Trumpstagram is Slate’s pop-up blog that close-reads Instagram accounts in the Trump orbit.
In the winner-take-all, sorry-losers-and-haters context of Trumpworld, Lara Trump’s star is on the rise. After earning respect for her work promoting the family during the 2016 presidential campaign, the wife of Eric Trump and former television producer was named to President Trump’s re-election campaign and now represents him with increasing frequency on cable news. She’s also been webcasting weekly for almost a year now, debuting her Real News Update on the president’s Facebook page last summer. And like many rising stars, Trump curates an Instagram feed, @LaraLeaTrump, ostensibly aimed at giving fans a peek into her world.
Lara’s world, it turns out, is an exceptionally boring place. It’s a never-ending parade of dogs, baby pictures, and political photo-ops whose only distinction is their utter indistinguishability from one another. Each day is like a scoop of vanilla ice cream photographed from an ever-so-slightly different angle. Not everyone is good at making her personality come across online, but one gets the eerie sense that Lara Trump doesn’t have a personality at all, and instead hopes that her cute puppies and her very cute baby will make up for it.
Despite this, Lara Trump’s Instagram shows that she is unusually technically savvy for the Trump administration. You’ll find little evidence of awkward hashtagging here, and in the language of emojis, she is not merely competent but a master. In fact, the deft way in which Trump deploys emojis is enough to cure you of the notion that there’s anything inherently cute or charming about picture-based speak. She uses emojis the way people I know do, which is maybe what makes it so jarring. In Trump’s hands, a peace-sign emoji feels familiar and also confusing: What does peace mean to the woman who supports her father-in-law’s aggressive foreign policy agenda? But there it is on her feed, because she knows it’s the right emoji to use, alongside the smiley face in shades, to caption a photo of her infant son and her, both in sunglasses. She also knows that the twin dancing girls with bunny ears is the correct emoji for when you’re posting a photo of yourself and a gal pal, dressed up for the night, and the peach means butt, which she is sure to use when she’s working on her glutes. Her emojis feel studied, like she’s a pod person who’s been passing herself off as a regular, non-Trump-affiliated 35-year-old mother, absorbing the signifiers but none of the signified. It would be impressive if it weren’t so chilling.
But back to the boring thing: Most people have at least something about themselves that sets them apart, that’s quirky or unique to them, whether it’s a food they like or a hobby or a certain sense of humor, something. Trump’s interests seem to begin and end with dogs and her baby. Well, to be fair, I guess she also likes horses and sunsets … and working out … and, um, emojis … wait, almost everyone likes these extremely bland things. Her feed is further anonymized by her habit of re-gramming photos from elsewhere, either of dogs or news (loosely defined) she wants to share that’s in line with her overly simplistic politics, like some Fox News footage or a propaganda-esque photo from the New York Police Department.
And this gets us to the heart of the matter. The truth is, we all know what Lara Trump’s special thing is: It’s that she supports her father-in-law, the president. Even if she were the most fascinating person in the world with the most sparkling wit, it would be hard for many of us to look past that. But as is, she gives us nothing redeeming to find in her to help us even begin to consider excusing the terrifying policies she’s helping prop up. And she fiercely supports Donald Trump, even as she is often careful to say nothing of substance about why—as a recent caption goes, “A big ‘thank you’ to everyone who came to Wilmington from across North Carolina last night to support the #NCGOP!! It was so fun meeting everyone and speaking with you about our President! 🇺🇸.” But once you’ve seen her speak on Fox News or rock her MAGA hat, everything is filtered through that lens.
Case in point: Lara Trump has a soft spot for dogs, as we know. She often reposts photos of dogs who have been lost or are in need of foster homes. She’ll alert her followers of a missing Chihuahua named Norman (“Come home little guy, your humans miss you!”) or an opportunity to rescue Dolly, a stray found in Queens. (“Despite whatever she’s been through, this sweet girl seems to be a gem.”) Sweet, right? Actually, it’s pretty disgusting when you realize that she meanwhile posted not a single word about the children who were separated from their parents at the border as a direct result of her father-in-law’s policies. What about those sweet girls and boys, whose parents surely missed them?
Trump’s relentless reinforcing of herself as a nurturer (of animals, of children) comes across as particularly hollow considering all of the people whom she isn’t speaking up for, from the children at the border to the many women who heard their president brag about sexual assault and felt disturbed by it. Consciously or not, Lara Trump starts each post from the position of a woman defending Donald Trump—and that’s a tough corner to fight from. Perhaps that’s why she keeps things simple—she really can’t get too deep into the details, because the details look bad. Anyone with doubts about her father-in-law’s presidency is not going to be won over by Lara’s heartfelt dog-rescue ’grams.
For her supporters, though, it seems to be working. With her family loyalty, blond hair, slim figure, and lack of interests of her own, Lara Trump is the avatar of what the GOP and especially Trumpworld want in a woman. Brains, opinions, and a sense of humor are all optional, maybe even discouraged. On the Instagram account where she is assembling a digital representation of herself, Lara Trump might just be canny enough to know that extreme banality, as mind-numbing as it may be to Trump haters, is exactly what her supporters want from her.
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