Over the past couple of weeks, the Trump administration has been likened to everything from Survivor to the French Revolution. The West Wing has proven to be equal parts battleground and theater, with the public executions of Anthony Scaramucci, Reince Priebus, et al., as performative as their show trials on the Sunday-morning shows. Yet for all of the progressive blathering that Trump is the worst thing to happen to women since kitchens and sandwiches, as Annie Karni at Politico notes, Trump’s female staffers and advisers have fared far better than the men.
Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway, and Omarosa Manigault have all maintained not only stability, Karni observes, but also the president’s favor. Dina Powell was on the shortlist to be promoted to chief of staff, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders actually has been promoted to press secretary, the first mom to ever achieve that position. While Donald Trump Jr. has failed miserably to explain his dealings with the Russian government, Ivanka has mostly avoided controversy.
“This administration is like the French Revolution,” said onetime Trump adviser Roger Stone. “You never know who will be beheaded next.”
Well, if I were a betting man, I would say that the next head to roll will not be attached to a woman. And that’s not necessarily, as Karni implies, because the women in the White House have been sidelined and thus inoculated against controversy. Indeed, Hope Hicks has accompanied the president to nearly every explosive sit-down he has had with print media. But rather than bask in her 15 minutes of fame, Hicks has kept Trump’s ear and respect by acting as the gatekeeper between Trump and the media. She is the sole coordinator of Trump’s interviews, the only adviser who can get him to give his messages to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman instead of to Twitter.
None of this should come as a surprise. Trumpism’s intellectual basis is a combination of paleoconservative protectionism and a European-style nationalism that refocuses the culture wars on targeting radical Islam instead of perceived hedonism. These ideas first trickled into mainstream discourse on fringe blogs, then through Breitbart, and are now discussed daily across cable-news panels.
Trumpism also introduced a culture as reactionary as its politics. After eight years of aggressive third-wave-feminist virtue signaling, the White House has adopted the mien of the alt-right. If third-wave feminism unnaturally denies masculinity, then the alt-right reaction perverts it into a performative, combative contest nearly as hostile as misandrist feminism itself. The result has been an “alpha” culture that has effectively guaranteed chaos with a new plot line of palace intrigue emerging every week. Trump’s doling out schoolyard insults on the record isn’t vulgar; it’s “based” (read: the alt-right version of “woke”). Sean Spicer’s insulting Jim Acosta isn’t pathetic; it’s “alpha.” Half of the reason that Trump became bored with Priebus — definitely a beta — was that Priebus took attacks lying down and refused to get in the gutter. Presented with a prisoner’s dilemma, the White House men are channeling the alt-right’s archetype of masculinity, knifing each other in public and undermining the White House, all while Trump applauds. In Trump’s White House, it is men who are tending toward resentful, impulsive, overly emotional outbursts, while the women play the long game. For now, at least, the women have the upper hand.
— Tiana Lowe is an editorial intern at National Review.