Donald Trump has never changed a diaper, and thinks child-rearing is women’s work, so it makes sense that any child-care policy geared to working mothers would have to be the brainchild of his daughter.
"'Daddy, daddy we have to do this!'" Trump said, impersonating 34-year-old Ivanka, herself a mother of three and an executive at the Trump Organization. Later he added, "She’s the one who’s been pushing so hard for it."
Indeed she has been. Ivanka has spent the bulk of her father’s campaign fashioning herself as something of a voice for professional working moms. She's got a lifestyle website that shares stories of working women while also hocking Ivanka Trump collection merchandise. In June, she announced that she’s writing a new book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, that will be out next spring. And in July, she stood up at the Republican National Convention and declared that "gender is no longer the factor creating the greatest wage discrepancy in this country; motherhood is." (The day after, by the way, she published a tweet that encouraged fans to shop her RNC look.)
This all culminated in an announcement yesterday of a detailed child-care policy proposal. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Ivanka outlined her vision: a variety of tax deductions and credits, tax-free savings accounts, and, in a total break with Republican orthodoxy, six weeks of paid maternity leave (that would come out of unemployment benefits). She followed that up with a campaign appearance in suburban Pennsylvania, “introducing” her father, but really she was buttering up the independent female voters that the campaign is targeting and who Trump has, up until now, alienated.
See, Ivanka knows how to talk to women. She’s poised, charming, and well-spoken. She doesn’t have the brashness that her father has, and also, unlike her father, she speaks with self-awareness.
"I have three young children myself and I’m grateful daily for the means to pursue two of my dreams — being a mother and investing in a career that fulfills me," she said at yesterday’s rally. "I recognize that far too few women can say the same for themselves and that I am more fortunate than most."
Perhaps most importantly, Ivanka knows how to speak the language of working-mother feminism. She talked about income inequality and single mothers who lack job flexibility and benefits. She also said things like this: "The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide new mothers with paid maternity leave."
This makes her an effective surrogate as Trump tries to narrow the gap with female voters. Trump knows he won’t win without women, but it’s also clear that he has no idea how to talk to them. Enter Ivanka. It’s no coincidence that when Trump took the stage at his rally last night she stood to his left, in full view of the TV cameras, even though he rarely shares the limelight. As NBC News correspondent Ali Vitali noted on Twitter: "It's rare for Trump to have anyone else on stage with him while he speaks. But Ivanka's right there. Why? That's a great TV optic.”
Depending on your point of view, Ivanka is either earnestly humanizing or just another Trump with a talent for branding. But none of that matters because here’s the thing: Ivanka Trump is not running for president. Her father is. And when left to his own devices, without Ivanka as a babysitter, he reverts to his true misogynistic inclinations — like the time he said women who have abortions should be punished; or when he said that if Ivanka were sexually harassed at the workplace, he’d hope she’d get a new career; or the fact that Roger Ailes, who was ousted from Fox News over sexual harassment claims, is an adviser; or the fact that he can’t name another woman he’d put in his Cabinet other than Ivanka. (Not even his other daughter, poor Tiffany.) And if you vote for Trump, that’s the person you’re voting for in November.
Yesterday, during the Trump campaign’s rollout of the plan, a campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell: "We’ve got Hillary Clinton talking about how she’s always been fighting for children…We can’t find a lot about her child-care policy on her website."
This was something that Donald Trump repeated in his rally last night: "My opponent has no child-care plan. She never will." Both of these statements are patently false (look here and here, for example). Hillary Clinton has been talking about the cost of child care since May, when she was still running in the primary against Bernie Sanders.
Either Trump is lying to his constituents who don’t know any better, or he’s only just started to pay attention. But once Ivanka inevitably moves off stage (you don’t think she’ll accompany him everywhere, do you?), there is no telling what will come out of that mouth.
Yael Kohen is a writer and editor who is the author of We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy. The views expressed here are her own.