If I Were Melania Trump – By Efe Remawa

Generally, it is expected that the First Lady and the President maintain a united front no matter the status of the marriage.

President Donald Trump of the United States and his wife, Melania / Photo credit: CNN
President Donald Trump of the United States and his wife, Melania / Photo credit: CNN

Except if you have been living under a rock, it is no longer news that President Donald Trump lost the United States 2020 presidential election to former Vice President Joe Biden.

It is also no longer news that Trump has refused to accept defeat, claiming fraud. That reminds you of what some African politicians do, once they lose an election.

Lawsuits were quickly filed in some states challenging the election result.

Most of these cases have been thrown out for lack of evidence.

The US state of Georgia has completed the second recount of almost five million ballots manually and is being pressed for a third recount; yet no significant fraud has been found.

No doubt, after any election, those on the winning side celebrate, while those on the losing side lick their wounds.

While this is not the case in many African countries, we have come to accept concession after defeat as the American way.

The uppermost reason for conceding and moving on is the peaceful transfer of power.

Since Trump was sworn-in as President four years ago, it has been one big reality show.

Some would say Americans got what they voted for by electing a TV reality show celebrity as President.

Often, after pondering his antics or some ludicrous tweet or offensive statement, I think about those closest to him, particularly his wife and children.

How do they cope? Are they angry, embarrassed or are they just like him? While we may never know, I guess like many other families, you learn to live with each other’s flaws.

CNN reported that Melania Trump and son-in -law/adviser to President Trump, Jared Kushner were urging him to accept the election result. Subsequently,

Melania made the following statement on twitter: “The American people deserve fair elections. Every legal-not illegal-vote should be counted.

We must protect our democracy with complete transparency”.

I was not surprised to see that statement.

Afterall, she was standing by her husband. What should a woman in Melania’s place do when her husband refuses to be gracious in defeat?

Have any precedents been set by previous first ladies in similar situations? What would I do if I were Melania?

News sources reported that Melania had not yet reached out to Dr. Jill Biden as is part of the custom for a transition.

This reaching out usually involves the current first lady inviting the incoming one for tea in the East Wing of the White House.

Since Trump has refused to concede, would it be realistic to expect this?

The First Lady of the United States plays a ceremonial role at the side of the President. She holds no constitutional power.

However, like her counterparts in other countries, she can be highly influential.

This ceremonial role makes her many things: a hostess, diplomat, trophy-wife, formal or informal advisor to the President etc.

She boosts the Presidents public image and is expected to work in sync with the President and support his work and his administration’s position on policy.

First ladies have used their platforms to support and draw attention knowingly and unknowingly to issues close to their hearts.

Eleanor Roosevelt was highly involved in public policy issues. Jacqueline Kennedy was regarded was one of the greatest fashion icons.

Grace Mugabe was a politician and helped her husband to cling to power for many years and Michelle Obama has been called one of the most influential members of the Democratic Party.

In wielding such influence, some first ladies have been accused of “overstepping their boundaries” because they are not elected by the people.

Former First Lady and Secretary of State of the United States, Hillary Clinton, comes to mind. Some also face criticism for not doing enough.

Generally, it is expected that the First Lady and the President maintain a united front no matter the status of the marriage.

There have been many speculations about the real status of the Trumps’ marriage.

It is common for people to speculate on the marriages of public figures, colleagues, family members and even “the couple next door”.

Melania’s twitter statement suggests that she is in agreement with Trump’s refusal to concede defeat.

Simone Gbagbo of Ivory Coast kept a united front and stood beside her husband when he refused to concede defeat.

Betty Ford, former first lady of the United States was quoted to have said, “I do not believe that being First Lady should prevent me from expressing my views.

I spoke out on this important issue, because of my deep personal convictions.

Why should my husband’s job or not prevent us from being ourselves?

Being ladylike does not require silence”. Betty Ford was said to have differed with her husband on policy issues. She also did not shy away from expressing her opinions on sensitive issues.

In an October 2016 BBC interview, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, wife of Nigerian President Muhammed Buhari criticised her husband and expressed doubt to support his bid if he sought re-election. Her statements were shocking to many for criticising her husband publicly.

For many, she showed that she had an opinion and was bold enough to voice it. President Buhari’s reaction was to suggest that she had overstepped her boundaries.

So, if I were Melania, I would have two choices.

I would appeal to the President’s sense of reason and try to make him understand the consequences that his refusal to concede would have on his legacy.

If he persists, then I would decide that since I have no constitutional power, I should dutifully stand by him and maintain a united front like most first ladies have done and continue to do.

However, my decision to maintain a united front does not mean I agree with his views. It means I am respecting his space and right to do his job as he sees best. Also, couples may not always agree on issues, but do not have to publicly criticise each other.

The other option would be to voice my opinion if asked against the refusal to concede because I would like to be remembered for “speaking my truth”.

History will remember the likes of Betty Ford and Aisha Buhari for their boldness. That will be part of their legacy.

Besides, what’s the point in having all the influence if it cannot be used in the best interest of the country?

Also, no one could accuse me of breaking any laws for expressing my view because of my right to free speech like any other citizen of my country.

To expect me to be silent would be depriving me of my rights.

The decision to maintain the united front could be interpreted by some people as the first lady “not doing enough”.

However, we should ask ourselves; how many of us are expected to comment or critic our spouse’s performance in his/her workplace?

We know that’s not the case.

So, is it reasonable to expect this of the First Lady? Even when a couple disagrees on an issue is it reasonable to expect one spouse to criticise the other publicly?

As a realist however, I would have to take into consideration the consequences of either decision.

At worst, if Melania keeps a united front she would be accused of not doing enough.

However, if she disagreed with her husband openly there is the risk of ending up with a troubled or failed marriage and dealing with the public backlash and loss of political influence for both myself and the President.

Many were of the view that Betty Ford’s outspokenness on sensitive issues contributed to President Ford’s failure to be reelected.

Written by Guest Writer