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It’s time for Ivanka Trump to stop pretending she’s above the political fray

Ivanka Trump Visits 'FOX & Friends' Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Ivanka Trump wants to have it both ways. She wants to rise above ugly partisan battles to call for consensus on policies that would help working women. And she wants to use her father’s very divisive political campaign to advance her own ideas without damaging her standing.

In the past 24 hours, she’s learned how hard that can be, after an uncomfortable interview with Cosmopolitan and two easily fact-checked untruths left her sounding more like her combative father than her usual polished, on-message self.

Now, stung by a magazine that shares her target audience, she’s trying to reclaim her own brand, with a series of “can’t we all just get along?” tweets. Her work, she says, is meant to “raise awareness,” and her audience should work for “advocating change.”

Trump isn’t entirely wrong here. The fact that both candidates now agree that the United States should guarantee maternity leave to women who have babies is a milestone. An anodyne, nonpartisan call for “advocating change,” regardless of the specifics of the plan, is something a celebrity focused on “raising awareness” could tweet.

And until recently, that’s been Ivanka Trump’s role. She’s styled herself as a career guru telling young workers, especially women, to get ahead with hard work and responsibility. She started an awareness campaign called “Women Who Work,” where she interviews young women who are entrepreneurs and CEOs about the roles they play outside the office. The campaign is a soft-focus, “you go girl” branding effort that skips over more difficult questions about the trade-offs women make between work and home in favor of celebrating their success. Of course, it also associates Trump’s brand ever more tightly with working women.

The problem is that no matter how inclusive her “Women Who Work” videos are, Ivanka Trump isn’t a nonpartisan figure. She isn’t even a typical candidate’s spouse or daughter, relegated to a role far from the politics. She’s an influential policy adviser on a presidential campaign who is advocating for a specific plan. She wrote an op-ed introducing it in the Wall Street Journal. Pointed questions come with the territory.

Her tweets are a sign that she’s doing damage control, trying to rescue her own brand as an unaligned champion of working women. The problem is that the more prominent she becomes as an advocate for her father, the more closely her public image is tied to his.