We might as well start with Ivanka, as we plumb the present and future of Trumpism, the Trump Cabinet, the Trump family, the Trump brand.
Because — Ivanka. The most personable, palatable, fashionable, Trump-lite member of the future first family. The most inscrutable, yet most weirdly relatable. Some people think she'll be the real first lady, with her telegenic personality and her copacetic pet causes, and her lifestyle website, already dedicated to being a gracious host and professional woman.
Last week, her father formally named her to his transition team; early this week, rumors swirled — which Donald Trump later denied — that the president-elect had requested top-secret security clearance for Ivanka and her brothers. On Monday evening, CNN's Dana Bash went on air and read out loud an incredulous text message from a friend: "What clandestine operation is Ivanka going to run?"
All the operations, Dana. We can't shake the feeling that Ivanka is the key to this all.
What is going on here? is a question everyone is asking about everything happening at every moment in Washington right now, and possibly until the end of time. On Tuesday, major news outlets reported that the transition team was a mess; on Wednesday, Donald Trump tweeted that the transition "is going so smoothly," and we are reduced to scouring Ivanka Trump's Instagram feed to figure out the future of the country.
Here is a video of Ivanka's daughter singing a song about pineapples, posted at the same time that a former national security official warned the world to "stay away" from the "arrogant, screaming" transition team.
Here is Ivanka, 35, in a Snapchat-filtered floral headdress.
Here is a current article on her pastel, aspirational lifestyle website, headlined "5 tips for mixing work and family." (Family dinner agenda: appoint new attorney general; secretary of state?)
The mystery of Ivanka is that she always does seem to be running some kind of clandestine mission — blowing some kind of dog whistle or bleating some kind of Morse code, or becoming the attractive vessel into which both parties poured their own hopes and dreams.
"Like many of my fellow millennials, I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat," she said while introducing her father at the Republican National Convention in July. "More than party affiliation, I vote based on what I believe is right, for my family and for my country."
Could Ivanka be reasoned with? wondered the commenters who viewed her father as too unpredictable and were seeking reassurance. Was Ivanka the one secretly running the whole show?
When there are no answers, it's easier to ask questions and adapt wild conspiracy theories as the answers.
"Are Ivanka and Jared Kushner concocting a House of Cards-style game of their own?" Vanity Fair asked this week, in an article about the hypothetical machinations of Ivanka and her husband. They were, the essay argued, "positioned to become the de facto first couple." Ivanka was the one who stayed focused. She was the one who had a politician's poise, and she held her highest cards close to her vest.
What do we make of her? What is her endgame, when she insists that she is not a political person, while advocating for politically divisive causes, like equal wages for women and paid maternity leave? When, while working on the transition team for the highest office in the land, she is simultaneously posting videos online of her with her officemates, goofing around, doing the mannequin challenge?
Ivanka: is the fairest of them all, but she also seems like the steeliest, the kind of person who might bring a stiletto to a knife fight.
Ivanka: poised to fight for child care reform, amid her own online pregnancy photos that revealed she was one of those women who looked as though she tucked a soccer ball down her Size 2 dress and emerged nine months later with a baby.
Ivanka: in those other photos where — and we realize that cameras are always catching things at weird angles and odd moments — but those photos where the president-elect always seems to be patting around his daughter's butt. "She does have a very nice figure," Trump once said of his daughter. "I've said that if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps, I would be dating her."
Oh, Ivanka. Oh God, Ivanka.
Speak to us. We are listening.
This entire election has been about large portions of the electorate puzzling over whether their candidate really intended to do the things he said he was going to do, trying to read the election's burned entrails for the future of the country. The country needs someone who is an expert in shadowy operations, who can report back from the inside what is really going on.
The country needs Ivanka. We've got to figure out Ivanka.