On Nov. 19, journalists at the Washington Post reported that Ivanka Trump (daughter and close advisor of President Donald Trump) had used a personal email account to send several hundred government-related emails.
Anyone who followed the 2016 presidential election can see the irony here. Ivanka Trump, arguably one of the closest individuals to the president, did nearly the same thing as Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, whose actions were the subject of large-scale vilification by the media and the Trump campaign.
It’s a twist worthy of a reality show. And as any reality TV fan knows, a twist prompts immediate uproar. In the case of the Ivanka Trump email scandal, politicians and social activists on the left of the aisle should avoid feeding the flames.
It’s tempting of course, and perhaps it’s even deserved. But if liberal and progressive-minded people want to cultivate their image as tolerant and just, they should avoid bashing Ivanka at all costs.
There’s a problem with this, of course. Taking the high road often doesn’t get you far when the people on the other side don’t recognize you for it. The alternative, however, is taking the low road.
If an attempt is made to share the low road with the right, it’s almost certain they will demonize the left for it. While doing good doesn’t necessarily get you far in the eyes of your opponents, taking the route of shaming and mocking only gives the right legitimacy in their attacks on the left.
It’s important to clarify the logistics of what exactly Ivanka did. Essentially, she sent emails to members of the cabinet and various aides from a personal account. Her husband, Jared Kushner, did something similar over a year ago. Ivanka apparently told her aides she was unaware of the federal records rules that bar the sending of emails via a personal email account or a private server — which is what Hillary Clinton used to send over 30,000 government related emails during her run as Secretary of State.
Ivanka’s excuse is a lie, considering the level of publicity her father gave to his opponent during the 2016 election. And if it wasn’t a lie, I would consider it a problem that an advisor to the most powerful man in the country was unaware of the rule.
But this article isn’t about whether Ivanka was aware of the rules. This article is about how we approach her breaking them.
Immediately after Ivanka’s email troubles were exposed, she received harsh criticism. Several Democratic lawmakers seized on the scandal to attack Ivanka. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., tweeted a story about Ivanka Trump’s email and commented, “Karma has a sense of humor.”
Obviously, Ivanka is worthy of some of the criticism, and a sense of humor is often necessary to cope with our political climate. But this criticism and humor become a problem once they equate to the level of extreme derision displayed by the President and his supporters before and after the 2016 election toward Clinton.
I’m referring to the calls for Clinton’s imprisonment. For the informed, the phrase that comes to mind is “Lock her up!” This phrase has been echoed at countless Trump rallies and continues to be a popular chant today.
It was also referenced by Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio. “Cue the chant?” Beatty tweeted after the news broke. That’s a bad idea. When we call for the incarceration of people without the full story and without a fair trial, we’re doing the same thing the President did.
In an interview with ABC news, Ivanka claimed there was no equivalency between what she did and what Clinton did. She then claimed that “lock her up” didn’t apply to her because of that apparent lack of equivalency. Technically, she’s right. Clinton used a private server, while Ivanka used a personal email address.
But to be honest, there is a degree of equivalency present. Both Clinton and Ivanka displayed a level of ignorance that is concerning for high-profile government employees. Yet, “lock her up” doesn’t apply to either of them — at least not yet. When we make snap judgments and make fun of people, we’re betraying democracy and the ideals of progressivism. After all — when they go low, we go high.
Eamon Morris PZ ’22 is from Orange, CA. He is more coffee than human.
Eamon Morris PZ ’22 is from Orange, California. He’s one of TSL’s opinions editors.