Voters on Tuesday gave Republicans control of the Senate. But the GOP did not earn this victory.

That’s not because Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), deserved to win in the GOP’s stead, and it’s not because this country can do without a sensibly conservative party. It is because the GOP has not been a sensibly conservative party. Congressional Republicans’ behavior over the last four years deserved no reward.

This is the party that repeatedly used the country’s full faith and credit as a bargaining chip during successive, manufactured budget crises.

This is the party that still cannot bring itself to admit that climate change is a risk that deserves a serious response.

This is the party that scuttled even modest immigration reform because elements of the GOP base will label seemingly any viable bill “amnesty.”

This is the party whose leaders resist bringing broadly popular bills up for an up-or-down vote because its right fringe is in constant preparation to stage a revolt.

This is the party so in thrall to comical anti-government activists that it treated simple lightbulb efficiency standards as severe attacks on personal liberty.

This is the party that voted dozens of times to dismantle Affordable Care Act — but never united behind a credible, or even a non-credible, alternative, despite promising for years to offer one.

This is the party that took its fixation with Obamacare so far that it shut down the government in a bizarre political tantrum.

This is the party that has styled its refusal to compromise as a virtue rather than as a pernicious insult to responsible leadership.

Unsurprisingly, exit polls showed little regard for the GOP. It is a measure of midterm voters’ dissatisfaction with the state of the country, President Obama and feckless Democratic candidates that they held their noses and empowered Republicans. The results also fit into a broader trend of red states becoming redder. Yet Republicans — and Democrats — might also take the message that reckless, shortsighted, counterproductive behavior makes for good politics — better, in fact, than having actual results to run on. If fully internalized, that lesson would shut down Congress most of the time.

With President Obama still in office, it is up to Republican leaders to conclude that voters outside the hardcore GOP base did not demand more pettiness in this year’s midterm elections. Among other things, they will have to reign in hectoring partisans such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the architect of the shutdown who, on CNN Tuesday night, argued that Washington can compromise over the next two years — if you define compromise as doing exactly what Republicans want.

And if GOP leaders fail at that, it will be up to voters to give them what they really deserve.

UPDATE, 10:06 a.m.: Minor edits made above for clarity.