A few weeks ago (or was it years? Who can tell?), Samantha Bee got herself into hot water by calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.” I’ve said my peace on the cunt part. But what I find interesting is that mere weeks later, Steve Schmidt, a long-time Republican operative and former chair of the John McCain presidential campaign, renounced his party membership by using the word “feckless” to describe his former party fellows:
It is corrupt, indecent and immoral. With the exception of a few Governors like Baker, Hogan and Kasich it is filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders. This child separation policy is connected to the worst abuses of
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) June 20, 2018
I couldn’t help thinking that this transference of the word could not be accidental. That in fact, Sam Bee may have introduced a word into our common lexicon that has stuck to the Party of Trump. So I took a look at Google Trends, and what do you know?
We may presume that the solid red line which represents the searches for “cunt” probably represent a lot of porn searches. At least, let’s hope so. But once the phrase “feckless cunt” enters into the lexicon, you can see the word feckless far outperforms the word cunt. And indeed, continues to show interest. The mutual rise in searches indicates the phrase “feckless cunt” became a popular search term. But the fact that feckless outperforms cunt indicates that the word itself was of interest. People are searching for the term, which we may presume means they’re seeking to define it.
Even if we can’t all define it, the word “feckless” seems to resonate: it sound right.
It sounds right because it gets to the heart of the matter. After all, the suffix “less” indicates a loss or a lacking. And we certainly expect more out of our government, in this moment. Something seems lacking. Our train seems to be careening off the rails and those in charge don’t seem to just be complicit. Worse than that, they just seem incapable. We are left wanting something we can’t find in Congress, at all.
We expect the three branches of government to work independently, but that’s not happening. Republicans are supposed to be a party of fiscal responsibility, but even when Trump threatens our economy with trade war, that party remains mum. Republicans are supposed to be the standard-bearers for Christianity (in an explicitly non-denominational government, but still). Yet even as we watch children pressed into the service of their own continuing psychological troubles – psychological troubles voluntarily pushed upon them by our government and in our name – they complain and preen, but do nothing. They accomplish nothing. Not because they agree with the policy. Simply because they cannot rise to this moment.
In the past, Americans have been willing to believe that having a Republican in the White House and a Democratic majority in Congress (or vice versa) was a net benefit to our government. We believe that because we believe in the balance and separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution, and assume the conflicting ambitions of the two parties will guarantee that separation.
Whether having an opposing majority in Congress will help with our present situation remains to be seen. But one thing can be said for certain, which is that as bad as Trump may be, this moment in history will be remembered for how far wrong our democracy can go wrong when one branch of our government pointedly refuses to check another. When one branch of our government chooses the path of least resistance in the face of so much wrongdoing from another. When one branch of our government, given the opportunity to right the wrong of another, simply punts. When our leaders are, in a word, feckless.