This week’s midterm elections in the US delivered a surprise that calmed the hearts of angst-ridden progressives. The dreaded “red wave” failed to materialize (prompting comedian Stephen Colbert to dub the phenomenon a “pink trickle.”

We awoke on the morning after Election Day at almost the same place we were the day before. Despite billions of dollars—that’s billions with a “B”, endless hand-wringing about election denialism and the death of democracy, and fretting that interest in abortion rights was not sustainable, the status quo basically prevailed.

This is not to say that the midterms were meaningless. Voters would do well to dig deeply into the results and analyze lessons learned in preparation for upcoming election cycles, especially the upcoming 2024 Presidential campaign. And gloating about the results would be short-sighted and counter-productive.

More importantly, however, we might take a step back and ask a bigger question: is there an historical reference that can guide us as we move beyond the moment? I might offer the situation that prompted a statement by Winston Churchill after the second battle of El Alamein. Fought near the western frontier of Egypt between 23 October and 4 November 1942, El Alamein was the climax and turning point of the North African campaign in the Second World War when the British defeated the Axis forces under Gen. Erwin Rommel (the Desert Fox) as his advance threatened British control of the Suez Canal, the Middle East and its oil resources. 

It was the first significant Allied victory after months of losses, prompting Churchill to offer a memorable mix of caution and optimism on November 10: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

The comparison with events of this week seems especially appropriate. Since coming down the famed “golden escalator,” Donald Trump has evoked havoc across this land, buffeting the American public with self-seeking lies and misinformation, invectives against perceived enemies, ludicrous conspiracy theories, short-sighted policies and pronouncements of unmitigated cruelty, and general, chaos-inducing buffoonery.

And while many final midterm tallies are still undetermined as of this writing, one trend is clear: American voters have soundly rejected Donald Trump. While he and his legion of followers will not disappear overnight (it is not the end), and some Trump-supported candidates have won and will govern in the immediate future (it is not even the beginning of the end), we have undeniable evidence that Trump’s dominant clout on the American political scene is now over (it is the end of the beginning).

Early in my career, I learned a basic (almost self-evident) principle about crafting a story line that has served me well. Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. It is the writer’s task to clearly identify these elements so that the reader can follow the action and understand the author’s intent. Following this logic, if the 2022 midterms were the end of the beginning, we are about to confront the beginning of the middle. And “middles” can be hard.

What does the next chapter hold for us? No one expects that with Trump off the stage, we will all now gather together across the barriers that divide us, hold hands and hum wistful choruses of Kumbaya. Indeed, the midterm results in Florida offer a clue to the future as revealed in the victory of Ron DeSantis, the new poster child for ongoing pettiness and division that continues to afflict our land. DeSantis’s “middle,” infused with his misbegotten machismo brand of manipulative malevolence may prove more dangerous than Trump’s could ever have imagined.

Still, there is time to worry about that in the future. For now, let us take a breath and then exhale, savoring the triumph of moderation over extremism, trust and confidence over despair and desperation. The soundness of the American democracy has prevailed. However fragile our roots may be, for one election cycle at least—we have crossed a threshold and we have witnessed the end of the beginning of what has been a deeply troubling chapter in our American story.

8 thoughts on “The End of the Beginning

  1. Ben Franklin warned of the difficulty in maintaining a democracy.. I guess evil and division are here to stay. But, thankfully, so are generosity, service, courage and all the good things.. 🙏

  2. Your intelligent writings drove people away from the democratic process, and I as a former democrat who to turned independent because of superior people like you!! would like to say SHAME ON YOU. Could you Mr. Chase, please, read and understand the word democracy before writing the next article.

    A highly educated and well-articulated word organizer, like you, our great friend “Mr. Chase”, once again, you make no sense. YOU are no different than the former president, because what you just wrote is even worse, especially when it is coming from a highly educated person.

    I am saddened to see you wasting the great reverend teacher abilities and talent on writing such trash. Your job should be uniting, not dividing people. It is so obvious that you have a complex in life called “REPUBLICAN”, I recommend that you seek assistance from Dr. Phil.

    I hope you would understand my words, because I really mean well and do not wish to see you wasting those great abilities on meaningless writings. Someday after a long healthy and prosperous life, like the rest of the world you will pass on, and the world will talk about the legacy you left behind. Please do think of that.

  3. karl hardt,
    you rail at bob chase’s writing (in general as well as in this piece) and you make a pretty bold accusation. that is your right. the problem is you don’t offer one specific reason (not an example or a detail) for your
    obvious discontent. your rant against bob seems passionate, but without giving even one “detail” about what he wrote that has caused you such distress or how it devolved into the category of “trash”, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to understand your point. is it his “intelligent” style or the weighty content of what he writes/ has written that irks you? let me give you an example: as one who loves and admires bob’s essays and messages, i would say that his 4th paragraph digression into the
    specific battle of world war 2 included details that are “weighty” for even the most informed reader. for me, for example, it interrupted the flow of his piece with too much detail unfamiliar to many readers (me specifically). he did it to support his well-made point about the title, “the end of the beginning” but i had to stop briefly on the path i was following him on to berate myself for my historical ignorance. however, the point of his piece was not lost on me. he made it with a clear beginning, middle, and end. that would be an observation i would share with bob if he were sitting across from me. i have known bob chase over many years and have never known him to pontificate on a subject or fluff himself up to have his ego outweigh any issue or point he was making. in fact, just the opposite: he welcomes all views and opinions. that being said, my criticism of your attack on this essay is that it drifted, unfortunately, into an attack on the messenger, not the message at all. i ended up not knowing what you believe in, but pretty certain you wanted to take bob to the woodshed for being an “intelligent writer” and writing whatever it was you disagreed with. your response lost all credibility because all it was was unsupported angry. personal accusative gripe with nothing to back it up but unsupported epithets.

    1. Michael,

      Thank you for your comments, forgive me for being a foreigner because English is not what you expect. I am not as you describe.

      I think you should read the words very well. In reality, I have high consideration for Dr. Rev. Chase and do hope for so much of him, but not the way he is being inconsiderate to facts and reality and others.

      He is a REV and for someone in his statue, people expect him to be a uniter not divider, because in his writings, there is always a note of some kind that talks about the divisions in the country, yet he uses his great abilities to support the divisions by ignoring others who share the country with him and you.

      Perhaps you just want rubber stamp, a yes to your opinions and methods people on this blog; if that is the case, so, perhaps, independents like myself should depart from this blog.

      Always remember, the job of teachers like Dr. Rev Chase is to be a fair educator.

      I wish you good luck

  4. Dear Karl Hardt,
    Please explain why expressions of compassion and concern about autocracy are “worse” than the former President’s firehose of resentments, name-calling, admiration for dictators, and with his Big Lie stirring up thousands to attack the Capitol.
    Growing up in Indiana as a conservative Presbyterian, I was taught one should be responsible for one’s actions. Name one situation where Trump has taken responsibility, not blamed others or played the whiney victim or hired lawyers to delay/obstruct justice or paying his bills.
    Bob Chase understands democracy.
    Do you understand narcissism or con artists?

    1. Dear Barrie,

      Thank you. In reality, I truly admire Dr. Rev Chase, and always wished for educators like him to be uniters, not just skilled writers. There are so many people like myself who decided to leave the Reps and Dems because of the constant tiring and meaningless behaviors that do not accomplish anything but additional headaches. Shouldn’t we wise up as a nation.

      And that is what I try to ask Dr. Chase, what are you trying to accomplish with this blog?

      To answer your question, yes I do.

  5. Years ago, as a young recovering person living in a half-way house, I faced a similar bias daily. In meetings, if I opened my mouth to share, I heard “Oh God.. there she goes again.. the ‘intellectual’ “. Glaring at them, I would continue.. expressing my FEELINGS.
    People who express themselves well are – sadly – not trusted in much of this society 😞. The folks Sen. John Neely Kennedy (Louisiana) calls, “latte-drinking, avocado-toast-eating, insider elites” are, therefore, suspect (and not surprisingly, as Trump’s audiences more closely resemble Jerry Springer’s). Dumb it down a bit, Bob, dumb it down and, needless to say, don’t run for elected office. Winston who ??

  6. I think this quote is my key takeaway from Election night… “savoring the triumph of moderation over extremism.” I do feel like we are in an era of extremists on both sides. I have never in my life been so ambivalent or apathetic about Election Day. I found it quite depressing, actually. I would say Tuesday night was a victory for liberalism, not “progressives.” I still consider myself a liberal, but I have witnessed a LOT of illiberalism coming from the left AND the right. I’m glad to see the worst of Trumpism repudiated, but also the more moderate Democrats celebrated. I’m not sure what the middle of this story will look like. There is so much going on right now in the realm of parental rights that people without young children aren’t aware of. One of three things will happen next–option a) the effort to divide kids from their parents will worsen yet continue to go unnoticed by much of the left; option b) a mass of people will wake up to some of the horrors going on under their noses and suffer a major crisis of conscience (“how did we let this happen?”); option c) the issues will somehow self-correct and most of the public will still be unaware. I really don’t know how this will shake out. But the Democrats are overdue for some major self-analysis. For now, the self-reflection will be delayed becasue the Republicans put up ridiculously extreme candidates. But my angst-ridden heart has not been calmed, and my breath is still caught in my throat.

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