Phew! America has stopped banging its head against the debt ceiling. For now. The world’s pre-eminent power can carry on ruining itself for a while longer — until the next boring-but-incredibly-important fiscal crisis hits. (The dreaded sequester is next up, oh joy).

There’ll be plenty more soul-searching essays about the eclipse of American power.

But it’s the poor Republicans who face a more urgent existential crisis. Their party’s strategy for handling the issue has been confused and inept.  At every turn, the Democrats have managed (somehow) to present themselves as reasonable, while the Republicans have seemed at best cynical and divided, at worst leaderless and delusional. They have emerged from the tortured negotiations with precisely nothing.

Sen. Ted Cruz has bungled the crisis so spectacularly that some snarks in Washington are even suggesting he’s Democrat in disguise.

This is not just liberal media bias by the way; it’s reflected in the polls, too. The party’s brand is now so toxic that its members are starting to suffocate on their own fumes. Even when they are right – and they are right to challenge Obama’s fiscal folly – they are wrong in the public’s eye. The GOP has to change or die.

For his part, Obama should not be complacent. As Daniel McCarthy pointed out last week, his own shortcomings are as much to blame as the GOP’s. The president is lucky to have such rotten enemies.

Tags: Barack Obama, Republicans, shutdown, US politics