Words matter. Words define the spaces around us and give power to concepts that have no corporeal existence. It’s always important to find the right words, especially as we feel our way blindly out of this current crisis.

The word we need to use is “derelict.”

Not “bungled.” Bungling implies clumsiness, and our current national catastrophe isn’t because of an oopsie. There’s intention behind the federal government not using its powers to mobilize a response that can keep up with the scale of this catastrophe. America’s reactionaries cling to the idea that government is a failure and that only businesses and charities can get anything done. They’ll cling to it all the way to the grave.

Negligence doesn’t quite cut it, even though there’s a lot of neglect coming from some state governments and from the current occupant of the White House and his idiot son-in-law. There’s a lot of crossing fingers and waiting and seeing and wishful thinking.

(Quick aside: my paralegal brain wanted you to know that, well, actually, this is absolutely negligence, because there’s duty, a breach of duty, causation, and damages. Paralegal brain also wants you to know that the President can’t be sued for anything done in office, thanks to the magic of Nixon v. Fitzgerald. Oh, if only one justice had flipped that day, things would’ve been different. Go get a juice box, paralegal brain.)

Jamelle Bouie wrote the correct word today when he was describing the governor of Florida’s utterly fucked up actions as his state starts racing up the COVID-19 curve faster than a lobbyist chasing a drunk Congressman.

Dereliction: the shameful failure to fulfill one’s obligations.

I realize the current occupant of the White House has no shame. The GOP certainly doesn’t. But that’s the word we have to use from now on. All these assholes took oaths to uphold the Constitution, and they failed.

I always figured the beginning of the Constitution was more of a mission statement than the actual meat of the document, but after months of reading laws that start off with statements of legislative intent I think that it absolutely matters if someone fails to live up to the Preamble’s obligations. Every step over the last three months has been a failure to promote the general welfare or insuring domestic tranquility or forming a more perfect union. The levers of power are in the tiny hands of venal, short-sighted dummies, and we need to get them the fuck out.

The derelict Presidency. Call it that from now on.