tied to going public," The Wall Street Journal's Rolfe Winkler and Maureen Farrell write (subscription):

  • State of play: "Venture capitalists had long called the shots in startup boardrooms and continue to be the primary backers of private companies. But in recent years, they have had to compete against new classes of investors including mutual funds, sovereign-wealth funds and now Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp., which has a $92 billion fund investing in startups."
  • Why it matters: "VCs say empowering founders — through special voting shares, governance rights and other tools — frees them to follow ambitious long-term strategies once their companies go public without having to worry that poor performance will bring pressure from activist investors."
  • The data: "Last year, 67% of U.S. venture-backed tech companies that staged IPOs had supervoting shares for insiders ... The proportion of nontech U.S. venture-backed IPOs with supervoting shares stood at 10% to 15% every year ... 72% of founders of U.S. tech startups valued over $1 billion that had IPOs over the past 24 months have supervoting shares."
7. 🏎 Sign of the times: "Race to a trillion"

The Financial Times has a new tracker, featuring race cars and a 🏁, "Track the market cap race to a trillion: Will Apple, Amazon, Microsoft or Alphabet reach the ‘quatro commas’ club first?" (Subscription)

  • The paper today begins a series, "Race to a trillion": "Leading tech companies have enjoyed surges in market capitalization, as revenues and profits have powered ahead and investors showed an insatiable appetite for their shares."
  • "Apple is closest to becoming the first [public] company to achieve a $1tn valuation, but Amazon, Alphabet and Microsoft are not far behind."
8. Here’s who to blame for rising gasoline prices

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

At an average of almost $3 a gallon, pump prices are 60 cents more than last Memorial Day, and the highest in four years. In her weekly energy column, "Harder Line," Axios' Amy Harder reveals the culprits:

  • President Trump for his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
  • OPEC and Russia for cutting oil production in 2016.
  • The EPA for requiring cleaner and more expensive gasoline blends in summertime.

Drill deeper with Amy's full column in the Axios stream.

9. The real America
Richmond Times-Dispatch via Newseum

Politico health care reporter Dan Diamond tweeted Sunday: "I went by the Newseum’s wall of 50 state newspapers, with front pages from around the nation."

  • "The most common health care story today? Local stories about the impact of the opioid epidemic — as usual."
  • Dan tweeted examples from Chicago, Raleigh, Richmond and Huntington, W.Va.
  • Why it matters: "Sunday is usually each paper’s showcase for biggest stories. Looking at 50 front pages is a useful, if imperfect sampling. But best of all, it’s a reminder — especially to this DC reporter — that the nation often has bigger concerns than the stories gripping Washington."
10. 1 fun thing
actu buzz/YouTube via N.Y. Times

"'Spider-Man,' a Migrant in Paris, Scales Building to Save a Child" — N.Y. Times' Aurelien Breeden and Alan Cowell, in Paris:

  • "The 4-year-old boy seemed to be suspended from a balcony."
  • "[A] man hauled himself hand over hand from one balcony to another, springing from one parapet to grasp the next one up. A crowd that had gathered before he began his daring exploit urged him ever upward, according to onlookers’ video that was shared widely on social media."
  • "[A]fter scaling four balconies, the man reached the child and pulled him to safety. "
  • "The man, identified as Mamoudou Gassama, 22, is a migrant from Mali ... without documentation."
  • "On Monday, ... he met with President Emmanuel Macron. Now, he will get the requisite documentation to live legally in France."