Ever since George Washington adopted the use of the term “Mr. President,” eschewing the competing titles of “electoral highness” and “excellency,” it’s been a point of American pride that we consider the head of the executive branch one of us, a citizen who is no more above the law than any of his fellow countrymen.
Despite how enamored we’ve become with the idea of our supreme leader as an everyman, there is no better example of how estranged U.S. politicians have become from reality than election season. 2016 showcases this like never before, with a couple of presidential hopefuls who court their public with all the grace of a cannibal on a cooking show.
But never worry, because in an era of increasingly divisive politics, a single American institution stands alone, not untarnished but ready to answer the call. Family.
Chelsea and Ivanka
Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump must meet that call and convince a skeptical public that their parents are in fact native residents of the planet Earth, even likable ones.
This is not the first election where the children of candidates have contributed to campaign efforts, but it does stand out because of the similarities in the challenge that Ivanka and Chelsea face. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been critiqued as out-of-touch with a public who overwhelmingly cite distaste for both candidates.
Chelsea and Ivanka have a great deal in common, are acquainted and by many accounts are friends, though election season has undoubtedly placed some strain on their relationship. Both women are:
- In their 30s
- Recently welcomed new babies
- Experienced in handling difficult questions about their parents’ respective pasts
But while their goal is the same, their roles are strikingly different.
Donald’s Feminine Side
Ivanka Trump has emerged as the female lead in the odd melodrama that is the Trump campaign. With (Donald) Trump downplaying the role of his wife Melania, who sports a foreign accent and has been largely uninvolved in Trump’s political ascension, Ivanka is pinch-hitting as the Trump camp’s leading lady.
It’s a bold move that critics say might well have been the result of some nudging from dad. Still, Ivanka has stood up for her father, directly refuting accusations of Trump as a racist and misogynist and proclaiming Trump nothing more than “blunt” and the victim of political rhetoric that he chooses not to bend for. It’s a message Trump himself couldn’t deliver, but Ivanka can.
The Hillary Clinton campaign isn’t suffering for a politically attuned spouse in the same way Trump’s is. It has an ex-president holding that position down just fine.
Still, singing the tune of family values is difficult when you’re the face of the biggest adultery scandal many voters have lived through. Chelsea no longer enjoys her famous “off-limits” status from the media, and is becoming more comfortable speaking about how the Clintons salvaged home life after the turbulence of her father’s presidential years.
Making Hillary Human
Clinton’s camp doesn’t have to dodge the accusations of overt racism and gender bias leveled at Trump, but Chelsea still plays the part of liaison in her message to younger voters, who struggle to align with a candidate painted as “part of the system” by competitor Bernie Sanders.
To make Hillary more approachable to young people, specifically millennials, Chelsea takes the spotlight off past baggage the public doesn’t associate with her and places it squarely on the future by emphasizing Hillary’s warmth as a grandmother and skill as a leader.
She has called this election uniquely important as a new mother, citing examples such as Hillary’s continued involvement in programs that encourage young women to succeed and her efforts to pass progressive health care reform dating back to the 1990s. She also calls attention to Hillary’s bipartisan experience as Secretary of State, working to find compromise with senate republicans.
Many analysts have called Chelsea Hillary’s secret weapon. Certainly, her avoidance of the press in her younger years gives her a clean slate compared to her parents, but can she convince millennials and the “Bernie or bust” crowd who hold the key to victory that a vote for mom is the right choice?
November will come, and only one candidate will emerge victorious, but it’s not just the lives of the candidates that change. Their families will be impacted as well.
For Chelsea and Ivanka, this means the prospect of political legacy. It is something Chelsea has already learned to dodge after her experience as daughter to the president. Ivanka, however, isn’t in quite the same position.
Away from her ties to the political campaign, Ivanka is blunt in the spirit of her father, stating that she does not always agree with what he does. It is this ability to both back Trump and win favor with those who detest him that makes her a powerful asset.
After all the ballots are counted and one candidate claims victory in November, these two dynamic daughters can go back to enjoying life as it was before. But in the era of the American dynasty, can they really?
Header image via Politico
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