Requiem for an establishment


Senator John McCain’s funeral was a landmark event. Someone wrote that it resembled a massive tweet against Donald Trump as eulogies by politicians and pundits were laden with innuendoes aimed at the American president.

Others saw an effort by the US establishment to fight back against Trump’s antics and ever-sliding political standards. The speeches by former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama bore the hallmarks of a different America that is very serious about its global role and which recognizes that, tough as it can become, the political game comes with certain limits that must be respected. All that was what McCain most probably had in mind as he organized every detail of his funeral many months prior to his passing. After all, everyone was present at the ceremony but Trump.

Others have a different interpretation of events. It has been said that the ceremony resembled a requiem for an establishment which senses it is on its way out. Its representatives have been unable to beat Trump’s unprocessed nationalist populism and get back in touch with the big chunk of the nation that still backs the president. Most importantly, this outgoing establishment is having trouble coming up with a new figure who could score a comfortable victory against him.

Time will tell which interpretation is more accurate. Trump could just be a symptom of a superpower in crisis and decline. In other words, the American system may not have the necessary strength and wisdom to get back onto the right path as it did after the turbulent decades of the 1920s and 1960-70. Nevertheless, observers who have faith in the United States predict that while “episode Trump” will leave open wounds and a major global imbalance, the country will eventually recover.

Watching McCain’s funeral, one could see the contrast between the two Americas. It was particularly interesting that the country’s political elites overcame bipartisan lines to convey a strong message that another political path is possible.

As Obama said during his speech, as president he might have had unbridgeable political differences with McCain, who was more of a hawk on foreign policy issues, but when the two of them held private conversations at the Oval Office in Washington they knew that “when all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team.”

This is something that is sorely missed these days – and not only across the Atlantic.