In her father's footsteps. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

December 21, 2020   4 mins

There was a time when Americans believed that a decisive election loss would actually make Donald Trump go away. That he’d stuff his belongings into a suitcase, maybe liberate a few bath towels from the executive suite, and vanish into the mist. Oh sure, he’d reappear eventually — on a golf course, as a Fox News talking head, maybe on the front cover of a supermarket tabloid when Melania finally filed for divorce. But his life in public service would be over, and with it, the need to constantly worry not just about the whereabouts and activities of Donald J. Trump, but also about whatever all those kids of his were up to.

Indeed, a crucial part of this fantasy was that Trump wouldn’t be leaving alone. A return to normalcy meant that the various and sundry Trumplets who’d been littered across the public landscape since their father first announced his candidacy would be swept offstage in the bargain, forced out of the spotlight by Donald’s ignominious defeat. Where would they go? Who knew? Who cared?! You don’t have to go home, kids, but you can’t stay here. (Except you, Tiffany. You’re cool.)

With hindsight, we should have known better. The idea that Trump might go quietly into the night was always a delusional one. But where we truly lost the plot was in imagining that the entire family would simply step out of the spotlight, rather than taking their place in a new American political dynasty in the making. The large adult Trumps are here to stay, a Succession spin-off made for reality TV.

The boys, of course, have been waiting their whole lives for this. Donald Jr, particularly, has come a long way since he was photographed sitting on a tree stump for a 2017 New York Times profile, gazing wistfully into the distance like the world’s saddest L.L. Bean catalogue model. Once lost, but now found: by all accounts, Don Jr. spent his life up until the campaign desperately seeking his father’s approval, only to become an unlikely asset to the family for all the ways in which he didn’t quite fit in. Don Jr. was an outdoorsman, a hunter, an avid wearer of camouflage and flannel — things which once mystified his father, but made him uniquely capable of connecting on the campaign trail with rural voters who might have otherwise balked at voting for a rich, pampered reality-TV star with a permanent spray tan and soft, ladylike little hands.

Never mind the money, the fame, the influence: Don Jr. has found his purpose, and he isn’t going anywhere. With a flattering pandemic beard, an Instagram account stocked with owning-the-libs memes, and a fresh collection of loony conspiracy theories about Chinese spies inside the Biden administration, he’s ready to claim his legacy in a Republican party permanently reshaped by his father’s presidency.

As for Eric, well, he’s trying — but neither his beard nor his conspiracy theory meme game are as strong as his brother’s, which is probably why everyone is more excited about his wife’s political future than his own. (Lara Trump is reportedly considering a senatorial run in her home state of North Carolina.) He could, however, open up a whole new path for the husbands of female elected officials within the Republican party, securing the crucial Wife Guy voting bloc in future elections.

But when it comes to the greatest hopes for a Trump dynasty, the future, as they say, is female.

It is baffling that nobody took Ivanka more seriously from the get-go. It’s even more baffling that the preferred approach by press and public alike was to try and shame her into submission, as if she weren’t the immediate progeny of a man notoriously, and probably genetically, incapable of feeling that particular sensation. But at first, Ivanka was seen as a pressure point within the administration, one of few people who might hold some sway over the President’s policies. We pleaded with her, scolded her, booed and boycotted her in the hopes that she’d do the right thing (not that anyone could quite agree on what the right thing was.) When that didn’t work, the mood changed.

If Ivanka wouldn’t reject her father, or the role in his administration for which she was clearly unqualified, then we’d reject her: celebrating her failures, memeing her awkward intrusions onto the world stage, even blaming her when possible for the more disastrous moments in her father’s presidency. When Donald Trump tear-gassed protesters to clear the way for a Bible-brandishing photo op in front of Lafayette Church this past summer, media outlets made sure we knew that it was Ivanka who carried the book — in “her $1,540 MaxMara bag”, no less!

And when the election was over, some parts of the Left seemed more excited about punishing Ivanka for her complicity than about welcoming her father’s successor. Even as Trump himself launched a hopeless but disturbing campaign to invalidate the election results, people clung gleefully to the vision of Ivanka coming home with her tail between her legs, only to see herself shunned and abandoned by the New York social elite who was only ever barely tolerating her to begin with.

Texts would go unreturned; invitations would not be extended; restaurants where she wanted to dine would be inexplicably unable to accommodate her. In Vanity Fair, Ivanka’s high school best friend crowed over her old pal’s impending ruination, noting smugly that Ivanka, with her new money and gold-plated jewellery and bad opinions on Palestine, was always too gauche, too Trumpy, to really belong. Plus, she once farted and blamed it on somebody else. You know who else refuses to take responsibility for their farts? Peasants.

Was this fun? Well, yes. But was it wise? Almost certainly not, considering what now seems not just rumored but inevitable: not only will New York’s upper crust not have the pleasure of rebuffing Ivanka from polite society, they won’t even get the chance. She’s off to Florida to plan the next step in her political career, perhaps a senate run in her new home state where the Trump name still has a certain panache. After all those articles about how she daren’t show her face in Manhattan ever again, why not? What else?

Frustrated liberals have grumbled in jest for years that the first woman President will probably be a Republican, owing to the Left’s unfortunate tendency to eat its allies alive. But with Ivanka Trump on the scene, the grumbling suddenly seems more prescient than joking, because here she is. Beautiful, capable, unabashedly ambitious, and better-liked than her father — who managed to win the U.S. Presidency despite the fact that more than half the country didn’t like him at all. It’s not hard to imagine what might come next. Let the snooty old-money heiresses keep their fortunes: Ivanka is about to inherit a nation.

Kat Rosenfield is an UnHerd columnist and co-host of the Feminine Chaos podcast. Her latest novel is You Must Remember This.