Ivanka, Bill, and the Race for the White House

June 21st, 2016

In case you’re wondering, I haven’t retired my blog.

A medical crisis in my family forced me to stop writing for a while.

So to quote one of Thomas Jefferson’s big numbers in the Broadway musical Hamilton, “What’d I Miss?”

Clearly, not much.

Today, Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democrat nominee for president and Donald Trump appears poised to be the Republican standard bearer.  That’s how it looked back in April when I last wrote.

As candidates, Clinton and Trump have more in common than the average Democrat/Republican contestants.  Both are New Yorkers (with Hillary taking a few detours through Illinois and Arkansas).  They’ve both been significantly affiliated with the opposition party in their lifetimes.  Hillary grew up a Republican.  Trump was for most of his life a Democrat.  And each has negative approval numbers that boggle the mind.  The real race hasn’t even begun yet and majorities of people already don’t like either one of them all that much.  Given that, unless something dramatic happens, one has to wonder if there will be any kind of “honeymoon” period for whoever is elected this time around.

Each of them also has very strong family influences that will clearly dictate how the race and a future presidency might go.

A few years ago, Lucinda Robb, granddaughter of President Lyndon Johnson, and I wrote a book proposal together with the goal of encouraging the electorate in any presidential election to look beyond the candidate to the extensive network of family and friends who might have influence with that person and eventual power if that individual is elected president.  Our agent pitched it to a few publishing houses who loved the idea more as an article than as a book and for us that ended the project.  Nevertheless, to this day I believe it would make a great book.  Every election cycle bears this out and this one is no exception.

Take Hillary Clinton (please).  I’m still a bit astounded that she actually gave a speech not long ago promising that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, would help fix the economy if she’s elected president.  My surprise is driven most by the fact that this pledge seems very inconsistent with her desire to become the nation’s first woman president.  You’d think a woman seeking that distinction would want at every turn to make the achievement appear entirely based on her own merit and not give even the slightest impression that her husband had anything to do with it.

This announcement might also explain why so many millennial women are turned off to Hillary.  They don’t buy the argument that they must vote for her solely because she’s a woman.  Most millennials truly believe that we should now live in a merit based world.  Thus, a woman should become president if she’s the best person to be president and not simply because she checks off a box of “firsts.”

Donald Trump’s family dynamic is a bit different.  Throughout his campaign, it’s been well noted that he’s close to his children and that they have a great relationship with him.  The importance of this fact was borne out yesterday with the firing of campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, purportedly at the urging of his daughter, Ivanka Trump. Recent accounts suggest that Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, also has significant influence with the candidate.

In a few short weeks the party conventions occur and after that the full blown election cycle with all its twists and turns begins.  Watch for family story lines this time around since that may be as interesting as the activities of the candidates themselves.

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