Opinion: A progressive olive branch to Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump speaks beside her father, Donald Trump, left, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence during a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., on Nov. 7.

Ivanka Trump speaks beside her father, Donald Trump, left, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence during a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., on Nov. 7.

(Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

Dear Ivanka:

CNN ran a story about your father’s plans to put an “Office of the First Family” in the White House spot where the first lady’s office has traditionally been.

Donald Jr. and Eric, if the tweets are to be believed, will head the family company. Tiffany seems to have only come into your father’s consciousness during the course of his campaign; Barron is 10; Melania’s staying in New York City. That leaves you and your husband, rumored to currently be looking for a home in Washington, as the “First Family.”

That makes a certain amount of sense, at least by the new rules. Your father’s other children have all agreed you’re the favorite. You introduced him at the Republican National Convention. “The only phone call Donald would always take was Ivanka,” an associate told Politico.

Please recognize that there are women who live between your father’s rallies and your penthouse who don’t want a perfectly lit home or a fantastic shoe.

Staring down the barrel of today’s electoral college confirmation, gnashing teeth over every unreasonable or unqualified cabinet appointment, trying desperately (and largely failing) to herd ourselves into a protest movement, we progressives have occasionally been seduced by escapist fantasies. There must be a chute out of this reality, we rationalize, an alternate universe in which our president-elect does not shoot ill-mannered tweets at a country with nuclear weapons.


You’re the chute.

In your opening speech at the convention, you said that “like many of my fellow millennials, I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat.”

And you donated to Democrats — a bunch of them. Out of the more than 30 campaign contributions you’ve made, only three were to Republicans. (Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s presidential ticket bid got $75,000 — more than your favorite bangle but less than having coffee with you. Excuse me, I digress.)

You were friends with Chelsea! All those years in mixed political circles.

You seemed smarter than your elephant-hunting brothers, superhumanly careful.

You didn’t directly say that you care about the environment, but other people said that you said it.

You called your dad’s recorded comments about groping women “inappropriate and offensive.”

You didn’t participate in any of the “lock her up” chants.

You haven’t re-tweeted white supremacists.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but who else do we have to talk to?

There are enough reasons to believe your main concerns are further enriching your family and building your empire. Your actions throughout the course of your life make the case.

After the election, thousands of worried Americans wrote “Dear Ivanka” letters. They wrote them on Twitter and Facebook and email and posters and postcards.

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. And so we find ourselves here, Ivanka, still beseeching you.

Nepotism. Sure, it’s against the spirit of our country’s founding documents that you’d have such influence; it’s also so unlikely that an accusation of nepotism would be able to keep you from serving. Everything’s already eroding.

Does it pain me to say that so flatly? Does it feel like giving up? Of course it does. It’s all so painful these days; it’s all a matter of degrees.

You did speak with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about so-called women’s issues, and you spoke with Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio about climate change. Thank you for that.

Just one note on so-called women’s issues: Please recognize that truly advocating for women means advocating for all women, facing many different types of issues. Women don’t become worthy of care and protection the day they bear children; they don’t become worthy of care and protection when they work in an office. These are the categories that connect to your life right now, and they’re valuable categories, but there are also others. If your father’s administration decimates women’s reproductive rights, access to healthcare and makes women of color and queer women feel like they’re living in hell, then there is no genuine women’s agenda, no matter how much paid maternity leave women who have children and work in offices get.

Please help us show your dad that the earth is hot and getting hotter. Put it in terms he can understand, and appeal to reasons he might care. Tell him if he wants his legacy to be celebrated in 500 years, there have to be people around to sing his praise songs. If we’re all underwater, this whole election was just like a tree falling in a forest. Sad! Pointless, even. Mar-a- Lago — whoosh. Ground into sand, forgotten in time.

Please don’t wait to get settled. Don’t redecorate the office, don’t befriend his cabinet, don’t take your place and build up goodwill and be reasonable. Your sober discipline has been an effective strategy throughout your life; it has taken you places you wanted to go. It will not serve this country in this moment.

Please recognize that there are women who live between your father’s rallies and your penthouse who don’t want a perfectly lit home or a fantastic shoe or to buy the idea of your life. We want to buy the idea of our lives, the lives we had until Nov. 9, those lives we thought we’d already bought but now realize we’ve only been renting.

I have no faith these days. I doubt this will reach you; I doubt you’ll be able to hear the message if it does. I asked friends and family if I should write at all. Nearly all said no. For what could it bring but vitriol from those who say engagement is akin to surrender? I believe that sometimes; I haven’t sorted how to feel. And so for now, like so many others, I take cautious steps in all directions, hoping against hope. It’s not a winning strategy. I don’t know how to win this.

Your father has struck fear into the hearts of as many as he’s empowered. You’ve said the man we’ve seen is not the man you know. The more we learn about him, the less reason we see to believe that. Please prove us wrong.

If you’re going to do anything to help, the time is now. There is a window — and that window will close.

Desperately yours,


Melissa Batchelor Warnke is a contributing writer to Opinion. Follow her @velvetmelvis on Twitter.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook