Kellyanne Conway stepped down for 'family reasons'. So what now for American politics' strangest family?

Conway said she wanted to give her family 'less drama, more mama', but remains scheduled to speak at the Republican Convention on Wednesday

Clémence Michallon
New York City
Monday 24 August 2020 19:43 BST
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Conway said her husband would also be taking a step back from politics
Conway said her husband would also be taking a step back from politics (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Every once in a while, the news cycle takes a turn that seems at once unpredictable and unavoidable. Kellyanne Conway’s impending resignation falls into that category. If you’ve been interested in the Conway family’s dealings for a while, then you might not be entirely surprised to hear she’s on her way out of the White House.

On the other hand, Conway has kept her job as one of Donald Trump’s closest counselors for so long that it seemed she might just stay there forever – or at least, as long as Trump would have her.

Conway stayed on even after going viral for using the euphemism “alternative facts” (otherwise known as lies) in a January 2017 interview. She remained even as her husband George Conway made a name for himself as a vocal critic of Trump – the same man his wife was tasked with defending on camera over and over again – and, later, as a founding member of the Lincoln Project, a high-profile, Conservative, anti-Trump super PAC.

Conway – once referred to as “my Kellyanne” and “baby” in a 2017 speech by then-President-Elect Trump – kept doing her job even as her 15-year-old daughter Claudia also emerged as an outspoken critic of Trump, his administration, and by extension, her mother’s life’s work.

Claudia began tweeting in July, sharing her excitement after Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (whose views don’t exactly align with the Trump administration’s) began following her on the site, urging others to vote, and advocating against Trump’s re-election in November.

A couple of days ago, Claudia tweeted that she was “devastated that my mother is actually speaking at the RNC. like DEVASTATED beyond compare”. That same day, she announced she would be seeking emancipation.

“My mother’s job ruined my life to begin with,” she wrote. “Heartbreaking that she continues to go down that path after years of watching her children suffer. Selfish. It’s all about money and fame, ladies and gentlemen.” Claudia added about her father: “As for my dad, politically, we agree on absolutely nothing. We just both happen to have common sense when it comes to our current president. Stop ‘stanning’ him.”

Not long afterwards, Kellyanne Conway announced she would be leaving her White House job at the end of the month. “This is completely my choice and my voice. In time, I will announce future plans. For now, and for my beloved children, it will be less drama, more mama,” she wrote in a statement. Her husband, too, announced his intention to step back from political activities, by way of withdrawing from the Lincoln Project and taking a Twitter hiatus.

And just like that, we, members of the public who have been paying Conway’s salary ($183,000 a year, per the White House’s most recent report) for three years, were left in the uncomfortable position of deciding whether it’s OK, or right, or fair, to even care about the Conways’ situation, and if so, to what extent.

Look. It’s hard not to care. It’s hard not to care because Conway’s actions have impacted so many families in so many different places. It’s hard not to care because this is all happening very publicly. It’s hard not to care because, well, I can’t even begin to imagine what dinner conversations must be like in such a divided household. Not that the Conways are the only families to ever disagree on politics — far from it — but things take a different dimension when political spin becomes part of someone’s livelihood.

Above all, it’s hard not to care because Conway is still scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, which makes the timing of her announced departure awkward to say the least.

Who are we to judge? Well, we are the people who have had to live with the consequences of Donald Trump’s actions for almost four years. I'd say that gives us reason to take an interest in this latest drama, even if it's really only schadenfreude that might make some people glad to see Conway called out by members of her inner circle.

Certainly, people remain free to think and say whatever they want about Kellyanne Conway’s performance at the White House. Many seem to agree that they won’t miss seeing her on TV. (For an in-depth exploration of her rhetorical tricks, see this video by Vox.) And with both George and Kellyanne having acknowledged that their respective departures are due to family matters, we can allow ourselves to be, perhaps, quietly stunned but also not entirely surprised by the personal repercussions of Conway’s very public job.

In any case, Conway’s departure marks the end of a profoundly tedious era – one of “alternative facts”, fake massacres, possibly law-breaking brand endorsements, and more. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s relieved it’s over. And I'm not even related.

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