The president-elect was seen stepping off his Trump jet at Reagan National Airport with Conway in tow at about 8pm. She was wearing a white gown and appeared to be carrying a fur coat.The Daily Mail can be so dumb. In the photograph, the garment is obviously a stole, not a coat. Whether it's real or fake fur is unknown. It doesn't look very nice, so I'm going to assume it's fake fur and Conway is baiting anti-Trumpists to lambaste her for wearing fur.
The article says, "Melania Trump did not appear to have made the trip with her husband," and a commenter says: "Don't think we'll be seeing much more of her. Ivanka has taken on the role of first lady." But there's no sign of Ivanka at this event either.
Whether Ivanka or Melania will step into the made-up "First Lady" role, neither Melania nor Ivanka attended the big gala dinner, as far as I can tell, and the glammed up lady at Trump's side was Kellyanne Conway. Conway has a spouse too, but I don't see him there either. Here's why I think all of this is perfectly okay:
1. Trump was tending to donors. There were about "150 diplomats and 300 or so of Trump's biggest donors and VIPs." He flew down from NY to do the political theater, then got back on his plane and returned to NY. It was a quick business trip. Trump graciously and efficiently cranked through it.
2. Conway is Trump's female partner in this political business. She's up for the political talk and comfortable with the exposure, and she deserves the spotlight for all that she has done.
3. Melania and Ivanka are reserved for other occasions, perhaps more exclusive groups than the 300 top donors. Maybe these women are "reserved" in the other sense: private.
4. Melania and Ivanka may have minds of their own and a distaste for being shown off, especially to big donors, people who have bought access to power. If it is possible to buy access to these women, it's not as easy as being 300th on the list of top donors to a presidential campaign.
5. When they appear at inaugural events, Melania and Ivanka's looks will be subjected to extreme attention. Fashion designers have balked at dressing them, and while I'm sure they can overcome that trifling obstacle, they may want their first entrance on the presidential stage to be more beautiful and grand.
6. Melania and Ivanka may love Kellyanne Conway performing this part of the feminine role.
7. The Obamas have — or so it seems — loved parties. Some of that love may be because they have been loved. It's been relatively simple to show up in nice clothes and get perceived as fabulous by everyone in the press and the political establishment. The experience for the Trumps is completely different. Not only have they already had plenty of fancy parties in their lives — it's no big new thrill — but they don't have the hope the Obamas had of inspiring Americans to enjoy the parties vicariously. With the Obamas, many Americans could feel that the first African-American President and First Lady embodied our dream of progress. If they danced together in fancy clothes, they danced in our hearts: How good we are! Not in all hearts, of course, but in many hearts, and the Obamas knew this, and performed in the Theater of Racial Harmony with enthusiasm and grace.
8. The Trumps must follow the Obamas, and they must know very well that their political show is very different. They step into the roles as very rich people. They've already had plenty of parties — fancier parties — for decades. If they party in the public spotlight, they are rich people, enjoying their riches, excluding us. And there's probably little intrinsic pleasure for them. It's just another party, and, really, an inferior party, humoring donors and diplomats.
9. Upgrading Kellyanne Conway like this dilutes the perception that Ivanka is — in some weird, creepy way — the real First Lady. There are 3 important women, and they appear in different settings. It increases the perception that Melania is the First Lady. She's automatically the First Lady by being the President's wife, so what is the argument that she's lost that status? If Kellyanne and Ivanka both do appearances at Trump's side, Ivanka isn't special enough to oust Melania.
10. Trump the billionaire has successfully bonded with millions of working-class Americans. He's convincingly worn a trucker hat and spoken like a tough guy. Trump's wealth is built on branding, and he made his grand political success out of branding: He's a man of the people. He's told us that he had a great life, and he didn't need to do this, but he saw our need, and the left the pleasures and comforts of his billionaire life to do service for us, to make America great again. To preserve that message, he should not be seen to care about big parties. He's coming to Washington to work — for us — and not to enjoy himself.
11. The message described in #10 is consistent with what we will be seeing from Melania: She's staying in NYC to do her work, which is to care for her son and to support him as he finishes the school year. She's not a rich, self-centered lady eager to show off her beauty and her clothes in the public spotlight. She's modest and circumspect and, like so many of the Americans who voted for her husband, focused on doing a good job at the task in front of her — rearing a child.