Kimberly Guilfoyle, national chairwoman of the Trump Victory Finance Committee and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., delivered the most memorable speech of night one of the Republican National Convention, one calculated to connect with her devoted fanbase of white working- and middle-class women. Notably, she did a lot of high-octane yelling, laying out the apocalyptic vision of America that lies in wait if Joe Biden and the Democratic Party take over in November.
“Biden, Harris, and the rest of the socialists will fundamentally change this nation,” Guilfoyle warned. “They want open borders, closed schools, dangerous amnesty, and will selfishly send your jobs back to China while they get rich. They will defund, dismantle, and destroy America’s law enforcement. When you are in trouble and need police, don’t count on the Democrats.”
Guilfoyle’s barn-burning delivery is precisely what livens up Trump’s base. They revel in fear. Fear galvanizes their organizing, fear strengthens their messaging, and fear takes them to the polls in November. It’s why fear permeated so many of the speeches on Monday night: Charlie Kirk calling Trump the “bodyguard” of western civilization, Parkland father Andrew Pollack blaming the restorative justice program—aimed towards a program for underprivileged children, overseen by Black Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie—for his daughter’s untimely death and accusing Biden of adopting such policies, the St. Louis couple famous for brandishing their guns at Black Lives Matter protesters warning of low-income plebs ruining suburbia (from the inside of their mansion), and Donald Trump Jr describing an America overrun with violence and lacking God.
But Guilfoyle—a CPAC favorite—was best able to compound these fears in an effective, exuberant package. She shouted, she raised her hands skywards, she glared at the camera.
“Do you think America is to blame?” Guilfoyle asked. “Or, do you believe in American greatness? Believe in yourself? In President Trump? In individual and personal responsibility?”
She continued: “They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live. They want to enslave you to the weak, dependent, liberal victim ideology to the point that you will not recognize this country or yourself!”
This speech could never spill from the lips of prim and proper Ivanka Trump, whose fealty to her father rarely accompanies chauvinistic ire. Not even Lara Trump, wife of Eric Trump and often the most caustic of the Trump women, could pull off such a stunt. And nor would they be inclined to. While they may dabble, their WASP sensibilities override them every time.
But Guilfoyle—who was allegedly fired from her Fox News gig in 2018 for emotionally abusing hair and makeup staff, and accusations of sexual misconduct such as sharing photos of men’s genitals—can get away with it. She lacks the silver spoon, boarding-school spirit, and abject blonde whiteness of the Trump women. Instead, she happily embraces this scrappy, movie-stereotype “fiery Latina” schtick—she identified herself as a Latina and mentioned her Puerto Rican mother toward the beginning of her speech, and ended it with her hands raised to the sky, Evita-style. So she can yell, and pant, and flare her nostrils while painting a bleak vision of American streets littered with heroin needles, perverted by human traffickers, and turned to rubble by rioters. Guilfoyle is a vehicle for white American women’s rage in a way that Ivanka, Lara, and God knows Karen Pence could never be, and she grants permission to other women Trump supporters to unleash their paranoia and the racism, xenophobia, and classism that fuels it. Why make a scene when Kimberly can say what these white women really feel in a beautiful, slightly spray-tanned package? And when she’s not saying what these white women are too apprehensive to say in public (or on Facebook), she’s encouraging them to self-actualize, to harness their inner power, to be a strong woman just like she is.
It’s like the inspirational jargon of a multi-level marketing scheme, but instead of selling leggings, she’s selling a crypto-fascist fantasy.
Part of her appeal to these working- and middle-class women is her relationship: Guilfoyle and Don Jr have never been a more fitting couple, the anti-Ivanka and Jared Kushner: off-the-cuff relatability versus manicured perfection. As McKay Coppins noted in “The Heir,” a deep dive for The Atlantic into the fight for the successor of the Trump dynasty, “Where [Ivanka] whispered, [Don] shouted; where she was careful, he was reckless.” This has paid off. Ivanka was the golden child and Don Jr was a bit of a black sheep, and he actively engaged in behavior that was contrary to what was expected of him as the heir apparent of Upper East Side royalty. But his early embrace of hunting, camo, guns, and “real America” made him an easy ally for the Trump base when his father’s presidential campaign went into high gear. What were once faux pas became an asset: Don Jr is now a star of the stump speeches, able to electrify a crowd of wealthy Republican donors, rural voters, and right-wing college students. And Guilfoyle is right there at his side, co-hosting Trumpland talk show The Right View and leading Women For Trump virtual campaign rallies. The couple resonates with the Trump base in a way that stiff and demure Ivanka and Kushner never could.
From The Atlantic:
...among rank-and-file right-wingers “Donberly”—as the couple nicknamed themselves—was a hit. Appearing side by side at Republican rallies, they bantered about each other’s pet names—she was “Pooh Bear,” he was “Junior Mint”—and railed against Democrats. They went on hunting trips and posted selfies with rifles on social media. Fans on Twitter began referring to Guilfoyle as the “future first lady,” and she made little effort to tamp down the speculation.
By November 2018, Don had appeared at more than 70 campaign events across 17 states—and powerful Republicans were abuzz. [...] Notably, many of these Republicans seemed less enthusiastic about his sister. Cramer, for example, spent 15 minutes in a phone interview gushing to me about Don’s “accessibility” and “irreverence” and gift for “connecting” with voters. But when I asked him about Ivanka, he paused. “She’s a little bit harder to get,” he replied, politely.
Suburban white women are the main focus of both Democrats and Republicans this election cycle. While Guilfoyle’s speech did more to energize viewers who are already firmly on the Trump train, it’s likely she piqued the interest of some fence-sitters. Yes, many were turned off by the shouting, but Guilfoyle gave a compelling case for scared white women to protect the homestead, to be independent thinkers, to not be bullied by the confusing rules of so-called cancel culture. For some, Guilfoyle’s speech was like an empowerment seminar they didn’t know they needed.
It’s easy to laugh at Guilfoyle’s speech. Accepting that this was a well-delivered clarion call is harder.