A Family Affair

Austin, TX

I have an embarrassing confession to make: I might be falling a little bit in love with Ivanka Trump.

The trouble for the Clinton campaign is that I suspect much of the American voting public is too.

The 34-year-old mother of three, entrepreneur, Trump Organization executive and eldest daughter of the presidential hopeful arguably stole the show at the recent Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Securing the most coveted speaking slot at the four-day circus, Ivanka formally introduced the nominee while displaying the very traits of class, grace and humility that her father seems to lack. She described herself as “neither a Republican nor a Democrat” and made the Trump campaign’s most compelling pitch yet to undecided independents.

Her brothers, Eric and Donald Jr. also made primetime speeches to the rapturous applause of delegates. On the opening night, their stepmother, Slovenian former supermodel Melania Trump, made remarks that plagiarised parts of a previous Michelle Obama address, sending the media into a frenzy. But ultimately this is an issue that only journalists care about and she too managed to endear herself to the masses.

Trump’s family played an undeniably starring role in the convention. Critics suggest this is because so few of the Republican Party’s biggest names agreed to speak at ‘Trumpapolooza’, but I think it had more to do with the rising popularity (and political capital) of his three eldest children, who are helping to diffuse many of the strongest charges against him.

“If he is a monster, how did he raise such impressive and seemingly well-balanced kids?”

“If he is a misogynist, how is he held in such esteem by his feminist Millennial daughter?”

These are the questions I’m increasingly hearing from moderate, mainstream conservatives that don’t like Trump’s bluster and bravado, his thin skin or coarse tongue, but are beginning to see his successful parenting as a mark of good character.

Meanwhile, over at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia – the city in which the American political project began – family was also a selling point.

Chelsea Clinton (who, awkwardly, is a personal friend of Ivanka Trump’s, having both been raised in the elite confines of the Upper East Side) gave a polished and heartfelt speech introducing Hillary. Though of course, unlike the Trump kids, this was not her first rodeo.

And ‘Slick Willy’ was at his yarn-ripping best, giving the nation a dose of that well-worn Clinton charm offensive. The former president and first lady are now taking their show on the road, bunkering down in a tour bus with folksy VP choice Tim Kaine and his wife. In this they are mirroring their 1992 road trip across America with Al and Tipper Gore (and no doubt hoping for a similar result).

At its very inception, American democracy was a reaction to the hereditary rule and lingering feudalism of Europe. Its revolution forged a new type of representative politics in which merit, not lineage, was meant to be the deciding factor in attaining success.

And yet, dynasty has come to play a powerful role in American politics. Indeed, much of the past two decades have been dominated by just two families: the one that took the stage in Philly on Thursday night and the blue-blood ivy-leaguers turned Texan cowboys known affectionately ‘round these parts as the ‘Bush clan’.

Given that he easily fended off a challenge from one Bush – and arguably the most talented one – and the rest of the party’s “establishment”, Trump has been successful in pitching himself as an outsider. And compared to Hillary Clinton, he undoubtedly is.

But I now wonder whether historians might look back on this most recent GOP convention not so much as an important moment of anti-establishment sentiment – which it may well be – but as the birth of the next American political dynasty.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has maintained that it was his idea to run for office, in order to “make America great again” and that his offspring would take the reins of the company in his absence. But the more I see of the Trump kids, the more I’m convinced it was them who encouraged their old man into the race, easing the path for their own political ambitions.

For three young execs ostensibly running one of the world’s most famous conglomerates, they spend a hell of a lot of time on the campaign trail.

Don Jr, who is now addressing rallies across the US almost as big as his dad’s, has already been asked about a potential run for Mayor of New York, which he refused to rule out.

Eric has become a mainstay of the nightly TV pundit panels, very effectively staying on message about his family’s background as businesspeople and not “crooked DC politicians”.

And Ivanka was reportedly influential over her father’s decision to sack campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, after the controversial politico was accused of physically assaulting a female reporter.

Should The Donald lose to Hillary Clinton in November, and his historic campaign go down the drain, don’t assume his dream of a Trump White House goes down with it.

I know which of the three I’d be rooting for.

trump dynasty

Image source: New York Magazine

Published on 30 July 2016

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