In recent years, there have been lots of reasons for conservatives to fret about the state of the GOP. Heck, I’m writing a whole book about the soul searching that is taking place. Many of the activities pursued by tea party conservatives have been counterproductive, but it’s worth conceding that sometimes their mischief and penchant for chaos — their stubborn refusal to settle for mediocrity or accept conventional wisdom — actually helps. 

Such is the case with Paul Ryan . To be sure, it’s still possible something could happen that would block Ryan from ascending to the speakership. And it’s worth mentioning that a lot of tea party conservatives (I’m thinking here of the talk radio and Breitbart crowd) will continue to undermine him every step of the way. But it’s fair to say that if we end up with Speaker Ryan, it will be thanks to House GOP rebels.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Paul Ryan isn’t perfect, but he’s clearly the best Republican that conservatives could ever realistically hope for. But he didn’t even want the gig — and wouldn’t have been pressed into service had it not been for House rebels who toppled John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy . If you told me two months ago that House rebels could engineer a maneuver to make Ryan their leader by Thanksgiving, I would have laughed at you. I’m not suggesting that was even their goal. But it seems like that’s the way things will shake out. Call it an example of “spontaneous order” if you like.

This is a big deal. I don’t want to be too optimistic (at this point, hoping for a united Republican Party requires a sort of naiveté that is tantamount to believing we will soon have peace in the Middle East) but this is cause for hope — something that has been sorely lacking for far too long. The odds might be against Ryan succeeding, but it is fair to say that there is, at least, a chance for greatness. There is at least potential that Paul Ryan could go down in history as a great Speaker of the House. And if that happens, you can thank those crazy conservative rebels.