Ivanka was always the natural heir: The tall, blonde favorite child of Donald Trump, the poised foil to her father’s more brusque nature. She had the bullshit White House position, her husband became a close advisor of her father’s, and her long career as a camera ready socialite already provided an adoring audience. But the truth about Trumpworld is that it doesn’t give a shit about poise, simpering smiles, or making nice with world leaders. They want rage. They want rebellion. They want shitposts.
Ivanka couldn’t provide that, but her older brother, Donald Trump Jr, was built for drama.
Donald Trump Jr’s political ascent has been evident to anyone paying attention. In just a few years time, Don Jr went from the chinless eldest Trump promoting dad’s brand to a juggernaut of influence on the right. While Ivanka played diplomat, Don Jr was making the rounds in the right-wing speaking tour circuit, joining the likes of Charlie Kirk and the Turning Point crew, giving campaign speeches for small-time Congressional hopefuls, and frequently appearing on Fox News to bemoan the left, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and whatever other alarmist content conservatives were feeding off that week. While Ivanka was tittering and feigning expertise in designer dresses and pant suits, Don Jr was riling up campaign crowds in ugly sneakers, flannel, and camo. He even wrote two books during his father’s time in office, both of which lament so-called cancel culture, demean Democrats, and—most importantly—boldly stand by his father’s regressive vision for America.
And for those who couldn’t catch him on the trail or didn’t care to read his books, there was always his Twitter and Instagram accounts, the latter of which largely acts as a receptacle for right-wing memes, paranoid ramblings about tech censorship, fishing trips, and the occasional photo of his children playing in the pool or firing machine guns.
In 2019, The Atlantic ran a lengthy deep dive of the Trump kids, notably the “cold war” that was brewing between Ivanka and Don Jr. Although Don Jr grew in popularity among influential figures on the right, President Trump was still wedded to the idea of Ivanka—gentle, well spoken Ivanka—becoming his legacy:
None of this newfound excitement about Don seemed to rub off on the president, however. People close to Trump told me he remained enchanted by the idea of Ivanka as the inheritor of his political legacy. During trips to Mar-a-Lago, he was often heard rhapsodizing about her potential to be the first female president. Don’s political prospects, if they came up at all, were treated as an afterthought.
But old dreams die hard, and even Trump couldn’t deny the reality that was before him: Ivanka might have looked good on paper, but Don Jr was the one who carried the flag of Trumpism best. The Atlantic piece noted that Republican tastemakers all prefered Don to his sister, and one Senator even credited Don Jr for helping the party maintain their Senate majority. Trump was impressed.
While his sister is considered a pariah among her old acquaintances in New York and is granted only lukewarm reception among the Republican base she spent years cozying up to, Don Jr’s path ahead feels more promising. He has the clout from a loyal audience of extremists, and with his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle by his side, the two are light right-wing royalty. Don Jr has even helped launch a lifestyle brand called Field Ethos Journal, which can be summed up as “hunting and drinking but give it Aesthetic™.” So despite his father’s election loss, the path ahead of Don Jr as an influential force for the Republican party and the American right has never looked brighter. And while he’s coy about running for office in the future, it certainly can’t be ruled out.
So as the Trump era comes to a close, Don Jr’s legacy is more sinister than simply “rich blowhard granted platform thanks to daddy.” This isn’t a man who shouts into the void, he preaches to his millions of followers, people who are ready to take the Trump doctrine to any and all lengths. If the last four years have taught us anything, it’s to take even the biggest fools seriously.
During his father’s last weekend as president, Don Jr posted a photo of himself walking around the White House grounds, with a look of solemn determination.
“Looking to the future and excited to see what it holds,” the caption read.