And they, too, came gunning for democracy — crawling over shattered glass and demolished woodwork in the U.S. Capitol while a co-ed chorus chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” and “Stop the steal!”
The mob was dominated by men, but the ladies were all over this mayhem, from the start to the present, from Congress to the White House and out in the hinterland. And the first lady, the most prominent of all, has been doing as she has always done. She has proved herself to be one with the president’s worst nature and his darkest impulses.
On the day of this national tragedy, she was absent when the country needed her most. She never called for peace. She did not simply say that the election was fairly decided. She was silent while smoke was in the air. She was silent for days as the depths of the horror mounted.
And in the aftermath, when Melania Trump finally uttered a peep, she made the unloading of her personal grievances about a former friend and aide a priority.
“I find it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks, and false misleading accusations on me — from people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda. This time is solely about healing our country and its citizens. It should not be used for personal gain,” she said in a statement that was, in large part, for her personal gain.
The most memorable image of Melania Trump in these past few months is not one of her cast in the warm light of a visit to Children’s National Hospital during the holiday season or delivering donations to Toys for Tots. It was the sight of her standing alongside her husband on election night in November, when the lies about who won and who lost began to take this dark and deadly turn.
She walked into the party at the White House wearing her signature stilettos along with a black suit and white blouse. It was her business look. And she was engaged in the business of claiming four more years in the White House, no matter the cost.
She didn’t say anything that night, but she didn’t have to. She had campaigned for her husband. She’d heard his petty insults, his request to the radical Proud Boys to “stand by,” his tepid ability to rebuke white nationalists and his attacks on racial justice demonstrations. And every time she promised a crowd that her husband was working for them to make America great, it was clear the kind of America he envisioned.
Democracy is ablaze. Melania Trump helped set the kindling and threw her own matches onto the pile. All the while, supporters were calling her beautiful and classy and delighting in the fact that she was once a model. Because she embodied their ideal of a woman, they declared her good and kind.
In the meantime, critics of the president just couldn’t stop themselves from indulging in Internet memes and GIFs — from a hand swat to a scowl — that suggested she was somehow an unwilling participant in his disregard for truth and facts or someone who was holding her nose while doing the dirty work that kept a fancy roof over her head.
Both sides were influenced by the packaging, reluctant to believe that the former model and the pudgy politician could have the same moral compass.
Women have been out there rioting and terrorizing; and they were using stilettos, false eyelashes, a professional blowout and their fair skin as camouflage. The right kind of pretty can sometimes be as protective as a flak jacket.
Amid the siege, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump called the rioters “American patriots” on social media as she asked them to desist, until it became impossible to deny the pall it might cast on her brand. She deleted her tweet. But still, lawmakers, hiding from harm in their secret location, were telephoning the president’s fair-haired daughter with the breathy voice to persuade her father to quell the violence when she had been coaxing it along.
One of the lead rabble-rousers onstage during the president’s pre-riot rally on the Ellipse was Kimberly Guilfoyle. After yelling a good morning to the crowd, the former Fox News host and current girlfriend of the president’s eldest son continued to preach the lie of a fraudulent election.
“Here’s the best news: Look at all of you out here, God-loving, freedom-loving patriots that will not let them steal this election,” she shouted. “We will continue to hold the line across this incredible country because we finally have a president in the White House that knows what it means to put America first.”
Guilfoyle stood there on that cold, sad day with the glittery-green glint of her sleeves shining brightly just below the hem of her black cape, exhorting the crowd to defend an election that had long been lost. She paced onstage, and the louder she yelled the raspier her voice became in her grand performance of outrage. She paused just behind a lectern adorned with a placard printed with “Save America.” And indeed, in a few hours the country would need rescuing from the fires that Guilfoyle was helping to stoke.
Lara Trump was onstage, too, serving up grievance and then asking the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to her husband Eric, as if they were all just one jubilant gathering of liars and conspiracy theorists, anti-maskers and election deniers.
“This fight has only just begun,” she said. “We’re in this fight until the bitter end. We’re going to take our country back.” But all one really wanted to do was remind all of those folks they’ve already gotten hold of a good chunk of the country. Is this really what they wanted to do with it?
After the raid on the Capitol, lawmakers returned to the business of the day, which was to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. The hapless attempt to interfere with this formality was what had lured the angry masses to Washington, and while some Republicans who had planned to protest the certification were chastened after the attack on democracy, others were unmoved.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), one of the president’s most devoted defenders, argued vociferously against letting the will of the voters stand, even after she and her colleagues had been forced to hide from fellow Americans stirred up, in part, by the very outlandish doubt she was intent on memorializing for history.
The storming of the U.S. Capitol was dominated by men. And in all those videos and photographs from the scene of the crime, it is mostly men who are wielding weapons and shimmying up walls and hauling out pieces of furniture.
But the women are there in all the ways that matter. We’ve just been stubbornly refusing to see them.