Donald Trump, Jr. cruised into the Thanksgiving weekend on the heels of an enormous literary triumph. His opus Triggered had spent two solid weeks on the top of The New York Times non-fiction best seller list. Junior’s run ended this week when he was knocked off by A Warning. But despite this displacement, Triggered represents a triumph for the young scribe, who has now accomplished something on his own. His father’s namesake is, finally, not a failson.
What’s a failson (pronounced exactly like it looks, just a combination of “fail” and “son”)? He is an upper- (or upper-middle) class incompetent who is protected by familial wealth from the consequences of his actions. The term seems to have been coined by one Will Menaker of the podcast Chapo Trap House, as documented in The New Yorker in this 2016 article.
One is not born a failson. Nor does one simply inherit the status of failson. No—failson status is earned through a display of equal parts incompetence, stupidity, and arrogance. And until his book, no person in America—or maybe even the world, so bursting at the seams with louche heirs and dissolute royals with no throne to sit their pampered arses on—illustrated all the facets of a failson better than Junior.
But wait! Those pesky Federal Election Commission disclosers show that the Republican National Committee spent $94,000 on copies of Junior’s literary debut. The New York Times’ Nick Confessore notes that “new FEC disclosures show a single large RNC payment of $94,800 to Books-a-Million in October, a few days before Triggered was released. An RNC spokesman confirmed that the expenditure was connected to their promotion of Don Trump Jr.'s book.”
So this means that junior is actually still a failson. In fact, one might say there is no greater expression of failson-ness than needing Daddy’s party’s political arm to bulk-buy your book.
The New York Times denotes such bulk sales with an asterisk to let readers know that the sales were not organic. Junior, never one to be deterred by facts, immediately declared that this was part of a larger Times conspiracy against him. “I guess that’s their way of exerting a little bit of revenge by putting an asterisk without getting into the details,” he sniffed. Yes Junior, The New York Times bulk purchasing policy is actually a conspiracy against you, the president’s large adult failson.
Another interesting failson protection that Junior enjoys is a free pass on all his alleged crimes. He was deemed in essence too stupid to collude by Robert Mueller. Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor, told Bloomberg News, “For a willful violation, you must know that what you are doing violates some known legal duty.” Since Junior didn’t understand the law, he was given a pass on knowingly breaking it.
But Junior is not alone in his failson status. Never in American history have we had an administration so chockablock full of failsons. The Trump administration boasts a panoply of failsons unrivaled since the days of King George.
Jared Kushner is the failson in chief, arguably worse than Junior. After crushing a newspaper and overpaying for the aptly named 666 Fifth Avenue, the failson-in-law decided to take a crack at governmenting. He was tasked with peace in the Middle East and also renegotiating NAFTA, handling the opioid crisis, modernizing the Veterans Administration, spearheading criminal justice reform, and WhatsApp messaging with Saudi Arabian failson Mohammed bin Salman.
But when those things proved too complicated for the young polymath, his father-in-law decided to refocus him on the important things, like why Matt Drudge was mad at him, tasking Ivanka’s husband to “look into it” and find out why Drudge has forsaken him. More recently, Jared was asked by his father-in-law to take another crack at building the wall.
But Jared is just one of many White House failsons. Eric Trump is, of course, another. Not as notorious as his dimwitted siblings, Eric is the one of the Trump litter who seems the most interested in running the family’s mediocre hotel business. Though Eric always enjoys doing a segment on Fox News, where he dishes out really hot takes like his assessment that “Democrats weren’t even people.” Eric is also extremely bad at Twitter. On Thanksgiving Day, he tweeted a picture of a red hat emblazoned with the acronym LOPA for “Leave Our President Alone,” which caused the internet to erupt in mockery of the young Hapsburg.
Finally, the president’s free lawyer has a failson, Andrew, who works for the administration earning $90,000 a year. His chief responsibility seem to be largely “having a nice time.” But lest you think this is a nepotism hire, Rudy assured The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott, “Now, did he know him in the first place because he was the mayor’s son? Sure, but they also had a relationship independent of me.” That relationship, according to a source who knows about it, includes many rounds of golf over the years. Golf is something Andrew’s actually good at, but it doesn’t mean he belongs in the White House.
The Trump administration has even become a safe harbor for the failsons of outsiders: Trump humper Hugh Hewitt’s failson James is comfortably ensconced in the State Department after serving as press secretary for fossil-fuel enthusiast and noted apartment hunter Scott Pruitt. You may remember this story because Hugh got in trouble for defending his son’s boss on TV without disclosing the relationship.
Why do failsons do so well in the Trump administration? For one thing, the administration doesn’t actually do much, so in that way it sticks to the core values of failsonishness. But mainly, the failson administration is headed by the most failsonish president ever. Donald Trump is the definition of a failson, an incompetent continually saved from himself by his wealthy father. He inherited nearly $500 million from his pop, all the while claiming he was completely self-made. After his father died, Trump found other patrons, and he now enjoys the largesse of the lobbyists, and various foreign rogues like Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange, who helped put him in the White House.
The failson Trump administration is the best advertisement for raising sky-high estate taxes and crushing the culture of failsons for one and all. After all, why should failsons be a protected species like the California condor or the giant sea bass? Let them go the way of the rotary phone and the telegram, let them fade into the footnotes of history, a capitalist punchline.