In July 2016, Ivanka Trump stood in front of the Republican National Convention and conveyed a message that many critics said helped ensure her father’s victory: that women, millennials, and people of color could trust Donald Trump.
In the face of objections to her father’s racist and misogynistic comments, she offered an intimate and appealing character reference, cloaking her father’s famous brashness in her measured tone and elegant appearance. She vouched for his treatment of women, calling him “color blind and gender neutral,” and promised that he would deliver for working mothers. A few months later, when the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape leaked, it was memories of her speech that likely helped reassure swing voters—a higher percentage of white women voted for Donald Trump than for Hillary Clinton. In turn, her father made her his advisor, turning her into one of the most powerful women in the world.
On the final night of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Ivanka Trump’s task—again introducing her father before he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president—was significantly more difficult. Trump’s four years in office are culminating in a raging pandemic that continues to kill around 1,000 Americans daily, devastating the economy in a way that has disproportionately affected women and people of color. Mothers, far from reaching Ivanka Trump-like levels of professional and personal success, are finding themselves responsible for 24/7 childcare as schools are unable to open. Pain over racist injustice rages, represented by protests and unrest. And Ivanka Trump’s most recent pet project, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, is under investigation by House democrats for “questionable contracting practices, a lack of accountability, and a failure to deliver food to many communities that need it most.”
Still, the first daughter approached her endorsement speech as if the last four years have been a string of American successes, leading into to a summer of glimmering prosperity. “He is our commander-in-chief, champion of the American worker, defender of common sense, and our voice for the forgotten men and women of this country—he is our president, and my father Donald J. Trump,” she told the crowd on the South Lawn of the White House. (Despite assurances that the event would adhere to safe social distancing practices, the crowd of 1,500 was packed close together, with few people wearing masks.)
In the 18-minute speech, she told a story of Trump’s White House through an intimate lens, referencing a series of “moments I wish every American could see,” invoking the image of “a president who’s fighting for you every day from dawn ‘til midnight.” This private, modest Donald Trump is—in Ivanka Trump’s estimation—a “warrior” who “takes on fights” for farmers and everyday Americans, a “builder” who rejects “the word ‘impossible.’” She confidently represented him as “a voice for those who have been unfairly silenced,” from people who have been “canceled” to people like Alice Johnson, the great-grandmother whose life without parole sentence for a non-violent crime Donald Trump commuted. Despite her reputation as the campaign’s bridge to women voters and her own self-mythologizing as a feminist, Ivanka did not speak about a woman’s right to choose, which handfuls of RNC speakers proceeding her exclaimed against.
Trump expressed grief for those who have died of COVID-19, and for their families, and for the hardships suffered by frontline workers. Despite the president’s avowed “it is what it is” response as the number of American deaths climbs towards 200,000, the first daughter attempted to share an insider’s view of the president’s empathy. “I’ve been with my father and I’ve seen the pain in his eyes when he receives updates on the lives that have been stolen by this plague,” she said. In the crowd at the White House, the audience seemed to sit shoulder-to-shoulder, despite assurances that the event would be socially distanced.
Trump also attempted to inflect her speech with humor. Imitating her father’s speaking voice, she attempted to recast the president’s countless garbled middle-of-the-night tweets as charming dad gaffes. “I recognize that my dad’s communication style is not to everyone’s taste,” she said, her mouth twitching like a woman whose dad is known to talk too much about sports at the dinner table. “And I know his Tweets can feel a bit…unfiltered. But the results speak for themselves.”
Twitter also spoke up in response to Trump’s speech, calling out her factual misinformation (in some cases, abject lies), analyzing whether this speech is part of a longer-term plan for her to one day run for president, and of course, breaking down the outfit:
And finally, yes, the stakes are high, and the issues are deadly serious. But the palace—I mean White House—intrigue is still delicious:
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.