If you read the recent headlines or listened to the talking heads about the outcome of the recent shutdown battle, you'd think that Ted Cruz is not only the most unpopular politician in America, but is actually on his way to becoming the greatest political pariah since Benedict Arnold.
Talk about pure political vilification: Cruz has elicited the wrath of not only the usual electrified Democrats and liberal talking heads but entrenched GOP stalwarts such as Sen. John McCain too. They all pounced on Cruz's crusade to shut down the government and force the U.S. Treasury to the brink of insolvency to prevent the continued funding of Obamacare.
After 16 days of rancor that included World War II veterans storming closed war memorials, Cruz and the GOP, in the eyes of most political types, lost big with the capitulation to President Obama's strategy of no compromise.
Yet, there was no true victory for Obama and the Democrats in terms of resolving the debt crisis and fixing the flawed and costly implementation of Obamacare. Like many times before, the day of reckoning was just delayed.
The next go around, the GOP will surely be smarter and more unified in their fight against him and his failed health care system.
So despite pundits' contention that GOP infighting is to blame for shutdown "loss," nothing could be farther from the truth.
In his few months in office, Cruz, a freshman senator from Texas, has taken hold of the GOP and the country with his quasi-filibuster of 21 hours, his defiant stance against compromise, and his egotistical revolt against the sanctimonious rules and traditions of both the Senate and GOP elders in that body.
Cruz has single-handedly caused a paradigm shift in reframing both the message and the image of the GOP. It's change that's needed for the 2014 midterm elections and 2016 race for the White House: to being the party of small government, strong defense and fiscal responsibility.
No more party of George Bush. No more party of Todd Akin. Now, the GOP will have to redefine itself in the silhouette of the Tea Party economics and Ted Cruz.
Gone are the days of Obama and the Democrats using their tactics of creating wars on women, abortion battles, and other social issues to distract Americans from core GOP issues.
Instead, the key fight for the next two years will be about how much to cut spending and government.
The true legacy of the shutdown: Despite the attempt by the president and his administration to hurt important functions of the federal government, it still ran without a good percentage of the workforce, and ran just as well as a matter of fact.
And many Americans recognized that.
Also, Obama's refusal to compromise may have won the day. But it cemented his legacy as the mentor of dysfunctional government.
The shutdown fight highlighted the president's lack of leadership, smarts, and bipartisanship, flaws that explain his failures to improve the economy and conduct effective foreign policy.
Cruz and his Tea Party types have now seized center stage from the fanatical Christian Right. That will allow the GOP to take the battle for the hearts and minds of the electorate.
Despite his image as an unmanageable, unrelenting, and uncompromising upstart, Cruz in fact has allowed the GOP to unite and begin the road back to political viability and victory in national politics.
In time, Cruz will be recognized for rebranding the GOP. He will be viewed as a party leader, not a pariah.
This article appeared in Context Florida on October 23, 2013