One of my favorite political movies is “Charlie Wilson’s War.” It’s a story based on actual events surrounding “Operation Cyclone,” a covert war funded by the U.S. Congress to combat and eventually defeat the Soviet Union during their invasion of Afghanistan.
Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Texas, takes time out of his busy schedule of boozing and philandering to do something historically important, a feat unexpected of a congressman with so little potential. This defeat of the Soviets is credited by many as instrumental to the Soviet government’s ultimate demise.
At the end of the movie, while celebrating a milestone in the conflict, the CIA operative who partnered with Rep. Wilson, “Gust” Avrakotos, warns him not to overstate the victory. He tells Wilson a story about the Zen master and the little boy. The lesson of the story is that after every moment in the little boy’s life, villagers would either respond with “how wonderful,” or “how terrible.” And the Zen master would always respond to the villagers with: “we’ll see.”
American politics could use a Zen master the day after Election Day. Yes, I mean every Election Day.
This year is no different. With the surprise upset of the Donald Trump campaign still leaving aftershocks throughout the nation, it seems particularly important. There are a few things many expect will come of Tuesday’s result. It took me a moment to let the dust around it settle, but here is my advice to our nation: we’ll see.
First, there was the original worry about unrest on the transition of power and accusations of election fraud. While many theorize that reactions might be different if the result was exactly as close with the opposite result, that still may have occurred. The point however is now moot.
Next, there was the shockwave of reaction by the financial markets overnight as futures plummeted while the news of the Trump upset became prevalent. By midday on Wednesday, that had calmed. Will that calm continue?
The conflict over the vacancy on the Supreme Court seems to be a dead issue now that the U.S. Senate and the Oval Office are controlled by the GOP. But the unresolved question remains about the handling of these scenarios in the future and what expectation the public has of constitutional responsibility. In the public eye, was the blockade of President Obama’s appointment permanently damaging?
Voters voted for change on Tuesday. I have seen this electoral response a few times in my career now. “Change” is a campaign strategy that works. Governing for change, as voters expect it, is far more difficult. So will the masses who turned out to elect Trump in such dramatic fashion ultimately get what they want as a result?
Finally, when Democrats were calculating their futures before the upset had taken shape, the midterm elections in 2018 were already of great concern to them. Both presidential candidates were historically unpopular which does not bode well when their mere presence in office doesn’t magically heal all that ails us. Will the GOP get creamed in 2018 the way I would have expected a victorious Democrat bunch in those same shoes?
Again, we’ll see.
The point I am making is that our political cycle is a continuum and is not made up of distinct beginnings and ends. The pendulum swung on Tuesday and it is up to the victors to make the most lasting good they can as their sales pitch for a continued grip on power.
I don’t believe for a minute that President-elect Trump’s administration or our new members of congress have any intention of doing any less than their own version of what’s best for America.
That same belief also applies to Governor-elect Eric Holcomb and Lt. Governor-elect Suzanne Crouch. I rooted for change myself in the governor’s race by supporting John Gregg and Christina Hale. But I also was not shy in sharing my view that no matter who the winner in that race, Indiana was upgrading. Am I right?
So what eventually happened on the continuum in Afghanistan after Charlie Wilson’s war was won? The Soviet Union fell, and the U.S. celebrated and left the nation war torn. Wilson tells his congressional committee that half the population of the war torn country was under the age of fourteen when we left. That is a dangerous demographic statistic.
But we left any way. Some might say, our departure predictably led to the development of the Taliban. And we all know how that turned out.
Or do we?
We’ll see. Actually, as is the case in any continuum, the outcomes of milestones never stop changing.
Tuesday was a big day in our nation’s history. It was an outcome no one scientifically predicted, even those who now claim they did. I hope all of America can see opportunity ahead as a result, just like the Zen master teaches us. I certainly do.
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Charlie Wilson was a Democrat, not a Republican.
Yes he was. Thanks for spotting the typo. And thanks for reading such an old column!