While America reeled through a constitutional crisis this weekend, Ivanka Trump enjoyed an evening out with husband, Jared Kushner, dressed in fine black-tie attire.
Authorized immigrants were detained for hours, without food or the means to communicate with their lawyers, in airports around the country. Protests drew tens of thousands of horrified, grief-stricken Americans into the streets, beseeching Donald Trump and those with his ear to find their humanity. Ivanka and Kushner exfoliated, perfumed, and enrobed themselves in things expensive and soft, smiled placidly, and probably went on to have a splendid Saturday night of clinking glasses and measured laughter.
On social media, critics compared Ivanka’s garment, a silver gown that could have come from a Derelicte show, with the trauma blankets worn by some Syrian refugees.
Ivanka did not sign the executive order that shredded any remaining claim America could make to being a beacon of democracy against religious persecution. She did not personally sentence her fellow human beings to certain suffering and probable death because of their religion, culture, or national origin.
But without Ivanka, a rare symbol of taste in a tasteless administration, the president’s winks at fascism during his campaign would have seemed a lot less innocuous to those voters who were convinced that Donald Trump’s outlandish promises weren’t meant to be taken literally. As Slate’s Jessica Winter wrote last year, when Donald Trump hadn’t even clinched the GOP presidential nomination yet, Ivanka’s poise and seeming intelligence made her father even scarier. If she could trust and defend him, so could other folks who wanted a Republican in office but weren’t fully on board with sexual assault, Islamophobia, and petty insults. If Ivanka rolled her eyes and laughed good-naturedly when her own father said on national television that he’d like to sleep with her, so could they. For that matter, if Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, can stand by and flash his dimples while the president issues and defends an alarming statement about the Holocaust that never once mentions Jews, maybe all that talk about anti-Semitism in the Trump administration is overblown.
A recent Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 49 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Ivanka Trump, and just 30 percent have an unfavorable opinion of her. By comparison, Donald Trump’s disapproval rating is up to 51 percent since he signed his executive order banning immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority nations. Ivanka has a key mitigating effect on her father’s image: She is a beautiful, magnetic distraction from an authoritarian regime. When magazines fawn over Ivanka’s “cute” family and stage smiley photoshoots with the Trump siblings giving each other noogies for the first time in their lives, they play into the Trump kids’ roles as normalizing, all-American icing on an abnormal, un-American presidency.
Ivanka spent her glamorous Saturday night at the annual dinner of the Alfalfa Club, an organization founded to commemorate the birthday of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. She represented her father’s administration at the gala while lawyers spent all night fighting for clients who were unlawfully detained. On Sunday, the White House screened Finding Dory, a fun film about a family that’s been torn apart, while Trump’s executive order stranded a 12-year-old Yemeni girl—an authorized immigrant with American parents—in a strange country, alone and scared, trapped in limbo indefinitely.