Ross Douthat has a characteristically thoughtful post on the difficulty of political reform in today's GOP. After quoting a David Frum broadside against the congressional leadership, Ross continues:
I spent a lot of time during the election just passed issuing complaints roughly like this one about the McCain campaign, and the GOP more generally. I've issued fewer over the last few weeks - partially out of exhaustion with the topic, and partially out of a sense that there's nobody to issue them to. At least during the 2008 election the party had a titular leader, from whose campaign a constructive new direction for conservatism might plausibly originate - even if the campaign in question seemed to have little interest in pursuing any such new direction. Whereas today's Republican Party has no leaders at all, if you define leaders as politicians with the credibility and power to chart a new course for the party, as opposed to having it charted for them by the GOP's most vocal constituents and most ideological backbenchers. John McCain was mistrusted by the base, but he at least had run, and won, a national primary campaign, and thus could claim a mandate to lead the party with at least some degree of plausibility. Whereas the GOP's leaders in Washington, your Mitch McConnells and John Boehners, owe their power entirely to backroom politics: Nobody loves them, nobody trusts them, and as a result they're in no position to execute the kind of pivots that the party needs to make.
The whole thing is well worth reading.