Finally, Rauch’s analysis pertains exclusively to the way American institutions have evolved. But he has probably noticed the disturbing ructions on the other side of the Atlantic — particularly the rise of right-wing populist parties running on platforms deemed unmentionable by the traditional ruling parties. Centralized parliamentary systems are by design more efficient at passing legislation than the American system of checks and balances, but accounting for that fact European politics are in as much turmoil as America’s. The stable alternation of center-right and center-left coalitions seems a thing of the past.

With that comparative perspective in mind, it becomes clear that, whether well-intentioned government reforms have unintentionally made governance harder, they are not the cause of the insanity that has gripped American politics. Rather, that insanity is driven by a crisis of legitimacy in one of our major political parties. For a variety of reasons, the Republican Party has completely lost the confidence of the Republican electorate. In response to that loss, the GOP has tried to maintain loyalty on the basis of appeals to identity and ideology, appeals whose effectiveness have steadily declined, until we have now reached the point of open revolt.