There has been a lot of speculation about what will happen to Donald Trump’s three eldest children as they prepare to head back out into a polarized society split straight down the middle by their father’s incendiary rhetoric and populist politics.
Eric Trump would seem to be in the worst position of the three. He’s neither as charming as his sister Ivanka nor as competent as his brother Donald. It’s tough to imagine a scenario in which he propels himself to success all on his own. The odds are that he’ll have little choice but to tighten his grip on his father’s coattails and stick with the family business for the foreseeable future, passing the days at private clubs and extravagant seminars while chatting it up with like-minded associates and industry heavyweights. He really isn’t cut out for anything else.
Donald Trump Jr., on the other hand, has done well at building a brand for himself. He’s amassed over six million followers on Twitter and has gone to great lengths to keep his face in the spotlight throughout the course of his father’s presidency. If he does pursue a career in politics, however, he’ll only stand a chance if he chooses to run in the reddest of red states. His image and attitude are no less divisive than those of his father, and that will ultimately limit the opportunities made available to him.
That leaves Ivanka Trump, who is arguably the brightest of the bunch. And according to a January 15 Politico report, she may well be flirting with the idea of challenging Republican Senator Marco Rubio in a 2022 Florida primary battle.
Ivanka certainly has a lot going for her. During her time in the White House, she cultivated the image of a do-it-all supermom who is equal parts stately and relatable. Her ability to seamlessly transition from humble homemaker to self-assured dignitary gives her a distinct advantage over her siblings that will undoubtedly come in handy if she ever decides to run for office. She is, of course, also very beautiful, which will surely boost her appeal among voters more concerned with aesthetics than substance.
But even if she does harbor political ambitions, there is one massive obstacle standing in her way that threatens to derail her entire campaign before It’s even begun: the lack of a political base.
She has spent most of the last four years trying to maintain a squeaky clean, above-the-fray appearance by staying out of the mud pit where her father and brothers like to play. That hasn’t inspired much confidence among the president’s supporters, many of whom have always been suspicious of her intentions given her past financial support for well-known Democratic politicians like Hillary Clinton and Senator Cory Booker.
Her father rose to prominence by being a belligerent narcissist who relishes the praise his sycophantic supporters heap upon him whenever he degrades and demeans his opponents on the left. He knows how to tap into working-class rage and exploit it for his own benefit. He’s a bully, a liar, and an unapologetic mudslinger—but it works for him. Republicans wanted a fighter. They wanted someone who was willing to bloody a few noses on their behalf. He gave them that, and they returned the favor with their loyalty and their votes.
Ivanka Trump is not her father. She doesn’t like to get dirty or take cheap shots at her party’s Democratic rivals. She isn’t overtly hostile towards the media. She doesn’t speak the language of the working class and is therefore incapable of connecting with them on any meaningful level. She lacks virtually every single quality that ingratiated her father with his conservative base, so what incentive do they have to rally around her candidacy if she does choose to run for office?
The answer is that there is no incentive, especially if she decides to go up against an established Republican politician like Senator Rubio. Conservatives aren’t going to just throw their support behind her strictly out of fealty to her father. No matter how passionately they back the president, politics is still a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately game, and Ivanka Trump hasn’t done very much at all to demonstrate that she can be trusted to act in the best interests of Republican voters.
Ivanka Trump is intelligent, attractive, and acquits herself well in professional settings. Doors will surely be opened for her as she moves into the next phase of her life, but none of those doors will lead to public office. In Democrats, she inspires revulsion. In Republicans, she inspires indifference. And in Independents—well, it doesn’t much matter how they feel about her. You simply can’t win in American politics without a committed base that’s willing to show up when you need them to, and no amount of support from moderates and centrists is going to change that.