Ralph Benko

The government “shutdown” properly should be called “the Cruz Crisis.” This indeed is a crisis in the Chinese nuanced sense.

The Chinese character, weiji, usually is translated “dangerous opportunity.” Actually it means “precarious pivot point.” That describes perfectly where Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) stands… and has pushed the Republican Party. Ted Cruz has made himself the point man for the whole, melodramatic, government “shutdown.” It is part of his high stakes play for the presidency driven by, those who know him say, an admixture of ambition and idealism.

The “shutdown” enamored the angry populists in the Tea Party with Cruz as it was meant to do. Yet the round is not yet over. Neither the GOP, nor Cruz, are out of the woods yet. To pocket his winnings, Cruz needs to help extricate the GOP from peril (into which he helped placed it), neutralize, not heighten, the political negatives, play a major role in holding the House and installing a Republican majority in the Senate. Cruz, if he hopes to reunite America, first must reunite the party he helped divide.

It’s a hat-trick. If he pulls it off — by no means easy but not impossible — Cruz will have made himself a finalist, and perhaps front-runner, for the Republican presidential nomination. If he fails he is likely to become a political pariah.

Cruz is playing for the highest stakes in the world — the presidency. He has bet everything he has. To boot, he mortgaged and bet the future of the Republican Party. High stakes. No prisoners.

As this columnist wrote last August, the return of Congress would be not about governance but about politics. After the August recess something even more interesting occurred than my prediction of skirmishing around the 2014 Hill elections. Cruz turned this moment into the first major pre-primary battle of the 2016 presidential cycle.

Whether or not you, dear Reader, find him likable… Cruz is formidable. The next step in pulling off the hat-trick needed to be for Cruz to enable, without alienating too many of his enamored rank-and-file followers, John Boehner to reopen the government. This was tricky but there was a clear pathway to do so. In the event, Cruz safely muted his trumpet.

The GOP Civil War is over. John Boehner heroically kept his ranks together under the enfilade of the Tea Party Insurgents. The government reopened without the Regulars being punished for abandoning principle.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.