Dissecting Ivanka Trump’s Response to Recent Gun Violence
It looked like she wanted to distance herself from her father’s position, but take a closer look.
In 2019, when we’ve had 251 mass shootings this year alone, it’s difficult not to feel we’re living in a version of “nothing is certain but death and taxes” that reads more like “nothing is certain but innocent Americans dying needlessly from gun violence and elected officials acting powerless to stop it.”
Each mass shooting, including two this weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, comes with a laundry list of perverse guarantees: The right will beg individuals not to “politicize” deaths that are political, “thoughts and prayers” will be weakly offered as though that means anything anymore, and now, Ivanka Trump will pretend to take a stance against her father while remaining entirely complicit in the dangerous rhetoric and ongoing inaction of his administration.
Right on cue, America’s First Daughter, whose official role in the administration remains fuzzy, tweeted that “white supremacy, like all other forms of terrorism, is an evil that must be destroyed.” While there are already tweets circulating applauding Ivanka for denouncing her father, it’s important to note that she didn’t. During his statement, which included naming solutions like regulating violent video games and blaming mental illness for the gun epidemic while offering no calls to action on actual gun control, Trump also said “our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy."
When we slice through the paper-thin narrative of Ivanka as the well-meaning, intellectual opposite to Trump’s ill-informed hate-stoking, it’s clear she’s still acting as a mouthpiece for her father’s administration. The two Trumps made the same statement, and they’ll proceed the same way: empty words, untaken actions, and the expectation of praise for hitting the right talking point. Ivanka is not a savior, nor Trump’s opposite. She’s his mirror.
The idea of Trump condemning racism and white supremacy would be laughable if it was not responsible for the monumental loss of life that has been slashing a hole in the heart of our country since he became president. The El Paso shooter’s manifesto included phrasing like “invasion” and “fake news,” language Trump himself uses, as reported by Buzzfeed. Mere weeks ago the president tweeted that progressive Congresswomen should “go back” to their countries, stoking rally chants of “send her back,” which he did not silence. His relentless disparaging of various news outlets have inspired his supporters to carry out violent attacks, like an explosive device being sent to CNN last October, in his name.
If you’re still searching for the real difference between Ivanka Trump and her father, this is it. The president’s sinister words of hate, division, and racism carry weight. They result in actions that alter the course of our country and, in some cases, end people’s lives. Ivanka’s words, on the other hand, are meaningless. Though we can assume she has her father’s ear, she has no official title in his administration; no formal power to enact the change she says “we” must make. With no clear responsibility at the White House, Ivanka hasn’t publicly taken steps to solve anything outside her West Wing role, either.
We’ve seen this before: Trump’s daughter routinely speaks out via leaks, like when she condemned the racist chants at Trump’s rallies through unnamed sources, a pattern that allows her to be painted as a moderating voice while actually saying nothing. When speaking about family separation, Ivanka said she was against the administration separating families at the border, while taking zero public action to refute her father, nor vocalizing what she believes should be done instead.
With Trump, we’ve been issued an ongoing front row seat to how powerful words are, but in Ivanka’s case perhaps the opposite is true: Words are far less powerful than she may like to believe. In looking at Ivanka’s statement, the right conclusion to draw is absolutely nothing. A white woman who sits at the table of power and eats from it expects the glow of “good” comments to wash out her complicity. Words are strong, but they aren’t that strong.
Repeatedly, including at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Ivanka has cited gender equality, empowering women, and supporting working mothers as the pet issues she’d take on in her time in (adjacent to?) the White House. She paints herself as an advocate, especially as a working mom herself — a champion of women and children. Among the many tragic deaths this weekend was a 25-year-old mother, Jordan Anchondo, who had been shopping for school supplies when she died while shielding her newborn baby from gunfire. This would be a great time for Ivanka Trump to stand up for the mothers in this country, the ones frantically plotting how to shield their children with their own bodies should shots ring out wherever they are. The mothers — and children — Ivanka Trump has been aligning herself with all this time are dying. If all she can offer is a tweet, which is all her record demonstrates when it comes to “taking a stand,” what she’s doing is spreading hypocrisy, not help.
Calling out the white supremacy that brought on this violence is one thing. Doing something about it — literally anything — is another. Right now it looks like all Ivanka’s doing is pulling up a seat at the table, right next to her dad.