The coffin was draped in black cloth. So were the mirrors, as is the tradition at an Irish wake. A wreath of white mums offered a lament: “RIP, GOP.”
The mourners — most dressed in black — remembered the good times, helped along by pints of Guinness.
It was a seriously Washington-y way for a group of establishment, die-hard, #NeverTrump Republicans to stomach the night Donald Trump owned their party.
They darkly joked their way through it at the Dubliner, a Capitol Hill watering hole, eating Ronald Reagan’s jelly beans, ordering another pint and remembering five presidential campaigns’ worth of the good old days represented in that room.
When Trump’s head filled the screen above the bar, they joked some more.
“We could all just be sitting at home with our heads in our hands,” said Andrew Weinstein, one of the wake’s organizers. He had brainstormed with Chris Scheve, a former Bush administration official, on how to deal with the darkness.
“We decided a wake was perfect,” he said. So they organized it and invited GOP friends from across the country to fly in and cry in their pints together.
This is what they’ve been talking about for weeks — the death of the Republican Party as they know it. And it’s not an easy sentiment to share in these divided times.
“All this racism and hate. I feel like someone’s going to throw rotten tomatoes at me every time I say I’m a Republican,” said Katie McHenry, 34, who works for a Republican firm she didn’t want to identify. “That’s not what we’re about. It’s small government. Lower taxes.”
She’s had deep, long talks with her friends back home in Texas.
“This is not the party they know,” she said.
They mourned, they hugged. Melancholy hung heavy. They exchanged business cards. They signed the guest book:
“Before the dawn comes the deepest dark of night. This darkness is called Trump, and the GOP — or whatever follows it — will emerge stronger for it,” Weinstein wrote.
“My grandma deserves better than this. She’s a lifelong Republican, and her heart is broken,” wrote another mourner.
Eventually, when Trump’s yamminess filled the TV screen above the bar, they watched his speech.
They head-slapped, eye-rolled, groaned.
“If Rubio said that, I have to be honest, I would agree,” one man said. “But this guy.”
When Trump began talking about crime, McHenry’s pint of Port City began to disappear.
“Every time he said ‘Law and Order,’ which is my favorite show, we have to say ‘dum-dah-dum’ and take a sip,” she explained.
The room got louder. The floor got stickier. The bartender joined in the howls.
When Trump said, “Almost 4,000 have been killed in the Chicago area since [President Obama] took office,” she drank anyhow.
“Correlation!” she yelled at the TV. “I’m a liberal arts major, and even I know that was off.”
Weinstein, who was director of media relations for Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign and then did the same job for former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) before he founded his own firm, Ridgeback Communications, groaned when Trump talked about undocumented immigrant families.
“They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources,” Trump said.
“Released? Like Obama is opening cages of wild animals in neighborhoods? Come on!” Weinstein said.
“Immigrants are what make our country great, we all know that, no matter when we came,” McHenry said. “I’m a 15th-generation immigrant.”
“Mine came over on one of the ships to Jamestown,” a guy in a dapper hat said.
“Mine were, like, the Mayflower 2,” another mourner added.
“Mine came through Staten Island,” a woman with an exuberant, hot-pink scrunchie said. “I mean, Ellis Island!”
Weinstein, whose grandfather was one of the czarist-era Jewish immigrants who left Minsk to come to America, turned to the screen and wailed, “Der Führer!”
He got high-fives, head shakes and more groans.
Trump’s doom-and-gloom speech probably did sound better in the original German, someone at the bar joked.
This was what they needed, this lament, this group wail.
The guys whose portraits graced the coffin (bought last-minute on Amazon) — Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan — are how they want to see their party.
“But this Cheeto-face?” someone said. “No.”
They admired the non-endorsement speech by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Wednesday. And they hailed the Republican leaders who refused to attend the convention, including all the Bushes and a number of governors: Maryland’s Larry Hogan, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, even Ohio’s John Kasich.
The Whigs died 160 years ago. Is this really a wake, not just a joke?
“This is a time for soul-searching. Finding the soul of the party. It will rise from the ashes,” said McHenry, appropriately enough, from a bar stool beside the Hotel Phoenix.
She hasn’t ruled out voting for Trump. But she could also see herself voting for Hillary.
Weinstein — yes, the guy who worked for Newt — said he’s voting for Hillary, even though they disagree on many things. “She is qualified to be president,” he said, “and Trump is not.”
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