Ivanka Trump as first lady-daughter kills all hope for a Melania-run East Wing

The only fun part of a Donald Trump presidency was going to be Melania as FLOTUS — now even that is gone

By Erin Keane

Editor in Chief

Published December 10, 2016 8:30PM (EST)

Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

There are many legitimate deaths to mourn here in the twilight of 2016 — reason, civility, the future of the Republic — but I felt none so sharply this week as the snuffing of my last hope for delight in the White House over the next four years. After everything women and those without a Pepe-infused sense of humor have lost, now we won’t even get the glorious spectacle of a full-time FLOTUS with the Mostess ruling the East Wing with a pavé crystal fist.

Barack Obama’s administration was a cultural two-fer: Along with a cool president, we got a funny, gracious, intelligent, down-to-earth, accomplished executive for a first lady. Michelle Obama is the kind of woman who’ll karaoke with you on your birthday and hand-pick a good novel for your present, give you grad school application tips in one breath and the name of a resilient heirloom tomato in the next. We didn’t deserve her, and she will be missed.

America is ready for a change, we have been told, and so we are installing a spiritually bankrupt reality TV producer in the Oval Office, along with his Cabinet of Horrors. A Donald Trump presidency does not promise much on the shits-and-giggles front, but the infinite comedic possibilities of Melania Trump in official first lady duties? That has kept me going since November 9.

But hold off on that bulk order of “obligatory bootie scrubs,” because it looks very likely that Ivanka is installing herself as first lady-daughter instead.

First we heard that Melania and young master Barron would return to the gilded tower after the inauguration. Still, it’s a reasonable commute. But this week we learned Donald’s eldest daughter Ivanka would be taking a leave of absence from the Trump Organization — leaving the other two McPoyles in charge of the family coffers — in what the New York Times calls “the surest sign” that Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner are going to move to D.C. and become the bland ceremonial faces of the Trump administration.

Bye bye, promise of Naked Sushi State Dinners. We hardly knew ye, solid-gold Blue Room Christmas tree decorated with pots of Melania Luxe Night Caviar Complex C6 with Lipid Matrix Receptor Technology™. So sorry, “Vanderpump Rules” stars angling for jobs. Melania has taken a Bartleby hard pass on the gig. I predict we will see very little of the current Madame Trump over the next four years, or however long a term sentient Magic 8-ball Michael Moore decides to grant Donald, and this is a grim prospect.

Melania Trump fascinates me. The swiping of Michelle Obama’s words for a speech she knew the whole country would be watching was a display of DGAF-ery that would make a hung-over sophomore on a paper deadline blush. The photos of her smoldering over Barron's golden baby buggy call to mind a lesser Disney princess’s evil stepmother, and you can just tell that in Melania’s book that is a serious compliment. She announced that fighting online bullying — her husband’s preferred blood sport — would be her Big Cause as if she was daring us to say one thing about it. She threatened People magazine with legal action, not for claiming that her husband sexually assaulted their writer but for daring to suggest that Melania would recognize her and know her name if she passed her on the street. Even when she’s playing to the back of the room — see one “grab them by the” pussy-bow blouse — Melania conducts herself with the chilly reserve of a statue half-buried in the ruins of our civilization, waiting for James Corden to accidentally awaken her so she can destroy us all.

Melania Trump clearly doesn’t want to be first lady — what’s the point of marrying all that money if it can only buy a pair of shoes worn by 45 other women first?

If Melania is a Bond villain-in-waiting, Ivanka is an Instagram filter with hair. Used throughout her father’s campaign as the palatable, suburb-friendly face of what was otherwise a project run with all the subtlety and social graces of a Luca Brasi Memorial Fish Fry, Ivanka appears to be stepping into the role of President Trump’s appointed women-whisperer in an official capacity now. Ivanka will reassure a nation of anxious women, the reasoning goes, because Ivanka herself holds no surprises — if she promises you can #WearItToWork, you really can wear that blouse to work.

If Ivanka hosts the White House Easter Egg Roll, she won’t try to order Fabergé. She will not propose wrinkle prevention for a national initiative, won’t throw out the Vermeil Room collection because it’s not real gold and won’t recoil in horror when Elmo pats her arm her during an obligatory “Sesame Street” appearance. She can give speeches to humanitarian groups that she does not have to first submit to TurnItIn.com. All of this makes Ivanka very presentable, very safe and very dull.

What Ivanka lacks in non-monetized personality she at least makes up for in hustle — she’s setting herself up to be the Goneril and the Regan of this family — but while she’s obsessing over which sheath dress is most appropriate for a classroom instruments singalong with Jimmy Fallon, Melania will be relaxing in her gloriously empty bed, enjoying the quiet that comes when nobody’s elbowing her awake to demand she get a load of Alec Baldwin’s nerve. She will become more elusive than Hillary the Bigfoot, but if spotted, she will have you tased if you ask for a selfie. She will keep all of her decadent indulgences to herself, and we will have to make due with the "APPROPRIATELY SEXY . . . . Not SEXPOT" pencil skirt brigade instead.

Perhaps Melania will emerge every so often onto the balcony of the White House to shower the peasants below with her own gold First Spouse coins. If she sees her shadow FLOTUS lurking around the corner, she will know it's safe to retreat back to her tower for another six weeks of seclusion. She couldn't have planned it any better if she'd tried.

By Erin Keane

Erin Keane is Salon's Chief Content Officer. She is also on faculty at the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University and her memoir in essays, "Runaway: Notes on the Myths That Made Me," was named one of NPR's Books We Loved In 2022.

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