After an election where Donald Trump broke all the rules in his quest for the White House, Ivanka Trump seems to be following in her father’s footsteps. But don’t think of her as the First Daughter — or the First Lady, for that matter. She’s set to make a political play all on her own.
Does anyone think that Ivanka uprooted her professional life in New York City to be content picking out china and centerpieces for dad’s state dinners? Oh no. Her brothers may have been bequeathed the family businesses, but Ivanka got a jewel that doesn’t begin to compare: Washington.
Ivanka’s new job as White House advisor may be unpaid, due to federal nepotism laws, but it does compensate very well in power. She’s poised to be much more than a style influencer now. Ivanka Trump could change life as we know it for working women — particularly in terms of how they care for their families while climbing up the career ladder.
Remember that #WomenWhoWork initiative she launched as a fashion designer? It translates perfectly into a savvy, millennial-friendly political slogan and signifies an issue set that blends perfectly with her past and present lives.
As a businesswoman, she held herself out as an enviable symbol of female achievement, penning the New York Times best-selling book The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life; she has another book, on the same topic, due out in May, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success. Meanwhile, her Instagram is a flawlessly-filtered curation of blissful work-life balance — she’s sold handbags, shoes, and jewelry on the dream of women having it all. As for what that means for more concrete policies going forward, though: Only time will tell.
As a political surrogate, Ivanka not only placed an op-ed detailing her father’s paid leave policy in the Wall Street Journal last September, but has been making calls to Capitol Hill during the transition to pressure lawmakers to pass the plan. Barely closed on her new home, she’s already taking the reigns.
And Ivanka can do fine without a paycheck while she lays the groundwork for future ambitions, too: She’s a billionaire heiress who married the wealthy real estate tycoon Jared Kushner. Moreover, her unofficial White House status grants her a degree of latitude that typical staffers do not have. She doesn’t have to worry about office hours, deliverables, and ethics rules the way official staffers do. It’s an arrangement with nothing but upside.
Washington is now Ivanka’s oyster. And, the need for her voice, previously used to assure worried voters her father was “not a groper," is immediate. Who better than Ivanka, who describes herself as an “entrepreneur + passionate advocate for the education and empowerment of women and girls,” to reach out to the thousands of women who marched to protest President Trump on his first day in office?
That’s not to say it will be easy. The uprising of female opposition seen at Saturday's march surely makes White House staff nervous about doing any messaging targeting women. And legislating requires a lot more than slick talking points and social media posts: In the world of partisan politics and Congressional Budget Office scoring, Ivanka has an uphill battle if she wants to establish herself as a true power player. The metrics of success in Washington are tough, and largely scored on whether ideas become law.
Last year, the Senate voted on an amendment sponsored by Democrat Patty Murray (WA) to provide paid sick leave. It only earned 16 GOP votes, as most Republicans reject the notion the government should be mandating or paying for any form of leave beyond that dictated by the Emergency Medical Leave and Labor Act. Will anyone — ranging from those in Congress to the mommy bloggers — care about what can seem like the presidential princess’s pet set of issues? Given her 5th Avenue life of privilege and style, is she a believable advocate for women who live paycheck to paycheck?
Oddly enough, even progressives who should conceivably be receptive to Ivanka’s liberal paid leave policy found plenty to criticize; namely, that it didn’t cover paternity leave or same-sex couples who adopted a child. Ivanka won’t find a welcome ear among fiscal conservatives, either. Estimated to cost $300 billion, the Trump team has offered no way to pay for the leave policy other than hoping there will be savings to spend from broader tax reform.
But the fact remains: President Trump needs Ivanka to be a successful women’s advocate for him. If she wins, he wins. Trump became president with the lowest approval rating in modern history. Among women, only 31% approve — and that was the statistic before hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets to protest POTUS on his first day in office.
The good news for Ivanka is that she likely has plenty of support from the 53% of white women who voted for the triumphant Trump-Pence ticket — and let it not be forgotten that Donald Trump handily beat the woman who could have become our nation’s first female president with their help. Support for Trump is durable and his constituency probably doesn’t care about whether or not Ivanka’s paid leave plan is sufficiently feminist or perfectly financed.
The new President won an unthinkable election by refusing to accept conventional wisdom about the women’s vote and plunging himself enthusiastically into uncharted political territory. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what Ivanka will need to do in her new role.
Like father, like daughter after all.
Amanda Carpenter is an author, political advisor, and former senior staffer to Senators Jim DeMint and Ted Cruz.