When Senator Edward Kennedy, patron saint of Chappaquiddick, was done savaging Robert Bork during his Supreme Court nomination hearings back in 1987, he happened to run into Bork’s wife in a Capitol Hill hallway. Undoubtedly hoping to defuse an awkward moment, Kennedy said to her, “Mrs. Bork, you must be so tired. It’s a very difficult time, I know. I hope you understand it’s nothing personal.”
Demonizing Mrs. Bork’s husband, holding him up to the country as a man who would set civil rights back a generation, and deliberately making him an object to be despised: this, in Kennedy’s view, was nothing personal. I imagine that having been on the receiving end, Mrs. Bork felt a bit differently–but with that, Kennedy excused character assassination as just another political tactic, an effective one as it turned out.
Ironically, it may have also been a rare moment of honesty on Kennedy’s part. Buried deep within his non-apology apology to Mrs. Bork was the implication that the campaign against her husband was a carefully crafted ploy, meant to stir up hatred against a man who could not otherwise be stopped on the merits. But Kennedy wasn’t ginning up hatred for Bork amongst his Senate colleagues–they were far too cynical and sophisticated for that. The hate was meant for the activists, who then turned it loose on the rubes in the Democrat base. After all, nothing rallies the troops like giving them a common enemy.
Fast forward to 2017. That Donald Trump is the object of the left’s scorn is no surprise–he is, after all, the single greatest threat to Obama the Light Giver’s legacy of America Last-ism. But what’s with all the hate focused on Ivanka Trump? By all accounts, she’s been a lifelong Democrat, and spent a lot of time on the campaign trail talking about child care, equal pay for women and other issues that the feminist left purports to care about. She has been a businesswoman and an entrepreneur, a person who would otherwise be held up as a feminist icon. So what’s with the boycotts of Ivanka’s clothing line, or the nasty responses to a cute Instagram picture of her taking a phone call at the White House while holding her cute-as-a-button baby boy? Sure, the left hates Donald Trump–but why should Ivanka be held responsible for her father’s actions?
A lot of conservative publications have held this up as yet another example of feminist hypocrisy–and while this is true, it’s important not to treat the hypocrisy as incidental. Like Teddy Kennedy’s attack on Robert Bork, the Ivanka hate is being cultivated very carefully by activists who are attempting to block her father at every turn. The line of thinking is really quite simple: Ivanka is beautiful, personable, and aligns with feminists on a lot of issues–and that makes her a threat. If people who are left-of-center were allowed to like her, they might dislike her father less. After all, if he raised a daughter like Ivanka, he couldn’t be all bad, could he?
The hardcore left can’t have that, obviously, because the abject hate is the one thing that keeps the whole house of cards from tumbling down. If wounding Ivanka–or her husband, or even her kids–keeps it propped up, the left is fully prepared to do just that. That’s why arguments about hypocrisy won’t change a thing: these people know full well they’re hypocrites, they just don’t care. To them, politics is war. And in war, there are casualties.
But, like Teddy said, it’s nothing personal.