By Marina Hyde – The Guardian
As the Republican national convention got under way last night, the party that has formed a personality cult around the personality of Donald Trump was treated to a speech from Don Jr. Say what you like about the polls, Junior’s mere presence sounded a note of optimism. After all, nothing says “hope” like being asked to believe in a second Trump administration by a man whose beard can’t even make you believe in his jawline.
The show-fiend in me would have preferred a joint speech from Don Jr and his brother Eric – Uday and Schmuday, one friend calls them – but it seems the Trump family plan to spread their fabled orators across the week. Eric will be day-released from the attic tomorrow and gibber through something or other, his tamer cracking the whip warningly in the wings. Ivanka will reportedly introduce her father on Thursday and hope he doesn’t try to hump her leg.
Though it never achieved the heights of basic coherence, Don Jr’s speech rose to an aspirational passage about Americans’ desire for “a perfect family”. And you know, his own family really is a fairytale. Grimm. It’s interesting the Trump children feel able to lecture on family values to America, the country the rest of the world used to think of as the great forerunner in the mainstreaming of psychotherapy. You’d struggle to imagine any offspring less suited to the task, except perhaps those of Zeus. “Has anything happened since our last session, Persephone?” “My father has committed another rape, this time in the form of a bull.”
And yet, in what may turn out to be a sign of the general oustering to come, the Trumps are suddenly not even the most dysfunctional family represented at their convention. Quite a feat to be upstaged by an even more defective domestic unit, but undoubtedly, the Kellyanne-and-George Conways have managed it.
Are you familiar with the Sybil and Basil Fawlty of the post-truth era? A top presidential adviser, Kellyanne has finished second in the White House Lying Bee four years running, and is the only person who wears more makeup than Trump himself. She doesn’t so much reapply as repoint. Her husband, George, is a conservative lawyer who held a dignified silence on the Trump presidency for about 10 minutes, before – like most holders of dignified silences – giving way to hourly frothings, in this case about the president’s iniquities.
On Sunday, Kellyanne suddenly announced she’d be leaving the White House to focus on her family, while George declared he would be stepping back from anti-Trump campaign group the Lincoln Project, and taking a Twitter “hiatus”. (I always enjoy the Pooterish spectacle of adults announcing that they’re taking a break from Twitter, as opposed to simply taking a break from Twitter and accepting that the entire roiling shitpit will carry on quite unaffected with or without them.)
As for what’s brought all this on, it seems not unrelated to the Conways’ four children, in particular their 15-year-old daughter’s furiously damaged forays on to social media over the past few months, culminating in a stated desire to be “emancipated” from her parents. You can see her point.
The Conways’ partnership has long seemed less a marriage than an Asiatic land war – a kind of marital Helm’s Deep where even the bed linen had taken sides. Both parties liked to tell themselves they were taking to the field in service of America, but increasingly America itself came off as merely a buffer state between these two warring spousal powers.
I think we were supposed to root for George on the basis he wasn’t the one who worked for the far-right quarterwit who didn’t care about his own citizens being killed in various ways, or indeed about the rule of law. Which shows you just how far one’s general expectations have been commuted in recent years. And yet, it takes two to create a rolling tit-for-tat, and George’s slide into a social media narcissism that could only ever be read in terms of the family’s domestic life was a self-indulgence if not equal to Kellyanne’s, then certainly accessory to it. If Kellyanne should have stopped her state-sponsored lying, then George should certainly have logged off too.
Yet because we mostly look the wrong way, it’s notable that for the past couple of years, all the Conway talk has been of what the couple really thought behind closed doors, or whether they were planning a joint book deal. Will no one think of the children, the cliche asks? And the answer is always: no. Certainly not their posturing parents, until the situation was absolutely desperate. We always talk about the Trump era’s malign self-absorption writ large, but it’s genuinely tragic to see it writ small.
It would be nice to think the Conways could heal their family after what they’ve put it through – but the stains they have inflicted will be hard to shift. People spent a long time eagerly anticipating George and Kellyanne’s joint memoir. Maybe they should wait for the children’s.
* Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist
Undecided Voters Were Key to Trump’s Win in 2016. Will They Deliver Again?
Analysts say there are fewer undecideds this year than in 2016, when a surge of last-minute converts to Trump among them helped decide the election. But it’s still a sizable enough cohort—particularly in key battleground states—to potentially determine the 2020 result.