Funeral services are not for the benefit of the defunct, who is beyond our praise or condemnation, but for the living, who know before long that they will follow the honored dead into a cold grave.
Senator John McCain’s funeral was the most ostentatious that Washington has accorded except for a president, and much grander than the 2006 funeral of Gerald Ford, for example. The American Establishment took the opportunity to mourn a world that it imagined but never inhabited.
The eulogies for the Arizona senator, to be sure, were a convenient occasion for the Establishment to show its dudgeon at “the pointedly un-invited President Trump,” as the New Yorker noted, calling the event “the biggest resistance meeting yet.”
McCain’s daughter Meghan contrasted what she called her father’s “real greatness” with the “cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice,” a reference to Trump. Politics, though, were less important than the American elite’s collective exercise in self-consolation after the catastrophic failure of its policies and its repudiation by the voters in the 2016 election.
Senator McCain served his country and suffered on its behalf as a prisoner of war, and deserves respect on the occasion of his passing. But the unctuous sea of self-congratulatory declarations of virtue embedded in his obsequies were enough to make the portraits in the Capitol rotunda puke. . . .
In its narcissism and self-adulation, the Establishment will not die of pricking of the thumb, but the other way around.
By civility and bipartisanship, the Establishment refers to the policy consensus that squandered America’s dominant position in the world after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. America had no military competitors of importance when George W. Bush took office in 2001, and an edge in high technology that made the American economy seem insuperable. Since then:
China has taken America’s place as the leading exporter of high-tech equipment;
America faces credible military competition from China;
Real median household income hasn’t grown since 2000;
The civilian labor force participation rate has fallen from 67% in 2000 to 63% today;
Productivity growth has languished at 1% a year since the global financial crisis;
US federal debt has between 2000 and 2018 has doubled as a share of GDP;
The American economy became “cartelized, corrupt and anti-competitive,” dominated by a handful of tech monopolies who combined to crush competition.
Other than that, the establishment has done fine.