Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ivanka Trump- and a portrait of American 'Greatness'

Last week, in the heat of the Republican National Convention, I read an op-ed in the NY Times entitled "Why Men Want to Marry Melanias and Raise Ivankas"--this op-ed really got my brain spinning and I just had to get my thoughts sorted out on paper.

Now, I have been fascinated by the Trump campaign's strategic use of Ivanka Trump on the campaign trail from early on--some went as far as to refer to Ivanka as Trump's "Campaign Wife" with her standing at her father's side and introducing him at many many campaign events. Now that we have reached the GOP Convention and the Trump children and family have been highlighted each night of the convention, I find myself even more intrigued.The role of family at the convention is to reinforce the choice of the presumptive nominee, serving as lifelong character witnesses for the nominee. As I listened to my daily NPR Morning Edition, I heard news of previously Trump-reluctant lifelong Republicans stating how the success and poise of the Trump children have lead them to feel less concerned about Trump and his candidacy despite any of his volatile rhetoric and policy. NY Times Op-Ed contributor Vanessa Friedman says it well when she states the following of the Trump children: "Their father says he is going to make American great again, there there they are, unapologetically modeling the moment he is talking about." Here is where we get an initial clue to the crafted and created character of Donald Trump as well as the entire Trump family and how that image is reinforcing Donald's greatest campaign promise--American Greatness. 

Let's start with Melania--the super model turned third wife of Donald Trump. Her appearances on the campaign trail have been sparse, especially for someone who made a living off of being in the spotlight. The Trump campaign has highlighted Melania as a sort of new American Dream--she was discovered in her former Soviet homeland, traveled around Europe working for high fashion houses, then she came to America to model further, met Donald Trump, married him and became a citizen. Melania and Donald have a 10 year old son together, who they named Barron...
Melania has been interviewed a few times since the start of the campaign, one such time was this interview and photo shoot for Harper's Bazaar, entitled "Melania Trump's American Dream" In it she is photographed fashionably and artfully in the gilded and glamorous penthouse apartment she shares with her husband and son. She speaks of where she came from and her life today--a marriage in which each person knows their role and is content--she states that while she does not always agree with Donald, she accepts him and "is not a nagging wife." While there could be elements of this to be respected, it is also framing their relationship--the relationship of a business mogul  and his third wife--in a manner that undoubtedly resonates with the values of the right wing evangelical voting base--where Melania and Donald know their [traditional, stereotypical] roles in their marriage and have no desire to change them. Melania has arguably one of the strongest 'rags to riches' stories available to the Trump campaign, but it is glossed over, or strategically presented because with that stories are themes that do not sit well with the Republican voter base--immigration, sexuality/modeling, divorce/third wife, extreme wealth disparity (just LOOK at the pictures of their apartment)--there seems to be a fear that someone might point out that Melania did not rightfully earn her wealth or status, she didn't work hard, she just married into it (even though she was indeed a successful model who worked for high fashion houses and immigrated to the U.S. on her own).

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Then we have Ivanka. Ivanka Trump who is a successful business woman, a wife, and a mother. In her speech at the Republican National Convention last week Ivanka spouted lines about her father's dedication to equal pay for women in the workplace, affordable childcare, and working hard for the good of your community as well as yourself. Many would categorize these lines as more typically Democrat tropes and policies, but Ivanka used herself, and her success within Trump Tower as a living example of her father's dedication to such policy. And we, the viewer, believe her. Ivanka Trump seems to epitomize everything we want our daughters to grow up to be--an intelligent, poised, beautiful, and successful woman. A woman who has a lovely family life, and a thriving business and career. The RNC and Donald Trump's campaign needed Ivanka to be a hit at the convention, and she came through for them.

Naturally, after Ivanka (and Melania's) speeches at the RNC bloggers and online magazines alike scrambled to inform the public where their "looks" came from, and how the everyday fashionista can create a similar look of their own. Many sites praised Ivanka for wearing a dress from her own affordable and fashionable line--calling out her business and style savvy. (popsugar article here) Yet when we dig a little deeper into the Ivanka Trump line of clothing and accessories we not only learn that the products are produced overseas, like her father's clothing lines (so much for Made In America)--but that the line is actively being sued by a variety of well known, and high end designers for copying their unique and trademark designs. (also here, here, and a variety of other reputable news sources). Very few sources that gave us the source of Ivanka's chic sheath dress also gave us the relevant and related news about her clothing line.

To me, this reveals the greater goals of the RNC and Trump campaign last week--to give the public a powerful yet poised perception of the Trump family--an edited and intentionally constructed perception, what the public wants to see and hear and believe of  Donald Trump and his family. That having a well-spoken and poised daughter give us lines on morality, hard work, and greatness, speaks volumes over clear evidence of the actual business ethics in Trump Tower. That again having that same daughter, who is beautiful and successful, lovingly introduce her father, speaks louder than any line against women that Donald Trump has shouted at us in the past year or decades. It also speaks louder than his relationship with his first, second, and third wife, or what his third wife may have plagiarized at that same convention just days earlier. The Ivanka Trump that is presented to the public and the Republican voter base is what the most traditional Republican, the most conservative Republican and even the youth of the Republican party hope Donald Trump really stands for. They see Ivanka and it allows them to forget everything that led them to be concerned, and wholeheartedly give in to his promises of greatness. This is why the Trump campaign has made Ivanka into the Trump Campaign Wife, and why they continue to almost hide Melania away.

image via
By presenting us with all of the Trump children, Ivanka at the forefront, along side his claims to 'Make American Great Again' the Trump campaign gives us 'Greatness' personified, and presents it as achievable for all of us. Never is there conversation on the morals or ethics of such 'Greatness,' nor is there any mention of the extreme privilege that all of the Trump children have experienced in their lifetimes. Yet there it is, a picture of perfection and greatness, (apparently) achievable for all Americans, guaranteed by Donald Trump's campaign slogan promise.