What is this All-American family’s future?
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
No matter what they are or are not saying publicly, the members of Donald Trump’s immediate family know he’s leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January, ending (for now, at least) any further opportunity for them to participate in the mismanagement of their country. So even rich as they are, they’ll need a new gig. Here is what Donald Jr., Ivanka, Lara, and Jared Kushner are reportedly considering.
So far Donald Trump Jr. has shrewdly promoted himself as a future presidential possibility in order to “make the libs heads explode.” If Junior 2024 is to become more than a trollish joke, though, he would have to be well-positioned with a gig that will also serve him well if his ambitions take a longer route to fruition (he’s currently just 42).
One possibility already in the news is that Junior might try to take over the embattled National Rifle Association if it can be wrested from the grasp of semi-disgraced executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, as Business Insider reported.
If Junior could get the job without too much noisy conflict, it could be an ideal perch for him. For all its troubles, the NRA has a mass membership base and iconic status on the right that would be hard to match. (After all, no one in the Trump family has the training to pastor a mega-church or take over the Federalist Society). Otherwise you could expect the scion to put himself in charge of some grassroots MAGA group designed to keep the old man’s most avid supporters in harness.
Trump’s beloved daughter Ivanka is the other family member thought by some to have the juice to leap directly to the White House without too much political preparation. Yahoo News reports that two groups have already been formed to promote her election as president in 2024.
But as someone less identified with MAGA than her brothers, and less involved in serious policymaking than her husband Jared Kushner, Ivanka would have to tread carefully and trade heavily on her perceived glamour and (compared to the rest of the clan) geniality. And that may be the Trump quality in which she is best suited to succeed the patriarch: simply being a mega-celebrity. As Natalie Gontcharova suggests, a media career will certainly be offered to her: “This is one possible future we see for Ivanka: doing the foxtrot on Dancing with the Stars, a big book deal, and perhaps a talk show, all as politically milquetoast as can be so that she can put some distance between herself and the extremism of the Trump administration in the coming years. That way, she can rebrand as a ‘moderate’ voice once again, the erstwhile lifestyle and career ‘expert’ she tried to be years ago.”
It’s not entirely clear that Trump’s hard-core white male supporters will be willing to take Ivanka seriously as anything other than an object of active lust or passive admiration. So if she does have big-time political ambitions, she will need maximum validation and support from her biggest fan, her father, who reportedly wanted to make her his running-mate in 2016.
Arguably Jared Kushner has the best claim in the Trump family on future high public office, as someone mostly responsible for two of his father-in-law’s rare if overhyped accomplishments (a criminal justice reform law and a diplomatic breakthrough involving Israel and two Gulf states). But there is no way he will ever outshine his wife, and he doesn’t have the blood link to Trump that would make him a dynastic natural.
Jared seems best positioned to reprise his role in the Trump administration as consigliere in a political effort or a White House led by some other family member. Lord knows his Saudi connections could finance something interesting to do short-range. And he and Ivanka are reportedly making a post-D.C. strategic retreat from the hostile hot-house of Manhattan to their extensive estate in New Jersey. If either of them does run for sub-presidential office, that’s a more congenial environment than The Big Apple.
The further you get from the epicenter of Trump power, the more family aspirants for more of it may have to take some preliminary steps. Lara Trump, married to the least-well-regarded of The Donald’s children, Eric, is taking a long look at an open Senate seat in her home state of North Carolina, as the New York Times reported last week:
Ms. Trump, 38, a former personal trainer and television producer for “Inside Edition,” wed Eric Trump at the family’s Mar-a-Lago estate in 2014 and worked as a senior adviser on the 2020 Trump campaign. Now, the daughter-in-law whom Mr. Trump had often joked to donors that he “couldn’t pick out of a lineup” is floating herself as the first test of the enduring power of the Trump name.
“She’s very charismatic, she understands retail politics well, and has a natural instinct for politics,” said Mercedes Schlapp, a Trump campaign adviser who traveled the country as a surrogate alongside Ms. Trump. “In North Carolina, in particular, she’s a household name and people know her. She worked really hard on the campaign and was very involved in a lot of decisions throughout.”
A boat-load of Republican pols in the Tar Heel State are eying the seat being vacated by Republican veteran Richard Burr. So Lara Trump will indeed have to lean heavily on the family brand and her connection with the old man’s campaigns.
It’s always possible that the president will choose to pass on his legacy to someone who is not biologically or legally related to him. There will be plenty of aspirants to the role of being an Honorary Trump. “Conservative populist” Senator Josh Hawley seems especially well-positioned, though Trump’s former 2016 rivals Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have had their noses up the presidential posterior for a long time now, and other up-and-comers from media star Tucker Carlson to the grim young right-wing pol Tom Cotton are in his orbit. But by and large, Trump’s moves are best understood as following the patterns of crime bosses, for whom family is the best hedge against betrayal. It’s likely his second option will be someone in the family photo above. Donald Trump’s first option, of course, will be to stay in charge of his political enterprise as long as he is alive and not in the hoosegow.