It used to be said of the Anglican Church that it was “the Tory Party at prayer.” On the occasion of Sen. John McCain’s funeral service in Washington National Cathedral last September 1, the United States and the world were given another opportunity to observe the American Establishment at prayer.
For a couple of hours, political partisanship—Republican, Democratic, and independent—was set aside as the television cameras caught the Obamas standing with the George W. Bushes in the front row during the ceremony. Barack Obama came forward to eulogize the late Republican senator. So did his immediate predecessor in the White House. So did Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, among others. Bill Clinton was there. So were Al Gore and Dick Cheney. The New Yorker described the event as the biggest Resistance meeting so far. And so it was. Meghan McCain, rumored to be her father’s anointed political successor, aimed a series of insults at the unnamed, uninvited, and hence absent 800-pound gorilla who managed nevertheless to overshadow the proceedings while he golfed on a distant course. (How many infant girls this year will be named Meghan after the pair of famous ones who captured the attention of the great world in 2018?)
Nevertheless, the bravado, implicit and explicit, of this apparently secure and self-assured crowd could not disguise the fact that the towering simian was absently present at three funerals in one: that of a man, that of a party, and that of a passing political order. One might even say, the end of the political era that began in 1945, brought down by the golfing gorilla disporting himself on the links with a grin on his face that contrasted dramatically with the long faces in the cathedral as they paid their final respects to one of their very own—the collective face of the American Establishment lost for the moment in worshipful prayer to the only god it recognizes: itself.