Fast and Loose

The Justice Department’s case against Apple is unconvincing.

In the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11th, the San Bernardino shooting carried out by Tashfeen Malik and her husband Syed Farook left 14 Americans dead and 22 others injured. In an effort to uncover every detail of the attack’s planning, the FBI turned its attention to Mr. Farook’s iPhone, which hadn’t been backed up to the cloud since October 19th, exactly 44 days before the December 2nd shooting. Investigators wanted to access local content: photos, notes, contacts, messages, and videos that might have been taken in the interim. They sought to crack Mr. Farook’s password by trying every combination imaginable until they found it. Apple’s iPhone encryption software, however, has proven an obstacle, in this case and 155 others. Since September 2014, iPhones have been programmed to erase all local content stored on the device by default after ten unsuccessful attempts at entering a password. As a result, investigators cannot begin the time-consuming process of trying every possible passcode until they are able somehow to bypass this simple security measure. Accordingly, the Justice Department asked Apple to help it do so.

This is where the dispute begins. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple this week to help the government circumvent the password protection measure on Mr. Farook’s phone within five days. Apple refused, explaining that, in order to comply with the judge’s order, the company would be required to design and run an entirely new encryption software that runs parallel to the original one, creating a backdoor that the company argues, once made, makes every iPhone vulnerable. In his open letter to customers posted February 16th, Apple CEO Tim Cook writes that such software would be the equivalent of “a master key” in the physical world, “capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks.” He further posits that such a step would establish “a dangerous precedent” for further government overreach.

In response, the Justice Department filed a motion on Friday asking a federal judge to immediately force Apple to comply with Judge Pym’s order. It dismissed Apple’s thesis, accusing the company of acting under the ulterior motive of “concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.” In the 25-page motion that the New York Times calls “sharply worded,” the government cuts to the core of Apple’s argument. It argues that writing the code necessary to bypass the encryption software on Mr. Farook’s iPhone does not amount to forging “a master key” because Apple can “maintain custody of the software, destroy it after its purpose under the Order has been served, refuse to disseminate it outside of Apple, and make clear to the world that it does not apply to other devices or users without lawful court orders.” The basis of the Justice Department’s reasoning is the All Writs Act, which, the Supreme Court explains, “is a residual source of authority to issue writs that are not otherwise covered by statute.” The motion cites another ruling that establishes that the Court derives from the All Writs Act the power, “in aid of a valid warrant, to order a third party to provide nonburdensome technical assistance to law enforcement officers.”

The operative word here is “nonburdensome.” The Justice Department’s motion lays out four main points: (1) The order’s legal basis under the All Writs Act; (2) Apple’s involvement; (3) that the order “does not place an unreasonable burden on Apple; and that (4) Apple’s assistance is necessary to effectuate the warrant. Cutting through the fluff, the Justice Department’s contention boils down to the following: their demand is tailored specifically to Mr. Farook’s phone, Apple has the ability to design the software with relative ease, and Apple can just get rid of the new software it designed once its use in this matter is completed. The most crucial part of that list is the last contention, which is the point around which this case revolves. The government’s premise is that Apple is wrong that the backdoor they create will pose a security threat because they can easily “destroy” it.  Apple argues that this is simply untrue, that if they design the backdoor, they open up a Pandora’s Box that they cannot contain, and that, therefore, this poses an unreasonable burden.

Based on the history of records as crucial as 21.5 million Americans’ private information held by the Office of Personnel Management being hacked from sources located in China, the Roosevelt Review believes that the Justice Department’s argument is weak. Apple perhaps exaggerates when it calls the government’s demands “chilling” and argues that this creates a “dangerous precedent” for further, more intrusive requests. Still, the Justice Department does not do itself any favors by asserting that Apple is taking a stand as a marketing scheme. Such an argument is remarkably obtuse and calls into question the basic judgment of the officials at the Justice Department leading the charge for Apple’s compliance. The Review holds that the security of the American people is a paramount concern and should be protected through the strongest measures available within the bounds of the law. There may indeed be significant information that investigators have yet to uncover in Mr. Farook’s phone. But Apple’s defense is far more convincing because it, too, relies on security, namely that of hundreds of millions of consumers who depend on their iPhones and other Apple products, from vital participants in our financial markets to government officials themselves. To create a backdoor may very well jeopardize that security. Once created, this software could be compromised by outside forces with sinister intentions. Better to let Mr. Farook’s trail go cold than to risk calamity. Until the Justice Department explains how they can assure that the software Apple would have to write in order to comply with the judge’s order does not fall into the wrong hands, their case has no substantial basis and should not proceed.

Bernie’s Repeated Failure

Bernie’s profound, concerted ignorance of foreign affairs is frightening and inexcusable.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has been saying the same things his entire political career. He staked out once far-flung positions on social issues that have only recently entered the political mainstream, such as LGBT equality. There is a heartwarming video of him defending gay service members in the military on the floor of the House of Representatives in 1995, a year before President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law. In his endorsement message for Jesse Jackson in 1988, a long shot candidate for President, he said that Jackson was bringing together “all people who are looking for fundamental changes in our current political and economic system and new national priorities.” He even squeezed in a favorite phrase of his on the campaign trail today, “enough is enough,” while declaring his support for Jackson, a refrain that his supporters have taken to saying with him.

Senator Sanders did not limit his view of just what those new national priorities should be to domestic responsibilities. His last bullet-point reason for endorsing Jackson notes that, as President, the reverend would “change the direction of American foreign policy and become an ally of the struggling peoples of the Third World, not their oppressor.” Again, Bernie demonstrates the implacability of his worldview. At the PBS debate on February 11th, he made swipes at past U.S. foreign policy decisions at almost every opportunity, citing the seeming impulse for regime change over the past sixty years that policymakers indulged without understanding what the consequences of those actions might be. He noted that this was an area in which he and Secretary Clinton disagreed “in kind of a vague way, or not so vague.”

In the context of the rest of his remarks on foreign policy, Bernie sounded as though he was thinking out loud when he said that last part, inviting us into the inner shakiness that he evinces whenever he spends more than a few insignificant moments on the subject. He seems stuck in the 1970s. He compared the 2011 Libyan intervention to the overthrow of Mossaddegh in 1953, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran who attempted to nationalize British oil fields. He calls Syria and Iraq “quagmires,” the label famously applied to the Vietnam War. He decried Secretary Clinton’s relationship with Henry Kissinger, the seminal national security advisor and Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford administrations, from 1969 to 1977. He spoke of the wrongheadedness of the domino theory, which was widely discredited in the wake of Vietnam and has not influenced a decision in an administration since Lyndon Johnson’s, in the 60s. It has been utterly irrelevant since the end of the Cold War, which was over a quarter century ago. He ties the degradation of workers’ wages over the past thirty years to Nixon’s trip to China, widely regarded as a diplomatic coup and a major foreign policy success.

O.K., so his frame of reference is dated a few decades. That comes with the territory of being seventy-four. If anything, this should inform his perspective on the world today, right? That doesn’t seem to be the case. Senator Sanders, to use a dated reference, is like Wile E. Coyote. He zooms forward on the firm policy ground of campaign finance reform, chasing the road runner of political revolution, until he runs onto the empty space of his foreign policy knowledge, suspended in air and floating about as long as voters allow him to.

At the February 4th Democratic debate, Meet the Press anchor and debate moderator Chuck Todd asked Senator Sanders why he hasn’t unveiled a foreign policy doctrine yet. The Senator responded by mentioning a Georgetown speech in November in which he claimed his comments on foreign policy had been eclipsed by his discussion of democratic socialism. So we went back and took a look at the speech. It’s not impressive. In over an hour, he only made mention of ISIS, ignoring four of the five threats that Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter laid out earlier this month as those most threatening to U.S. national security, and only partially covering the last one. He laid out intentions to engage in unilateralism as a last resort, to create an organization like NATO “to defeat the rise of violent extremism” (who knows what that could mean), and called on “Western powers, Muslim nations, and countries like Russia” to take part of a coalition fighting ISIS. Why didn’t President Obama think of that? His last substantive point was to say that countries in the Middle East have to put aside their religious differences and focus on ISIS. That is all well and good, but in what world would any of that prove plausible? Such views illustrate almost zero understanding of the underlying dynamics fueling ISIS and allowing non-state actors more broadly to thrive in states of anarchy. Bernie seems to live in a realm of infinite possibilities that has a barely tangential relationship with reality. While this can also be said of his domestic agenda, his foreign policy views seem to be based on concerted ignorance rather than willful idealism.

In that Georgetown speech, he mentions King Abdullah of Jordan’s November 15th speech on the threat of terrorism to the Middle East. Perhaps this helps explain Senator Sanders’s mispronounced references to the hereditary dictator of Jordan as a crutch on which to lean anytime he was asked to discuss his views on ISIS since. In any case, he never seems comfortable when discussing anything outside the U.S. He criticized Secretary Clinton “ in a vague way” about her alleged support for regime change, then in the same breath, cited his wish to see Libya “move to democracy” as the rationale for his support of the U.N. Security Council’s 2011 intervention there. He could not explain why he believed North Korea was the largest threat to national security beyond that the rogue state lives “in a very strange situation.” One wonders why, if he views North Korea as our greatest threat, his focus has singularly been on ISIS.

Bernie does have substantive differences with Secretary Clinton, who is farther to the right on foreign policy than most of the Democratic base and the current Democratic president. The Secretary has yet to explain why she supports no-fly zones over Syria, which Bernie spent a fragment of a sentence addressing in one of the seven Democratic debates that have taken place. The problem is that his foreign policy views lack any coherence, and he does not seem to have done any critical thinking about them in a little under a half-century.

Senator Sanders is no longer applying for the job of representing a small, white, rural state tucked away in a corner of the country. Even for that position, he should know more than he does. Running for president with his level of profound, studied ignorance is a fatal flaw to his candidacy. One can only hope that you can teach an old dog new tricks, but conventional wisdom begs to differ.

Sound and Fury

A race to the bottom for a G.O.P. debate in name only.

Since Donald Trump announced his bid for the presidency and graced the red Republican debate stages with his orangey gleam, these events have devolved into spectacles of competing irreverence and compensatory machismo. But this latest one plunged to depths of acrimony unseen. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said shortly after the New Hampshire primary that the candidates should come to his state ready to play, a reference to its brand of particularly dirty politics. This has proven both prescient and unnecessary advice. With a tone set by the domineering trashiness of the Donald and matched by the cascading desperation of the other candidates gasping for oxygen in shrinking political space, there was little hope for anything but the mess some of us sat through last night.

It is a bad day for democracy whenever a presidential candidate feels the need to yell through an exchange in order to get a word in. But at this point, we at the Review are no longer surprised by anything, and we do not believe that the country feels differently. These candidates understand that the Republican electorate projects a bloodthirstiness more comparable to the atmosphere of a Roman coliseum than the civility one should expect from a forum for ideas. An easy criticism of that assertion would be that debates between presidential candidates have never been about productive discourse, but rather about the amalgamated minutes of facetime that a politician can squeeze in appearing tough and presidential, and that is fair. However, it does not take a fire-breathing Democratic partisan to recognize the dimensional discrepancy between the substance and tone of a Democratic debate and a Republican debate. At Democratic debates, Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders jump over one another to “respectfully disagree” or engage in “vigorous agreement.” At a Republican debate, any actual discussion of the issues gets lost in the pool of visceral loathing in which these candidates drown their comments.

And the crowd goes wild. Whatever flagrant ugliness the candidates boomed, the jackals watching echoed and amplified it. At first, their rancor seemed focused on Trump, but they seethed and bleated with equal enthusiasm at Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and seemingly anyone whose last name was not Bush. Revisiting a tactic of his at the preceding debate, the reality TV star verbally accosted the crowd and labeled them donors and lobbyists in Bush’s column, which, judging by the receptivity with which Jeb! was greeted throughout, may not be far from the truth. Any media outlet in the unfortunate position of having to host one of these Republican W.W.E. events is faced with hard choices. Going forward, they have to step in and make clear to audiences that they must maintain a basic level of decorum. Audiences should be able to clap and cheer and boo on occasion, but the frequency and intensity with which this huddled mass of narcissists interjected itself was inappropriate and grating. Democracy breaks down when subject to the whims of an unruly mob.

In the end, last night’s display will be just another in a series of inexplicables and despicables lining the way to the Republican nomination, eventually blurring together into a painful memory for the body politic we will call, dripping with connotation, 2016. Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away yesterday at the age of 79, was known in and out of the Court for his ability to get a stirring reaction out of just about any group he addressed and out of any person who read his opinions. He was a polarizing figure, brilliant, witty, and damaging to the wellbeing of the nation and the world. As we bicker over the consequences of his death even before the last remnants of human warmth leave his corpse, we could very well imagine that he is smiling down at us, as sardonic as ever. Yesterday’s debate was an event that took after the bitter and broken spirit to which he helped lead his party and his country, and from which the great task before us will be to recover.

Vision Deficit

How Bernie is beating Hillary on a vision for the country.

We’d like to begin this first of the semester article by apologizing for the lack of content thus far. We will be ramping up our efforts starting today, and for all of those who had been waiting to hear from us, we appreciate your patience and recommit ourselves to the cause of furthering and elevating civil discourse here at the University of Virginia.

After Secretary Hillary Clinton’s razor-thin margin of victory in Iowa and her thumping defeat in New Hampshire, there is no doubt that the race for the Democratic nomination will be a competitive, protracted one. Far from the easy sweep that the Secretary had hoped for in order to consolidate the party and remain loftily above the fray of the Republican blood bath, she now faces a better-funded and more pressing threat to her candidacy than any mainstream observer had anticipated in Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Senator Sanders can call the results of the New Hampshire primary an unequivocal victory, crushing Secretary Clinton across the demographic board. He hopes to maintain his momentum, leverage his cash advantage, and pressure the Secretary from her left in the hopes of winning the battle over the soul of the Democratic Party and the country. Senator Sanders raised $20 million in January to Secretary Clinton’s $15 million, $3 million in the twenty-four hours following his virtual tie in Iowa, and $6 million in the few days after the New Hampshire primary. He has received over 3.5 million individual contributions from a small donor pool of over 1 million for which the average donation was $34. Secretary Clinton’s campaign has not released any information on what they have received in the month of February, but it doesn’t take much of a leap to conclude that the Secretary probably has not been able to raise an amount equal to and from as diverse a selection as Senator Sanders’s donations. If ever one could quantify an enthusiasm gap beyond intangibles like the atmosphere of each candidate’s campaign rallies, the statistics surrounding their donations are the closest we might get. So why are Democratic primary voters feeling the Bern with so much more gusto than Secretary Clinton’s supporters are saying #ImWithHer?

An exchange that occurred between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders near the end of tonight’s Democratic debate was highly revelatory. PBS anchor Judy Woodruff relayed a question from Facebook that asked both candidates to “name two leaders – one American and one foreign – who would influence your foreign policy decisions,” and explain why. Senator Sanders launched into a detailed answer on why he would look to FDR, noting his domestic credentials in response to a question about foreign policy. Despite this snag, he delivered a thoughtful, well-reasoned, and earnest assessment of FDR’s leadership, and then cited Winston Churchill’s efforts to raise the spirit of the British people as they faced the Nazi onslaught. It was a tough question to answer on the spot, and he missed a crucial part of it, but you could tell that he meant every word. Then Secretary Clinton got a turn. She quickly said she agrees with Senator Sanders’s choice of FDR, citing “the role that he played both in war and in peace on the economy and defeating fascism around the world.” She then picked Nelson Mandela as the foreign leader whose example she would look to “for his generosity of heart, his understanding of the need for reconciliation.” And then she pivoted to an attack on Senator Sanders’s criticisms of President Obama. She devoted an entire three sentences to the question and the rest of her time to leveling unfair accusations against Senator Sanders’s support for President Obama to portray herself as the one who would be fittest to carry on his legacy.

It is exactly that kind of cynical, evasive answer that turns voters off from her. The American people have made clear that they yearn for a special kind of moral leadership that Franklin Roosevelt was best at providing. They yearn for inspiration, for a vision of the country that they can identify with, to which they can attach their hopes, dreams, aspirations and feel that their choice in this election will help guide the country down a more harmonious, better path.

Senator Sanders provides vision at every turn. He cites his campaign contributions as evidence of his ability to bring Americans together in a mighty effort to retake the system from a corrupt few and reclaim it in the name of the people. Bernie seeks what he calls a political revolution. It may not be a full account of the story of the last few years, and his answers may be in need of greater detail, but his is a narrative that helps rekindle hope for what our democracy can achieve in a time of waning faith in our institutions. Nobody disputes Secretary Clinton’s incredible grasp of the issues, from their roots to their stems. But the Secretary has repeatedly failed to fit her candidacy into a larger-than-life narrative. Her campaign insists that Hillary is the best change-maker we have ever seen, that Hillary is a fighter, that Hillary would be ready on day one. As important as those qualities are, how does that compare to Barack Obama’s message of rising above the politics of division and fundamentally transforming it in the process? Or of John F. Kennedy and his New Frontier, who told the nation that we go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard, who appealed to the better angels of our nature when he told Americans to ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country? Of Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, his Second Bill of Rights, his proclamation that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, his constant optimism in the face of Depression and war?

In September, this editorial board challenged Senator Sanders to recast his message within the framework of American history. While the advice still stands, we believe that it is Secretary Clinton who is in far more dire need of better messaging. Mario Cuomo said that politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose. The making of a President depends greatly on the qualifications of the candidate herself and the policy prose that she can lay before the American people for their judgment. But just as importantly, if not more so, it depends on whether she can explain her candidacy in the soaring rhetoric and high-minded poetry that allows people to believe that there is such a thing as human greatness and that it operates on their behalf. Until Secretary Clinton can do this convincingly, her supporters will remain the lackluster band of anxious observers who would prefer to get this campaigning shtick over with and lock her into four years in the White House as soon as possible.

Paris, Daesh, and Fear

How the West and the world must and must not respond.

As has been widely stated, reported, corroborated, the attacks in Paris were an assault on our free, democratic way of life. The sites chosen – the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France, le Petit Cambodge restaurant, and cafes on the bustling Boulevard Voltaire, Rue de Charonne, and others – were soft targets, designated because they were easy, unguarded locations in a youthful, bon vivant part of Paris. The terror these small, miserable murderers sowed on that Friday night, the lives they took were to send a message: wherever you go, you are not safe.

It was a message that the French met with typical defiance and disdain, demonstrating France’s grace under fire as Parisians returned to lounge at the bistros and cafes so essential to the fabric of French cultural life. The courage the French people continue to exhibit is the right response to the wicked barbarity of Daesh’s new global front. Now let us explore the wrong responses, plural.

Since the attacks, tempers in the West have run high, and the 1.57 billion Muslims of the world are once again paying the price for a band of marauding troglodytes who have appropriated Islam for their own gain. In the U.S., Syrian refugees have fallen into the crosshairs of mounting public anger and presidential politics. Despite the fact that the refugee resettlement process takes 18 to 24 months and that Syrian and Iraqi refugees are screened by five different federal agencies, every Republican candidate who has chosen to speak up on this issue has called for them to be denied entry. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz want to accept only Christian refugees, while Trump, Carson, and other irrelevants want to stop accepting them all together. Carson, who until recently was the frontrunner in Iowa, compared Syrian refugees to a rabid dog, while Trump claims he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslim residents of Jersey City cheering 9/11.

The Republicans disgracing themselves with these bigoted views are only reflecting the welling anger against Muslims that the American public, and particularly the Republican base, feels in the wake of the Paris attacks. This is dangerous for two main reasons. The first is that the emotional turbulence the nation feels in response to this cowardly attack on the people of France must be tempered by an understanding that the world has a lot more to defend and to lose than just the lives of its citizens. The terrorism that springs forth from Daesh’s version of Islamic extremism is not just about slaughter. They seek to sow fear in the daily lives of citizens of free, democratic, multicultural societies that they want to see expunged from the Earth, enough fear that the principles upon which our societies are founded become just another casualty of war. Daesh wants to see the better angels of our nature swept up by the free-flowing tide of fear their violence provokes. If we allow our Syrian refugee policy to be dictated by that fear, then we have already lost a crucial battle. As President Obama reminded us all, the Statue of Liberty’s inscription should have the final say on our attitude towards these latest victims of the world’s volatile cruelty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Full stop.

The second is that the undeserved antipathy we channel towards our Muslim neighbors, colleagues, friends, family, and fellow citizens only accomplishes one thing, and that is confirming Daesh’s twisted ideology and aiding its propaganda efforts. Daesh seeks a clash of civilizations. Its propaganda highlights a “gray zone of coexistence” in which Muslim populations residing in the West engage with Western life, participate in Western institutions, and live peaceful lives as Western citizens. Daesh seeks to destroy this fact of life by provoking responses to its terrorism that help further an “us vs. them” narrative. For Daesh, there is an Islamic camp and a Crusader camp, and its ultimate mission is to make this binary, absolutist fantasy a reality. Therefore, it does not take a genius to gather that the worst possible thing you could say in the aftermath of the Paris attacks is that we should only accept Christian refugees, that Muslim Americans cheered 9/11, and that refugees are the figurative equivalent of rabid dogs.

The world must act decisively and swiftly to improve intelligence gathering services and cooperation, to end the Syrian civil war that allowed Daesh safe haven to begin with, to better European border security under Schengen provisions, and to better integrate large, disaffected Muslim populations in the West and beyond that have sent thousands of foreign fighters into Daesh’s bloodied arms. But beyond practical steps we can take, the most potent weapon we have at our disposal is not a bunker-busting bomb or the heavy trample of boots on the ground. It is something that we do every day without thinking, that fundamental, courageous act that Daesh wants to extinguish above all, and that is to coexist, to live amongst one another peacefully, without suspicion, apprehension, or prejudice.

The Daesh way of life – committing genocide against the Yazidi people, subjugating women and children into sexual slavery, destroying ancient artifacts in the cradle of civilization, performing mass public executions, and many more unutterables – is objectively evil and false. In the face of such hatred and violence, the world must do what it does at its best, and that is to affirm the dignity of all peoples and to promote inclusion, respect, and love for its fellow human beings. We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to the politics of fear that the Republicans have so shamefully embraced. The horrible truth is that another attack is more likely than not because of the massive surveillance and intelligence undertaking required to keep track of these coldblooded, chameleon killers. We cannot afford to falter in our resolve and undermine the foundational pillars of our free, democratic, inclusive world order. The stakes are far too high for such veiled weakness.

Jeb’s Dead, Baby. Jeb’s Dead.

Why Republican anti-establishment frustration doomed Jeb from the start.

It was never meant to go this way. President George H.W. Bush and Barbara always assumed that Governor Jeb Bush of Florida would ascend to the White House on the beaten, gold-trimmed, oil-slicked path his grandfather had paved, his father had trodden, his brother dismantled along the way. But that never quite panned out. Instead, the same year that Jeb lost his bid for the Florida governorship in 1994, George W. Bush unexpectedly beat Democratic governor Ann Richards in Texas. As a recent Politico Magazine article argues, this was the defining moment in the siblings’ respective trajectories.

As the popular governor of one of the most populous states in the union, Dubbya won the 2000 Republican nomination by selling himself as a moderate, “compassionate conservative,” though, of course, he would eventually become the most polarizing president in recent history, save his successor. His brother’s campaign was exactly the kind that Jeb! would have loved to run. As he has repeated ad nauseam, he wants to provide a sunny, optimistic, conservative alternative to what he perceives as the pessimism of the Obama years. This was how Reagan ran, how his father ran, how his brother ran, how he is running, and it is a model that no longer applies. “Jeb Bush” no longer applies.

The Republican Party is engaged in a civil war for its soul. The base is not just frustrated; it is livid. Donald Trump and Ben Carson, neither of whom have ever held public office, maintain over 50% of the national support of likely Republican primary voters. The most stunning aspects of this support are, firstly, on Trump’s part, that it is mostly personality-driven, but secondly, that it is a damning repudiation of the Republican establishment. As an exasperated Governor John Kasich of Ohio recently asked at a campaign rally, “What has happened to the conservative movement?”

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll does a great deal to answer that question. The poll found that 71% of Republican primary voters agreed they felt out of place in their own country and “uneasy about widespread illegal immigration, the shrinking role of religion in public life and the growing acceptance of gay and lesbian rights.” 12% of Democrats felt similarly. Whereas 75% of Democrats are proud of how the country “continues to make progress as a tolerant nation,” only 10% of Republicans cited a similar pride. Even assessments of the economy divide down partisan lines. Where 47% of Democrats are cautiously optimistic about the economy, a whopping 4% of Republicans shared that sentiment.

This gap, or more accurately, this gulf, between Democrats’ and Republicans’ perceptions of the country speaks to the core of why we live in the most politically polarized climate since the Civil War, and why Jeb Bush will never be president. As highlighted by the “out of place and uneasy” question’s formulation, it is exactly the cultural and demographic trends of the past decade that frighten likely GOP primary voters. The Supreme Court, in all of its liberal judicial activism, decreed that gays and lesbians can now marry – marry! – their partners. The number of non-white babies born today now exceeds that of white babies. Christianity has been under attack, first when liberals desecrated Christmas, and now on the front lines and in the trenches with Kim Davis.

Jeb Bush’s insistence on optimism, coupled with his relatively reserved nature compared to the Donald, his genetic foot-in-mouth syndrome, and, perhaps above all else, his last name, makes him perhaps the worst possible fit for the current mood of Republican voters. As a group, they are viscerally angry at a Republican establishment that they believe has continuously preyed on their demands for transformative change and not delivered. What is the point of the gerrymandering that got Republicans the largest majority in the House of Representatives they have had since the Great Depression if they will not do anything with it? President George W. Bush is seen as the embodiment of big government Republicanism. Why, then, would any voter in such a frame of mind even consider this less charismatic, equally inarticulate, tone-deaf Bush?

As always, we must consider the consequences of these developments for the health of American democracy. The Republican base’s unquenchable thirst for the uncompromising and the brash might well spell the doom of the party as a whole. The facts are that we do live in a time of great demographic and cultural change, and the trend-lines unambiguously favor Democrats. What, then, will become of our two-party system in which one is crippled by its lifeblood, unable to reach beyond the dwindling support of its largely white, elderly, male constituency? It is a fraught prospect, but what is clear is that Jeb’s window of opportunity to become the inevitable candidate so many thought he would be closed a long time ago. Marco Rubio may well be the Republican Party’s last hope.

Institutional Disruption

How Russia, China, and Trump pose disruptive threats to America’s global position.

In Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention beginning September 30th on behalf of the beleaguered Assad regime has thrown the American-led coalition’s ineffectiveness in stark relief. Putin has brokered an intelligence-sharing agreement with Syria, Iran, and Iraq, aligning himself with a growing Shiite axis. Confident of both his and Assad’s strengthened bargaining position, he now prods the West for cooperation against the Islamic State, adding that East-West relations are at their most pivotal moment since the end of the Cold War. Just as he had in Ukraine, Putin asserted Russia’s right to coalesce a sphere of influence.

In the South China Sea, China is building entire islands for military and commercial purposes in contested waters and claiming sovereignty in violation of international law. This has led to a rapid increase in tensions with its neighbors, most notably Japan, which, under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has recently moved to loosen the pacifist strictures of its constitution. The United States is only now sending regular patrols through the waters the U.S. Navy fears China may make a “no-go zone.”

At home, Donald Trump and now Ben Carson have routed the establishment, galvanized the base, and embarrassed the Republican Party to a global audience. The two command over 50% of Republican support in national polls. Staid, sober, and bumbling Jeb Bush is in fifth place, and Megyn Kelley this week felt the need to ask if he anticipates dropping out, despite his unrivaled $100 million Super Pac war chest. Trump – whose greatest assets are his steel-clad, inflated ego, his seasoned showman’s instincts, and his attuned, simplistic pandering to the populist mood – has changed the name of the game.

Russia, China, and Trump are agents of the same implacable force of disruption lapping away at the solid foundations of American institutions at home and abroad. Voters don’t just like Trump for his megalomaniacal tendencies, though that is certainly a crucial part of his appeal. They see him as an outsider with an insider’s lay of the land who is in a uniquely qualified position to identify the rot in our defaced, decaying institutions. The entire system, Washington, the establishment, the parties, the special interest and lobbies need to be firmly shaken up by someone who has ostensibly rejected them and their power of the purse in favor of the people. Specifics and policy only matter so much next to the visceral desire to take a sledgehammer to something the Republican base projects. It is exactly this same anti-governing philosophy that has turned the House of Representatives into a decapitated chicken running circles trying to find the next moderate Republican to cut down with the Speakership.

Russia and China are mobilizing their military, economic, and diplomatic clout to challenge the United States’ dominance of great power politics. They are doing so by flouting American-led international institutions and violating core principles of the American-led international order. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its invasion of Eastern Ukraine transgress a principle at the core of the United Nations: the illegality of territorial conquest. Russia violated numerous treaties it signed with the U.N. and NATO. Russia’s moves in Syria were a tactical coup for Putin. He has supplanted the American-led coalition there as the primary external factor in the fractured country’s brutal civil war, assuring Moscow of a permanently expanded role in the Middle East.

China’s informal occupation of these new islands it has created and its territorial claims directly contradict the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. In a press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, President Obama felt he needed to make clear that “the United States will continue to sail, fly and operate anywhere that international law allows.” The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a Chinese initiative, is bitterly opposed by the United States, and the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership stands to reassert America’s role as the dominant power in the Pacific.

There are two inevitable historical trends at play here. The first is that American superpower status is on the decline, and although many forecasts and present analyses of American weakness are overblown, we are unmistakably entering a more frictional world order of greater multipolarity. The challenge for America is to leverage its current clout to ease into and expand its global partnership and interconnected web of alliances so as to discourage the zero-sum, balance of power modus operandi of international relations of a century ago. America must integrate more of the world into the peaceful framework of interdependent economic development it has fostered since the end of World War II. China, which is still seen as the greatest success story of international integration, and Russia, a perennial pariah, threaten this mission, and more steps must be taken to counterbalance the disorder they encourage.

The second is wherever this unpredictable, cresting wave of anger, disappointment, and cynicism towards American democratic institutions is leading us to, and this is the larger challenge. As politicians of both stripes have repeatedly claimed, gridlock and dysfunction have crippled the country’s capacity to face longstanding social grievances that have only gotten worse as our system has neglected them: racial injustice, income inequality, the dwindling middle class, climate change, under and unemployment, stagnant wages, predatory health care costs, a vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty – we could go on.

How to walk the fine line required to tackle these conflicting, intractable, expensive problems that must receive their due is the defining question of our time. Amidst unmitigated uncertainty, one thing is clear: the disorder that Russia, China, and Trump offer must be rejected, and rejected firmly.

For all of their faults, and there are many, American institutions have been a force for progress and good in the United States and around the world. The international order of economic liberalization, rules and norms, and partnerships and alliances has enabled and encouraged the burgeoning globalization of the last few decades. The resulting growth has lifted billions out of poverty and into a new global middle class. China’s phenomenal growth story is the brightest example of what globalization has provided at its best. Domestically, institutions establish the confines in which the numerous political traditions of our federal constitutional republic operate. Our age-old guarantee of an individual right to the pursuit of happiness and our collective dedication to a more perfect union are at the heart of a democratic political tradition punctuated by new, more expansive births of freedom. And although it is slow, churning, and bitterly disappointing at times, our system, like the arc of the moral universe, bends towards justice.

America can’t indulge in the opportunism, smallness, and indefinable, nothing nihilism of a Trump candidacy. America has to continue to uphold international law and discipline those who stray from its loose confines. America must continue to lead, and to lead constructively, in unison with our partners, no matter how much we may wish to isolate ourselves anew from a world as enigmatic as we are.