No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you have to admit that John McCain did a masterful job of scripting his funeral as a gigantic rebuke of what Donald Trump has done to the Republican Party (even though they paved the way for his ascension). Without ever mentioning his name, even the president’s supporters knew that references to nasty politics and despots were aimed at the guy who currently occupies the Oval Office. Jeff Greenfield articulated the result.
"I was struck by the tone of today’s funeral. It was less a eulogy than a call to arms. Every speaker either directly or indirectly made a very affirmative case for a different kind of politics. " @RonBrownstein pic.twitter.com/zY1fnBXtaH
— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) September 1, 2018
My take was a bit different. While I agree that the whole service was a call to arms, the Republicans who were involved are those whose voices have been neutered in the Republican Party. Even though we once railed against the Bush dynasty, the family no longer holds any sway over national politics. Jeb Bush’s flameout in the 2016 Republican primary was the final blow.
Sitting in the front rows were the Republican leaders of congress who have completely capitulated to Trump—including McCain’s favorite sidekick, Sen. Lindsay Graham. Others, like Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker who have been critical of the president, are retiring primarily because they knew better than to run for re-election in Trump’s party. In primaries like the ones for governor in Georgia and Minnesota, not being loyal enough to Donald Trump meant losing for candidates like Casey Cagle and Tim Pawlenty.
There is a chorus of conservative pundits who continue to speak out against Trump, like David Frum, Jennifer Rubin and Bill Kristol. But they are drowned out by Trump’s enablers in the information bubble created by Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and the rest of the right wing media network.
Interestingly enough, the one place where non-Trumpster Republicans have survived in politics has been as governors in Northern states. Ohio Governor John Kasich is perhaps the most vocal against Trump, but more moderate Republicans continue to hold governorships in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maryland. According to the prognosticators, those four are all expected to win re-election in November, while someone like Scott Walker in Wisconsin is facing a tight race. In other words, the only place that Republican politicians who haven’t completely succumbed to Trumpism are surviving is in northern states that are typically blue or swing states, perhaps with assists from Democratic and independent voters.
While McCain’s funeral might have been a “call to arms” for Republicans to abandon their current direction, I see it as the last gasp of one of the few politicians left standing who was attempting to take it down a different path. Unless and until something dramatic happens, the GOP is Trump’s party now.