Ivanka Trump at a 2020 meeting about child care policy
Credit: Michael Vadon/Flickr

One of the things that has always fascinated me about politics is the way that myths are developed about public figures and persist, regardless of the person’s actual behavior. For example, Dick Cheney was cast as the serious, experienced politician in comparison to George W. Bush. That myth allowed him to shamelessly lie about WMD’s in Iraq and then recklessly invade that country based on the lies.

The myth that developed about Donald Trump was that he was a “populist” who would fight the globalists and champion the cause of America’s working class voters. It wasn’t just Trump supporters who bought into that myth. Most journalists and pundits did as well. But here’s a guy who didn’t.

By contrast, the myth that developed about Obama was that he was an elitist who didn’t care about the working class. Back in 2012, Rick Santorum called Obama a “snob” for suggesting that everyone should go to college. But here’s the kind of thing the former president actually said.

Tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.

That is precisely why the Obama administration did things like institute the Trade Adjustment Assistance and Community College and Career Training competitive grant program. But for a lot of people, the push towards retraining American workers in the kinds of competitive fields that create the jobs of the future was just another example of his elitism. He was looking down his nose at working class folks and telling them what they should be doing.

What’s fascinating about all of that is that the guy who has been mythologized as a champion for the working class is now attempting to recreate the same kind of training program, which they are calling “Find Something New.”

A new White House-backed ad campaign aims to encourage people who are unemployed or unhappy in their jobs or careers to go out and “find something new.”…The Trump administration has long emphasized skills-based job and vocational training as an alternative to two- or four-year college degree programs, arguing that college isn’t for everyone and that many jobs don’t require a degree.

The campaign is a product of the White House’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, which President Donald Trump created in 2018. The board is co-chaired by Trump’s daughter and White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

“There has never been a more critical time for Americans of all ages and backgrounds to be aware of the multiple pathways to career success and gain the vocational training and skills they need to fill jobs in a changing economy,” said Ivanka Trump, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Notice that this isn’t about bringing back coal mining or manufacturing jobs, as Trump has often promised to do. Instead, it is about developing the skills that will be needed “to fill jobs in a changing economy.” That’s exactly the kind of thing a so-called “globalist” might say.

Personally, I think that offering skills training is a good thing. But the Trump’s can do it and still be hailed as champions of the working class, while Obama got tarred as an elitist for doing the exact same thing.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.