Second, the Republican party can be reformed. It may be very hard to do so, but the GOP is not a political machine. It is not a closed system, impervious to change. It’s open, and grassroots reformers have recourse — in the form of party primaries. They may be seriously out-financed in those contests. Still, it is one thing to be an underdog, and another to have no hope of change at all. And there is hope…

The House has shown similar signs of improvement. The “insurgent” class of House reformers is now large enough to make real noise. Did such a group really exist a decade ago? Certainly not with the same numbers. There is no denying that conservative reformers have won some big elections in the last few cycles, and that the reformist right is on the rise within the GOP, if not yet dominant.

Maybe part of the frustration is that there has been change, but no breakthroughs. That’s because breakthroughs are hard in our system of government — by design. That is one of Madison’s big points in Federalist #10 and #51; he wants our system to be responsive to changes in public mood, but — fearful of fractious majorities — he also promotes a system of checks and balances to slow change down. Moreover, the powers that be in the Republican party have been doing things a certain way for a century and a half. They are not going to give up just because conservatives have won a handful of elections.