Halfway down the profile of Jared Kushner that fronts the new issue of New York magazine is a bit of gossip that President-elect Donald Trump‘s son-in-law is “‘proud’ Trump had won only 4 percent of the vote in Washington, D.C.” This brag that Trump fared worst in the nation’s capital feeds into Kushner’s larger belief that last November’s election was a “repudiation of the media and both political parties—the entire governing Establishment,” as Andrew Rice writes.
Perhaps that’s not be the best way to ingratiate oneself with one’s new neighbors: Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, will soon be moving to Kalorama, where Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton captured about 87 percent of the vote in the precincts that cover the luxurious neighborhood. But Kushner—who will be a senior adviser in the Trump administration, with Ivanka Trump to follow in an as-yet-specified role—is also continuing a pattern of people in Donald Trump’s orbit conflating the cynical, manufactured view of “Washington” with the actual city.
Forget that that Trump never stood a chance at getting above the mid-single digits of DC’s vote total. As a city that’s far more diverse as the nation as a whole, Washington is built to reject the GOP’s presidential nominees. (A history of congressional meddling in the city’s internal affairs, often by Republicans, probably only tints the District’s shade of blue even darker.) Kushner’s 4-percent boast isn’t a strike at actual Washington, it goes after a metonymic version of the city. But to him, all its 681,000 residents are part and parcel of the system Trump is supposedly going to upend.
Using Trump’s “Drain-the-Swamp” mantra as a paintbrush for all of DC makes for a good Republican talking point, even if it diverges from reality. What’s a bit irksome about Kushner doing it is that a glance at his extensive real-estate portfolio suggests he should know better. Through one of his family company’s affiliates, Kushner owns a 245-unit apartment complex in Hyattsville, where, according to Washington Business Journal, one-bedrooms start at $1,142 per month. He also bought 5,500 Baltimore-area units in 5,500 in a deal that included financing from Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage firm. If Kushner’s gleeful about his father-in-law’s 8.3 percent showing in Prince George’s County, he hasn’t said so.
Kushner’s decision not to take a salary in his White House job feeds into the same mentality. By rejecting a salary that might seem like a pittance to him (senior advisers in the Obama White House earn about $172,000 per year), he gets to play the role of a very rich person charitably serving the nation by rejecting the perceived largesse of a government paycheck.
Perhaps Kushner’s suburban real-estate holdings and salary decisions aren’t enough to help him distinguish between actual Washington and the boogeyman version Trump crusades against. Kushner wouldn’t be the first Trump stooge to fail to tell the difference. Take the online trolls who continue to push the dumb conspiracy theory known as “Pizzagate.” To them, any customer of Comet Ping Pong, no matter how far removed from elective politics, is complicit in a bogus crime ring and subject to the reaction. Kushner basking in Trump’s low vote total in DC comes from a similar mentality–it just has the benefit of being far less impolite.