The main criticism leveraged against the President Trump’s oldest daughter has been that she and her husband, Jared Kushner – now a senior Trump adviser – are complicit in what her father and his advisers are doing in the Oval Office. By virtue of being young, photogenic and not visibly unhinged, Ivanka and Jared have been painted as the great moderators – people with allegedly progressive views on things like women’s rights and climate change, who can temper the effects of Trump’s administration.
Her interview on CBS News this morning should lay those rumours to rest. “If being complicit is wanting to be a force for good and to make a positive impact, then I’m complicit,” the president’s oldest daughter shrugged.
But as the interview shows, Ivanka is worse than complicit, and certainly no force for good. She serves a vital role in keeping her father’s administration afloat. Like Kushner and his adventures in the Middle East, Ivanka’s official capacity is ambiguous. Both have top-level security clearance, and have been sitting in on high-profile meetings between the president, various business leaders and foreign dignitaries since he was elected. Now she’ll have the first lady’s office in the White House. Ivanka seems to talk a lot about Women Who Work, though exactly what she’ll do in that office remains undefined. She’s already an invaluable asset for her father: Ivanka feeds the illusion that the Trump administration contains moderate voices.
Eric and Donald Trump Jr, Trump’s adult sons, are too much like their father to play the same part. They’re brash, but without the flair for showmanship that got their father elected. Articulate and seemingly thoughtful, Ivanka is built-in damage control for Trump. If Ivanka’s still on board, after all – with all her talk of empowering women – how bad could it really be?
As she reiterated this morning, she has full trust in her father to run the country. The statement would be seemingly at odds with Ivanka’s views if she really did believe in the causes she says she does. Trump has rolled back reproductive health protections for women around the world and launched an assault on every climate protection won during the Obama administration. Where was Ivanka then?
Interviewer Gayle King asked a similar question. “Where I disagree with my father, he knows it. And I express myself with total candour,” Ivanka responded, echoing corporate feminist icon Sheryl Sandberg. “Where I agree, I fully lean in and support the agenda.”
Perhaps in 10 years, Ivanka will release a tell-all memoir detailing the friction between her views and her father’s, and how she fought to keep the administration from sliding into full-blown autocracy. Until then, we should take Ivanka at her word, and square that with the reality of the last two months. Ivanka full-throatedly supports her father’s regime, and will use it – opportunistically – to bolster her personal brand. That’s the Trump way, after all, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. She may disagree with him at times, but won’t sacrifice her position to prove it.
That’s because Ivanka has her own show. It’s not as off-putting as her father’s, and swaps out blood red for a soft pink. Instead of anti-immigrant rallies, Ivanka has a self-help website for women in the corporate world, complete with shopping and travel tips. And there’s no contradiction between her watery, feel-good talk about women’s empowerment and her father’s creeping, xenophobic authoritarianism.
“I think most of the impact I have,” Ivanka told King, “over time most people will not actually know about.”
She’s right. We won’t, which is why we shouldn’t treat Ivanka Trump like anything other than what she is: a Trump in the White House.