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Transcript: Turkey's President on Monetary Policy, Politics

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Bloomberg TV’s Guy Johnson in a televised interview at Bloomberg’s London Headquarters. He spoke on a visit to the U.K. during which he’s also meeting Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II, as well as executives, bankers and investors. Erdogan said he plans to assume a greater role in setting monetary policy as he gears up for landmark June 24 elections that will finalize Turkey’s transition to a full presidential system.

Below is a transcript of the interview, with the president’s remarks translated from Turkish:

GJ: There are so many questions about what’s happening with the Turkish lira. Let me put a a simple one to you first. Are you comfortable with the current level of the Turkish lira against the U.S. dollar? Are you happy with where we are now?

Pres.: When it comes to the subject of the Turkish lira, of course the purpose here is not just the status of the Turkish lira, but to protect the values of the currencies of the countries we trade with on the international arena. Therefore, we want to trade with domestic and national currencies and we do this currently with Russia, Korea, China, Iran and this continues in a successful manner. This is how we are able to remove the currency pressure and protect our own currency. There are steps we will be taking in order to do this with other countries too and we have seen its benefit at the first stage and we are seeing it.

GJ: Mr. President, over the weekend you have indicated that you’re looking to lower interest rates after the election. So my question is, why not do that now before the election? And is that giving the green light to the central bank to raise interest rates when it meets next month on the 7th? I’m curious as to the timing.

Pres.: Above all else, of course, my function in the executive as the head of the republic is not the same as a prime minister’s. In the new term, from the moment we move to a presidential governing system, our effectiveness there will be very different. Therefore, I will take the responsibility as the indisputable head of the executive with respect to the steps to be taken and decisions on these issues. We’re going to do this so we can be held accountable for the responsibility we’ve taken. Up until this moment, this was not the case. However, after now the situation will be like that. Of course, our concern is this: when we came to power 16 years ago, we took very important steps on the issue of diversifying resources. When I took over the office, our interest rate was 63 percent and while we are taking this down to single figure levels, the inflation rate, which was 30 percent, also went down to single digits. When it came to single digit levels, suddenly explosions of investments started in my country. Together with these explosions of investments, the per capita national income went up to $11,000, from $3,500. At the moment we don’t find this sufficient. The target is to be able to raise this up to $25,000. For this to happen, investments should increase. When investment increases, employment will increase, production will increase and together with this, our international competitiveness will increase. This is our only goal.

GJ: I’m very curious Mr. President about your thoughts on interest rates. You have spoken in the past about this idea of real interest rates and the fact that maybe where inflation is should match where interest rates are. I’m curious about whether or not you feel the Islamic faith should review its position on interest rates to reflect the fact that maybe what should be the new orthodoxy should be that there should be a real interest rate of zero, i.e. the interest rate charged by the central bank matches the inflation rate in the country, we end up with zero at the end. I want to hear your thoughts about whether or not when you talk about a change in the interest rates framework for Turkey after the elections that this is what you’re talking about.

Pres.: Now, if you look, especially after your explanation, I would like to make this matter open and clear to you. Let me give examples from some countries. For example in recent times, we have seen a very serious development in Argentina. In Argentina, the central bank’s nominal interest rate is 40 percent, current inflation is 25.6 percent, but if you look at the real interest rate, it is 14.4 percent. We look at Russia, the central bank’s nominal interest rate is 7.3 percent, inflation 2.4 percent, real interest rate 4.9 percent. We look at Brazil. The central bank’s nominal interest rate 6.5 percent. inflation 2.8 percent, real interest 3.7 percent. Alongside this we look at South Africa, in South Africa a 6.5 percent central bank nominal interest rate, 3.8 percent inflation, 2.7 percent real interest rate. Now I come to my own country. 13.5 percent nominal interest rate, 10.9 percent inflation, 2.6 percent real interest rate. Alongside this, the U.S. has 1.75 percent but on the other hand, inflation 2.5 percent, real interest rate is negative 0.75 percent. Of course we are in the UK. In the UK the nominal interest rate is 0.5 percent, inflation 2.5 percent and the real interest rate is negative 2 percent. That means it appears that when the interest rate gets lower, you can see where the real interest rate falls to. Of course, here there will be employment, investment, production and the United Kingdom’s investors will have much higher international competitive power. To put it very clearly, this is our target at the moment. In other words, the examples are there in front of us. There is no need to look left, to look right and to rediscover the world. When there are such open, clear examples, why do we get flung left or right? We need to take our steps accordingly. And our finance sector must balance itself according to this.

GJ: Do you think that real interest rates should be zero? Are those your thoughts that there should be no difference between the consumer price inflation and the interest rates? Do you think that would be good for Turkey or you think that it needs to be almost a negative real rate. It’s interesting that you draw that spectrum between those different countries. Do you think and I’d be curious as to know what you think that number should be zero.

Pres.: It would be wrong to assess the matter as a matter of zero. Let us look at the matter from here. First of all when you look at the cause and effect relationship, the interest rate is the cause and inflation is the result. The lower the interest rate is, the lower inflation will be. First of all we need to adjust this well. What is the target in the interest rate? It is the real interest rate. OK, what is the real interest rate? The real interest rate is the difference between the interest rate and inflation. The moment you catch this, what do you do with the real interest rate anyway? You take it down in a substantial sense. The moment we take it down to a low level, what will happen to the cost inputs? That too will go down. Well! As soon as the cost input goes down, you either domestically or in the international markets, you will be able to get the opportunity to sell your products at much lower prices and obtain competitiveness. The matter is as simple as this.

GJ: When the decision is made on interest rates, are you consulted? How does the process work? Do they take your opinion, the central bank, when they are making a decision on interest rates?

Pres.: At the moment of course either that way or this way, you are the head of the executive in the country. Of course our central bank is independent. But the central bank can’t take this independence and set aside the signals given by the president, who’s the head of the executive. It will make its evaluations according to this, take its steps according to this. And I believe this will result in very beneficial steps in the future.

GJ: We saw data on the Turkish current-account earlier and it was a little wider than anticipated. I’m curious as to where you see the countries that are going to fund the current-account deficit will come from. You have in the last few years made close friends in Russia and in Iran. Yet those are the kind of countries, given their external balances, that are unlikely to support Turkey’s current-account deficit. Who are you looking at to fund that deficit, to generate the flows that are going to come in. It’s unlikely to be Russia and it’s unlikely to be Iran.

Pres.: Now, first of all we need to discuss this very sincerely. Of course the number one reason for our current deficit is the fact that we are a country dependent on petroleum, natural gas. In other words petrol and natural gas incites, encourages our current-account deficit. Of course, however much we can lower the natural gas, petrol, our current-account deficit will be lowered by that much. However, alongside this, of course Turkey is becoming much stronger by the day in industrial production and the defense industry. When we get stronger here, we will come to a state where we will cover our current-account deficit through industry. This is the unseen face of Turkey at the moment. The developments in this respect are going quite well.

GJ: One of the areas in defense that you could be potentially getting stronger very shortly is with the arrival of S-400 missiles — the surface to air missile defense system. The indications are that Turkey will face sanctions from the U.S. as soon as those missiles arrive in Turkey. Are you prepared to pay that price for that missile system? Do you anticipate that the U.S. would impose sanctions were those missiles to be imported from Russia? And what do you think those sanctions would look like? Would they affect you, would they affect your team, the Turkish people, the financial system. How would they work?

Pres.: Right now as it is known we are a country which is a member of NATO. However, in NATO at the moment, Greece is an ally and as it is known, Greece bought S-300 missiles from Russia. Well, has anything been said to Greece about S-300s? It hasn’t been. On the other hand, of course the general secretary of NATO Mr. Stoltenberg said about the decision Turkey has taken regards S-400s that "it is our ally’s own choice, they can make such a decision." At the moment we have the freedom, the independence to buy our defense needs from allies, from any country. If we can’t go and get it from the U.S., if the Senate is not allowing this, or Congress is not allowing this, are we not going to find a solution for ourselves? Of course, we will find a solution for ourselves. Right now we have steps we will take and are preparing to take and we will take these steps. In fact, we have held and will have talks with Rolls Royce, we will takes steps with them on this issue and we are continuing to take steps. At the moment they are also included in our talks packages.

GJ: Just to be clear, you’re not anticipating that there will be sanctions as a result of your proposed purchase of S-400? That’s not something that you think will happen?

Pres.: Right now whether the U.S. would enter in to such sanctions or not, I don’t know. But there’s only one thing I know. We’re buying the products that I consider to be strategic such as natural gas and petroleum from Russia. We can’t cut off our ties with Russia in that respect. If we’re allies with the U.S., we need solidarity, not sanctions. Are we not together in NATO at the moment? We are together. In that case, the U.S. should not impose sanctions on us, but should lend support in solidarity. You will give support to terrorist organizations, but impose sanctions on Turkey. Can such a thing happen? You see unfortunately, in Northern Syria 5,000 truck loads of weapons and ammunition arrived. 2,000 cargo planes full of weapons and ammunition arrived. Who brought these? The U.S. And I said this to them openly and clear and they said "we are taking down the serial numbers of all of these. After the war is over we will collect them." We have seen these in Iraq before. You could not take them in Iraq, you did not. And they were left in the hands of the PKK. Later in the struggle there we collected these, took them from the PKK. How are we going to reconcile these realities with our alliance? How could we be allies as such? We want sincerity at this point. When there’s sincerity, there’s no issue.

GJ: Would you say you have a productive relationship with President Trump?

Pres.: We haven’t had a problem up to now. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas where our thoughts don’t align, there are.

GJ: Can I talk about Halkbank for just a moment? There has been a conviction in the U.S. for that institution which is for helping defeating sanctions when it comes to Iran. I would like to ask whether or not there are negotiations currently underway regarding a fine for Halkbank and were there to be a fine whether or not that fine would be paid?

Pres.: Of course, right now a great injustice is being done against Halkbank. Especially Hakan Atilla is in no way a criminal. Hakan Atilla is a friend of ours who has been regularly visiting the U.S. and has been detained in his last, or his sixth visit, without any crime existing. There should be no such injustice. At the moment, unfortunately, he is there in detention. He remains in custody, waiting for his fate. The courts are continuing in a different way and I don’t know what result will come out of this. There is a judicial procedure and the lawyers of Halkbank especially are following this judicial process. I hope it doesn’t yield a result that will completely destroy Turkish-U.S. relations.

GJ: You talk about it being an injustice. If it is an injustice, would you as a country be prepared to pay a fine around it? You talk about it being an injustice. If you believe that, will you pay a fine? I’m curious as to whether or not that fine gets paid ultimately.

Pres.: Of course at the moment it would be wrong to say something before the result comes out. Let’s see the result first. But, Hakan Atilla is definitely innocent. So we want his acquittal, because there is no crime. There is no crime they are able to allege. It’s not something acceptable to accuse such a person with crimes. Also, If Hakan Atilla is going to be declared a criminal, that would be almost equivalent to declaring the Turkish Republic a criminal.

GJ: Sorry to dwell on the point, but if that is your point and the Turkish state were to be declared a criminal, would the Turkish state be prepared to pay the fine?

Pres.: Of course, it’s not possible to say anything before seeing the result that will come out. Let the result appear first. After the result, of course our bank will do what the laws require them to do.

GJ: Can I ask a little bit about what the economic team is going to look like after the election? There are some suggestions in financial markets that your colleague Mehmet Simsek is going to be departing. I’m wondering whether or not there will be somebody who the financial markets know and trust who will be taking his place? I’m also wondering whether you are going to be playing a greater role in economic policy going forward and a greater role in setting monetary policy going forward as well?

Pres.: Above all else, it will be wrong to talk about these issues at the moment. The whole question is to see beyond the 24th of June. Because after the 24th of June, the scene within and outside of parliament will be different. If you look at the U.S., as is known, you can see that those in parliament do not take part in the cabinet. Is it not the case? Therefore, we too may form a cabinet with those not from within the parliament but from outside the parliament. But it also has to do with the balances within parliament and outside parliament. Let’s see the picture and we will of course take our steps according to that.

GJ: But I think we’re all curious to know what role in particular you’ll be playing. We have talked about earlier on in the day. Do you see yourself playing a greater role in setting monetary policy? Is this something that — you talked about this big change that is coming when it comes to monetary policy. Is part of that big change the president playing a greater role in setting monetary policy?

Pres.: Now first of all, you are the head of the state; When the people fall into difficulties because of monetary policies, who are they going to hold accountable? They’ll hold the president accountable. Since they’ll ask the president about it, we have to give off the image of a president who’s influential on monetary policies.

GJ: So you will play a role in monetary policy going forward. Is that the big change?

Pres.: Yes! This may make some uncomfortable. But we have to do it. Because it’s those who rule the state who are accountable to the citizens.

GJ: You hold very, let’s call them unorthodox from an outsider’s point of view, view of monetary policy. Turkey’s monetary policy, if you are to play that greater role, is going to be run on a very different basis from the rest of the world. Is that something that you’re comfortable with?

Pres.: While doing all of these of course we are not doing them to disturb some circles on an international level. But, we take these steps in order to protect my country’s interests, we will do whatever my country’s interests require.

GJ: I’m curious as to how you think it will work. How your relationship with the governor of the central bank will change? How will that relationship operate?

Pres.: At the moment, however the central bank’s relations are continuing at the moment, they will continue in the same way. We aren’t new to running the country, we have not taken over the government recently. We have been running this country for 16 years without interruption.

GJ: You said earlier in the interview that Turkey has an independent central bank. And you talked about the fact that it will carry on and that things will be the same. Will Turkey, with your greater role in monetary policy, still have an independent central bank?

Pres.: Above all else, not just Turkey, we will apply the same governance in Turkey in the same way as it’s applied globally. Today whatever the governance approach in the U.S., or Europe, we will apply the same in Turkey as well. What is legitimate for them cannot be illegitimate for us. Everyone should know this. And we will take our steps accordingly. But we will never let our country lose.

GJ: The comparison with the U.S. — is your assessment that President Trump and Jay Powell, who’s the chair of the Federal Reserve, does the president speak to Jay Powell about interest rates, do you think? Is that something that happens elsewhere? Because you’re implying that you’ll be taking a much greater role. Is there another example of where you can see a model working for Turkey? Is there a country that stands out?

Pres.: No, there is no need to argue. The U.S. interest rate policy is known. We don’t need to reinvent it because we know that we have all the information to hand. In other words, we know what the interest rate policies are and are not in all the countries in the world. We are not just discovering them now. Therefore, of course we will take our steps accordingly. We will make our assessments according to this. I mean, we assess what it is in the US, what it’s like in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Germany and Britain. We always make this assessment and we will continue doing so. And we will make our own decision accordingly.

GJ: I’d like to talk a little bit about politics and what’s going to happen in the upcoming elections. We have a presidential election, we have a parliamentary election. If you were to find yourself in a situation where you won the presidential election but we end up with a more mixed picture when it comes to the parliamentary election, as it did in 2015, would you call another round of elections to make sure you secure a parliamentary mandate that the system is almost designed to be set up with?

Pres.: Of course now we have a saying: you do not fold your hems before seeing the stream. We have such a saying. Now there is no point at all to folding the hems before seeing the stream. Let us see the results first. Of course we will certainly have preparations for a result in the way you described. But for the matters to develop exactly in the way we planned, I mean Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, of course all of these will happen. But it looks at the moment like we are doing well, 40 days later, a plan as we wished will emerge and 40 days later Turkey will wake up to a much more different era.

GJ: Is the system you have established — does it only work when the AK Party wins both elections? The presidential election and the parliamentary election. The system you designed, does it only work at that point and one part doesn’t fit into that and the system as a whole doesn’t work?

Pres.: At the moment we have done our homework well, we are working well and we would not allow a development which will not let the system work. In any case, there were some people who clogged the system after June 7. As the head of the republic I opened the blockage of the system and immediately, November elections were called. In November, our people said this can’t happen and brought the AK party back to power again on its own. The system started functioning again.

GJ: Just to stay with politics a moment longer, what do you think the result will be in the region of the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran by the U.S.?

Pres.: Naturally, we are fed up of hearing about these sanctions continually. The U.S. sanctions on Iran are not new, of course. As you know, they imposed a sanction previously too. But we do not find this to be right for the sake of the peace of the region. Because, as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s statement says in respect of the nuclear issue "Iran is a country which fulfilled its obligations." In that case, on what basis do you punish Iran now? These are not right. And also, there has been a procedure that was in place during Mr. Obama’s term. And in that process, everything was normal. But when Obama leaves office, then Iran is punished through a new practice. Now these are not right. And all of these result in tensions in the region. Not contributing to the region’s peace and we do not want this region to go into tensions. Also this region is now tired. At once, let’s establish peace in the region and contribute to a peaceful world altogether. You see, the step of declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a very serious step towards tensions in the region. We’re looking at the number of people who were killed in the Gaza Strip. It’s a disaster. 37 people, in fact I believe more, died and hundreds of people are wounded and these people were wounded by real bullets. How could this happen? 700 people are now wounded in Gaza. This can’t happen. There are two people responsible: Mr. Trump and Netanyahu.

GJ: Russia and Israel: Is there a geopolitical shift that’s taking place in the region?

To be honest, I have not yet understood what the shaking of hands between Mr. Putin and Mr. Netanyahu will bring or will take away.

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    The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Parade's End

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    Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey)


    Today in 5 Lines

    • Jurors in Paul Manafort’s fraud trial ended a second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict. The judge said he has received threats and denied media requests to release the names of jurors in fear for their safety.

    • Trump refused to say whether he plans to pardon Manafort if he’s convicted, but said that his former campaign chair is “a very good person” and that the trial is “very sad.”

    • Trump blamed the cancellation of his military parade on Washington D.C. officials, saying they had inflated the cost. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser contradicted Trump on Twitter, claiming that she “got thru” to him about the high costs of the parade.

    • Trump said he expects to “very quickly” revoke the security clearance of Brian Ohr, a Justice Department official who has ties to the Russia investigation. More than a dozen former U.S. intelligence officials condemned Trump’s decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance in a letter late Thursday.

    • The U.S. has issued sanctions against four Myanmar security officials and two of its military units for human-rights abuses.


    Today on The Atlantic

    • Overruled: Former FBI agent Peter Strzok was set to receive a two-month suspension and a demotion for his alleged misconduct during the 2016 presidential election. Instead, he was fired. (Natasha Bertrand)

    • She ‘Worked for Me’: Trump “employs a particular species of dismissive language when he’s talking about black women,” writes Vann R. Newkirk II—as evidenced by his remarks about the death of singer Aretha Franklin.

    • Two Birds, One Stone: The United States is expected to have a massive physician shortage by the year 2030. A new decision by New York University’s School of Medicine might help fix that, as well as other problems. (Adam Harris)

    • ‘This Is a Crisis’: A new report shows that one in 10 Airbnb hosts is a teacher. Declining teacher pay is probably the reason. (Alia Wong)


    Snapshot

    Onlookers react as President Trump arrives for campaign fundraising events in Southampton, New York. (Chris Wattie / Reuters)

    What We’re Reading

    The Melania Mystery: Some see the first lady as a “quietly loyal helpmate” to the president, while others see her as a sort of captive, stifled from expressing her own opinions. What’s the truth? (Katie Rogers, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times)

    A ‘Political Hack’: Trump’s decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance was vindictive, writes Stephen F. Hayes, but Brennan himself has used tactics like that. (The Weekly Standard)

    ‘I Know He’s Frustrated’: According to several current and former administration officials, Trump has shown interest in a Blackwater proposal to privatize the war in Afghanistan. (Carol E. Lee, Courtney Kube, and Josh Lederman, NBC News)

    Past the Deadline: A total of 565 migrant children have not yet been reunited with their families and are still in the custody of the U.S. government, the Justice Department said in a status update. (Carla Herreria, HuffPost)


    Visualized

    No Strings Attached: Annie Lowrey explains why the United States should offer universal basic income to every American. (Jackie Lay, The Atlantic)

    We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

    Elaine Godfrey is an assistant editor at The Atlantic.

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    This week in politics, GIF'd

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    The White House had to contend with former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman’s new book and newly released tape recordings of her conversations with staffers and President Donald Trump.
    Vice President Pence was on a tax cuts tour, in case we forgot about the tax cuts. Always pivot to the tax cuts. No one knows what they mean. But they’re provocative. They get the people going.
    I do not envy Sarah Sanders. She has a tough job. On top of the Omarosa story, she also had to issue a correction on a claim she made about African-American job numbers.
    Do you think Cabinet members hate Cabinet meetings as much as most other people hate every meeting? I know their jobs are way more important than most of ours, but does that mean those meetings feel/are more productive? Does the President even look happy to be there? (I may or may not have written this caption during a meeting.)
    American icon Aretha Franklin died this week. She had a long history in Washington, but this fist-bump with President Barack Obama in 2015 is my personal favorite.

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    In a Divided Era, One Thing Seems to Unite: Political Anger

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    In a Divided Era, One Thing Seems to Unite: Political Anger

    Image
    Supporters of President Trump at a rally in Lewis Center, Ohio, this month. Partisan identification is now a bigger wedge between Americans than race, gender or religion.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

    Ken Storey was in a pique, the kind that often seizes and overwhelms the better judgment of people who follow politics closely these days.

    Hurricane Harvey was about to douse Texas with deadly flooding, and Mr. Storey had identified the culprit: Republicans. “I don’t believe in instant Karma but this kind of feels like it for Texas,” he tapped out on Twitter, between bites of a taco over lunch. “Hopefully this will make them realize the GOP doesn’t care about them.”

    Those 145 characters, which soon bounced around among conservative activists online and became the subject of several Fox News segments, would cost him his job as an adjunct sociology professor at the University of Tampa, incite death threats, strain his relationship with his parents and, nearly a year later, leave him living on two part-time jobs that pay less than a third of what he used to earn. His rent, car payments and electric bills are all past due, he said in a recent interview.

    “When you Google my name, that’s what comes up,” Mr. Storey said, explaining that he believes the Twitter episode has hurt him as he struggles to find new work. “I thought it would blow over.”

    While his case and the resulting backlash were extreme, Mr. Storey, 34, instigated the kind of zero-sum political confrontation that breaks out every day all across the country as politics seeps into and disrupts everyday life. To a degree that is unique to this period and this president, disputes over politics have divided Americans’ homes, strained marriages, ruined friendships and invaded the workplace.

    A couple in Georgia, married two decades, won’t speak when the husband leaves his unwashed mug supporting President Trump in the sink; his wife refuses to touch it. A teenager eating at a Texas fast food restaurant had his “Make America Great Again” hat ripped off his head and a drink thrown in his face. A mother in New England sought the help of professional conflict mediators during the holidays because her two daughters — one who was pro-Trump, the other anti-Trump — had stopped speaking to each other.

    [embedded content]

    These conflicts are even weighing on the relationships of White House staff. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, and her husband George, a prominent attorney, have bickered publicly over her unflinching defense of Mr. Trump.

    High tension, raw emotion and occasional violence have always been a feature of American democracy — in times of war and peace, through presidential impeachments and mass protest movements. But interviews with voters across the country, along with an analysis of recent research by political scientists who specialize in partisan division, suggest that politics is changing how Americans think and behave in new and unsettling ways.

    Image
    Ken Storey was fired from his job as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Tampa for posting a tweet suggesting that an incoming hurricane was “instant karma” for the red state of Texas.CreditCassi Alexandra for The New York Times

    Experts point to several reasons. The volume and sheer ubiquity of information about politics, combined with Americans’ ability to instantaneously render public judgment on one another’s views, has made the political conversation much noisier. And for the first time the country is led by someone who inflames that conversation on a nearly daily basis, taunting his adversaries on Twitter and quickly triggering tens of thousands of responses.

    “There is a constant obsession with the ups and downs, the tweets, who we’re supposed to be mad at — and that is different,” said the historian Jon Meacham, who has written a new book, “The Soul of America,” on how the country endured its most traumatic moments, from the Civil War to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan to Vietnam. “Trump has raised the metabolism of division to remarkable levels.”

    Partisan identification is now a bigger wedge between Americans than race, gender, religion or level of education. The Pew Research Center, which for two decades has tracked demographic and partisan differences on issues like national security, immigration and the government’s role in helping the disadvantaged, found last year for the first time that the gap between Republicans and Democrats dwarfed gaps between people of different races, genders, religions and education levels.

    There is a sense, especially among Democrats who recoil at Mr. Trump’s style of politics, that partisan affiliation reflects more than just a voting preference. Rather, it says something about your character. And where you come down on Mr. Trump is increasingly a decisive factor in whether or not someone wants to associate with you.

    Sixty percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats interviewed by Pew in a separate survey in March said that people who feel differently than they do about how Mr. Trump is handling his job probably do not share their values and goals.

    Savannah Fehling, 23, of Sarasota, Fla., is one of many Americans whose own troubles live out the data. She said her relationship fell apart after she and her ex-boyfriend came to realize that their political differences — initially something that drew them together — were driving them apart. She described herself as “quite liberal” and him as “quite conservative.”

    Have you ended a friendship (unfriending them on Facebook doesn’t count) because of a disagreement over politics? Share your experience here.

    “It was difficult for me to reconcile dating someone who, I realized, had more than just very different political views, but very different core values that helped inform those views,” Ms. Fehling said. Her ex, she added, was a “sweet, smart, thoughtful guy.” But in the end, “he was raised by people who thought a certain way, and it was difficult to get through that.”

    Image

    A protest in New York City last month against the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the southern border.CreditJustin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

    Maryann Meador, 65, of Saint Marys, Ga., said that she and her husband of 23 years always had mild disagreements over politics. She attributed this to their backgrounds: He is from Texas and collects guns; she was born in Brooklyn and got active in local Democratic politics. But something about Mr. Trump’s election, she said, sharpened their differences. “The Bushes were hard years,” she said. “But we really didn’t get into screaming matches about it.”

    Now they have given up their tradition of watching the NBC Nightly News together every evening. She hides her laptop when he walks in the room because she doesn’t want him to see her reading something political that could spark a fight. When he drinks coffee from a cup with Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan on it and leaves it on the counter, she is tempted to smash it. “But what would that accomplish?” she asked.

    Members of opposing parties not only express frustration with each other, they now say they are angry and afraid of the other side, Pew has found. Its director of political research, Carroll Doherty, said Pew had no comparative data to see whether this phenomenon has gotten worse since Mr. Trump took office because Pew had never before asked Americans’ about anger and fear in politics. It never seemed as salient as it does today, he said.

    The pollster Frank Luntz, who has worked primarily for Republicans but says he has become increasingly disenchanted with his party and critical of Mr. Trump, recently commissioned a survey of 96 questions on the topic of political dialogue and division. In 1,000 interviews, he said, he found one answer especially troubling: Nearly a third said they had stopped talking to a friend or a family member because of disagreements over politics and the 2016 election.

    “This is very different,” Mr. Luntz said in an interview. “With Obama, people hated him or people loved him. But you weren’t evil for how you felt. You might be accused of being a racist or a socialist. It still wasn’t the same.”

    Strategists like Mr. Luntz, who has been traveling the country conducting focus groups to better understand the conflicts, and research organizations like Pew are part of an emerging political industry devoted to division. The National Institute for Civil Discourse, which provides lawmakers, businesses and communities with strategies to solve disagreements, was founded in the aftermath of the 2011 assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman. Its executive director, Carolyn Lukensmeyer, said that during the 2012 presidential election, “We got not a single message from anybody in the country about incivility in the campaign process.”

    “Then 2016 rolls around,” she said.

    Among the requests for conflict mitigation she has received since: rabbis and pastors whose congregations are at each other’s throats; Fortune 500 companies where productivity is down because employees bicker over politics; and a mother in New England who feared her family’s holiday would be ruined because her two daughters who were returning from college had not spoken to each other since the 2016 election.

    “This is now deep in our homes, deep in our neighborhoods, deep in our places of worship and deep in our workplaces,” Ms. Lukensmeyer said. “It really is a virus.”

    Image

    Maryann Meador, a liberal in Georgia, said the once-mild disagreements on politics she had with her husband, a conservative, have become more difficult since Mr. Trump’s election.CreditAudra Melton for The New York Times

    The acrimony in politics has become so pervasive that 91 percent of voters said it was a serious problem in a Quinnipiac University released last month. There was strong consensus about who was at fault: 47 percent said they blame Mr. Trump more; 37 percent said Democrats.

    At a focus group convened by Mr. Luntz, Joshua Narramore, 34, of Avon Lake, Ohio, described how he was cut off by an old friend — someone whose children he babysat and whose family would have him over for dinner — after posting provocatively about Mr. Trump on Facebook. A number of his posts could have set this friend off, Mr. Narramore admitted. One was a meme calling Hitler “the first progressive.” He described another as a more harmless gloat after the 2016 election. They have not spoken since.

    “It stinks,” Mr. Narramore said. “But he’s a person I never stopped praying for.”

    Research has shown Mr. Narramore’s experience — being dropped by a liberal friend — is probably more common than the reverse. Thirty-five percent of Democrats, a Pew survey last year found, said learning that a friend had voted for Mr. Trump would put a strain of the relationship. Only 13 percent of Republicans said that of a friend’s vote for Hillary Clinton. The most educated and most liberal Democrats were most likely to say a Trump vote would complicate their friendships.

    But conservative intolerance of liberals is hardly uncommon. In the Texas panhandle this summer, motorists passed a billboard along the interstate that read: “Liberals, please continue on I-40 until you have left our GREAT STATE OF TEXAS.” (The sign’s owner said he would take it down after being deluged with complaints.)

    Tell us about an experience when you felt you couldn’t talk about your politics because you thought you’d be criticized. Share your experience here.

    Mr. Storey, the former University of Tampa professor, said his mother still won’t speak to him about the Twitter incident because she found it so upsetting. He said a stranger who found his number online called and threatened him by reciting his parents’ address.

    But, reflecting on the direction he thinks the country is heading in under Mr. Trump and the Republican Party, he added that he had no regrets about the tweet.

    “I don’t apologize for holding our politicians or those who elect our politicians accountable,” he said.

    Unable to make much of a living on his part-time jobs teaching at a community college and writing about tourism for a local website, he is thinking of moving cities and going back to school to become an urban planner.

    “All over a tweet,” he said.

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