Why Ivanka and Melania Trump’s strategic silence speaks volumes

Of all those close to Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka and his wife Melania are perhaps the most fascinating. Unlike the main man in their lives, Ivanka and Melania both know the power of strategic silence; like him, they are both fervent readers of the public temperature; and they also both get away with a level of disloyalty that the Trump family patriarch allows no one else.

Trump was just found guilty of 34 counts related to a hush-money payment he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, with whom he allegedly had sex, in an attempt to interfere with 2016 elections. His wife Melania had recently given birth to the couple’s son, Barron, at the time of the alleged affair.

According to Daniels, before she and Trump had sex, he compared her to his daughter Ivanka. Ivanka and Melania were conspicuously absent from the trial, although Trump’s eldest sons, Eric and Don Jr., were seated in the gallery. And the two sons, as well as their partners, loudly proclaimed their father’s innocence. No such protest came from the two most important women in Trump’s life.

(Trump has a second daughter, Tiffany, who has been generally ignored.)

After the verdict was announced, Ivanka made a small show of solidarity with her father, sharing on her Instagram stories – not even on the main page! – a photo of her when she was little with her father, and four words: “I love you dad. .” But she was not at his side when the verdict was read and does not seem very eager to publicly defend him.

Melania offered even less. To be fair, she is an almost perpetually silent wife. But one imagines that, given the affair allegations and Trump’s denial, he or his team at least asked her to show her face at trial to give the impression of either believing in her husband’s innocence in matters of infidelity, or to forgive her husband. he. The fact that she has done no such thing suggests that forgiveness may not have come or that she is simply not willing to help her husband clean up this particular mess.

Neither woman was at Trump’s side when he delivered his rambling, lie-filled post-trial speech at Trump Tower on Friday (Melania reportedly was at the tower with her son Barron; Ivanka reportedly returned to New York to offer him support off camera). ).

Both women also seem to understand which side their bread is buttered on. Melania may be angry with her husband and refusing to play the role of the forgiving wronged wife – and good for her – but she still appeared at a recent campaign event and suggested that she could be present in the campaign in a limited capacity.

Ivanka previously said she was leaving politics behind in order to live her best life, but now that her father could be up for re-election, she hinted she would consider returning to the West Wing. She is indeed her father’s daughter, adept at getting what she wants out of a situation and walking away when something no longer suits her best interests.

Former US President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, Kimberly Guilfoyle, sons Barron and Donald Jr. and daughter Ivanka leave St. Vincent Ferrer Church during Ivana Trump's funeral, in New York, USA, on July 20, 2022.

Former US President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, Kimberly Guilfoyle, sons Barron and Donald Jr. and daughter Ivanka leave St. Vincent Ferrer Church during the funeral of Ivana Trump, socialite and Trump’s first wife, in New York, USA, July 20, 2022.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

One thing that sets Melania and Ivanka apart is what appears to be a desire to be socially accepted among New York’s upper crust, and the knowledge that they cannot both be the most Trump of Trumps and be perceived as as sophisticated and admirable. Ivanka may have moved her family to Florida — West Palm Beach is a more Trump-friendly place than the Upper East Side — but her aspirations remain more Manhattan than Florida Woman.

Trump’s maniacal brothers (especially the sweaty, jumping Don Jr.) and their filler-filled right-wing wives and girlfriends are excruciatingly clownish characters; Melania and Ivanka seem more interested in being stylish and ambitious. But they also know that there is immense power close to the wearer of the crown – as long as he wears the crown, of course. These two women therefore seem to be walking a tightrope: staying in Trump’s good graces so that they can benefit from it if he gets back up, without getting drawn into the clown spectacle that engulfs almost everything around him.

Fortunately for them, these two women have more leeway than anyone else in Trump’s orbit. Trump is a notoriously vengeful man who demands total loyalty far beyond reason; he regularly demands a kind of prostration and self-humiliation from those who want to be close to him, and he regularly excoriates and expels anyone who displays less than a kind of hangdog devotion. Ivanka and Melania, however, largely escape these expectations.

Melania seems to be a woman interested primarily in a life of beauty and ease, someone who probably agrees or doesn’t care about her husband’s ugly opinions…»

Jill Filipovic

There is a significant difference between the two women: the desire for power and influence. It’s impossible to know what’s going through either woman’s head, but Melania appears to be a woman interested primarily in a life of beauty and ease, someone who probably either agrees or disagrees. doesn’t care about her husband’s ugly opinions – how else could they have stayed married? – but is not particularly motivated by politics or ideas of any kind.

Journalist after journalist delved into Melania’s youth to try to discern her interests, her motivations, or even some semblance of an inner life, but they came up empty. It is not difficult to imagine that she is unhappy with her husband’s political ambitions because they hinder her own ability to lead a glamorous, easy, and private life.

Ivanka, on the other hand, clearly desires power and influence. His career, his fashion brand, his book, his accession to a position at the White House despite having no relevant experience or interest in politics: everything points to someone who, like his father, is looking for authority and recognition, even if she did not fully deserve it. Puck News reported in May that she may be considering a return to politics to help her father’s campaign.

This difference between Trump’s two leading wives could become clearer as his campaign heats up, and especially if he wins. In the wake of the disastrous 2020 election, Ivanka distanced herself from her father’s toxic politics. Melania has simply continued to largely stay out of the circus and seems ready to do so again. But if Trump manages to escape victory in 2024, his eldest daughter could very well smell an opportunity and find herself offering her father much more than just a nostalgic Instagram story.