- Melania Trump is making a name for herself as an “independent” first lady.
- President Trump’s base has celebrated Melania because she breaks from her husband’s aggressive rhetoric and sloppy fashion choices.
- The president’s bombastic behaviour means that Melania needs to be independent if she wants to keep the polished sheen many expect from a first lady.
Melania Trump is breaking the first lady mould by breaking away from her husband — and it is exactly what the president’s supporters want.
“The East Wing definitely has some independence, but not this kind of independence,” an Obama White House official recently told CNN of the Trumps’ differing philosophies. “It hasn’t before been as though there’s a completely different view of the world from one side than the other.”
President Donald Trump became famous in large part due to his love of the spotlight; Melania, on the other hand, is seldom interviewed and still rarely speaks in public.
Donald Trump is known for his often-inflammatory rhetoric; most of Melania’s first lady initiatives have been quiet solo trips to address bullying and the opiod crisis.
The president loves fast food; Melania eats seven piece of fruit a day.
The first lady’s independence from her husband is clear to anyone paying attention to their fashion choices. While Donald Trump has been frequently critiqued for his fashion decisions, such as using Scotch tape to hold his tie in place, Melania Trump is a former model with a closet stuffed with designer clothing.
“Mrs. Trump is independent and acts independently from her husband,” Melania Trump’s communications director Stephanie Grisham told CNN after launching her anti-bullying campaign, which many saw as ironic considering Donald Trump’s behaviour.
In theory, a first lady who operates independently from the president would seem likely to be unpopular among the leader’s biggest supporters. However, Melania is beloved by Trump’s base and beyond. According to a CNN poll, the first lady has a 48% approval rating, which is high compared to the president’s 38%.
A closer examination of Melania’s actions — especially how she presents herself in public — reveals why the public’s support actually makes sense.
While Donald Trump may be rewarded for “telling it like it is,” female political spouses who exhibit less-than-polished behaviour don’t receive the same applause — especially from the right.
Michelle Obama was fiercely attacked by conservatives for her casual fashion choices, receiving backlash when she wore shorts on Air Force One. While campaigning, President Trump retweeted an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz, the wife of opponent Ted Cruz, with the caption “the images are worth a thousand words.”
Donald Trump’s supporters don’t want him to be married to a woman who looks, dresses, or acts like him — they want someone who is better-looking and better-dressed, and who takes a very different approach to how she presents herself.
Basically, it’s the case of the stereotypical sitcom husband and wife. A schlubby-looking man is able to marry a beautiful woman, and no one bats an eye.
Throughout his campaign, Trump portrayed himself as a man of the people — the sitcom husband. Melania is the beautiful, polished sitcom wife.
It also helps that the areas where Melania is “independent” from the president essentially just require her to be less aggressive, more apolitical, and more put-together.
For comparison, Republicans’ perception of Ivanka Trump has dropped as the first daughter has been increasingly seen as a moderating force who makes an active effort to push forward certain policies. Ivanka’s independence at times opposes her father’s base; Melania’s just makes him look even better.
Donald Trump’s bombastic behaviour means that his wife needs to be somewhat removed from his politics if she wants to keep the polished sheen of a first lady that his supporters demand. Melania Trump has managed to toe the line between independence and subservience — and it’s made her the most popular Trump in the White House.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.
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