If you think about it, Friday was Kellyanne Conway's inauguration as well. We're all watching the Kellyanne show now, whether we want to be or not.
Like with so many things, it was Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live who first got me thinking seriously about Conway. McKinnon's impressions evolved. At first, Conway was a character tasked with the laughably impossible job of getting an uninformed, unqualified, misogynist bigot into one of the world's top jobs. Then, real-life Conway did it.
Now McKinnon plays Conway as woman looking into a dark night (eternity) of the soul, a kind of terrified handmaiden to a really dumb Lord of Darkness. And the humor comes from a different place—shell shock.
As many commentators point out, McKinnon's Conway is misleading. The real-life Conway knew exactly what she was doing. She was, and continues to be, very, very good at it: deflecting questions, shifting blame, hijacking conversations—shaping a man who presents as highly incompetent into someone America has allowed into the driver's seat.
And unlike McKinnon's version of her, Conway seems sincerely thrilled about her success.
Honoring the ultimate hero at the Mercer "Heroes and Villians" party on Long Island. Crowd thrilled w/ surprise! pic.twitter.com/VQAyaKvs6i
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls)
But what McKinnon showed me was that Conway is as much a part of America's future as Donald Trump. She's the woman who put the new president into power. She is now White House "counselor to the president".
This woman will inform the decisions of a man who is proud of not valuing either information or decisions.
The pen is ready. https://t.co/IezVtZRDuH
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls)
You could look it as a win, a woman in a position of arguably unprecedented power. The kind of glass-ceiling breaker Hillary Clinton fans should embrace, at least in theory.
Samantha Bee has a scathing rundown on why that's not happening.
"A woman pulls off the historic feat of electing a sexual predator who thinks women should be punished for having abortions, and feminists don’t celebrate her with a Vogue cover!" Bee said on the January 18 episode of Full Frontal. "Although she did get the cover of Pussy Grabber Enabler Monthly, so I guess that’s something.”
Fox News asked why feminists don’t love Kellyanne Conway. Samantha Bee has a brutal explanation. https://t.co/LMDfd5ks3e
— Vox (@voxdotcom)
As writer Frank Bruni observed in The New York Times, Conway's greatest achievement (you can swap in your own synonyms there) has been to move the political needle away from facts, and definitively towards showmanship. In fact, she's snapped the needle altogether.
Thanks to Conway, Trump can literally do no wrong, and Bruni's favorite Conway quote bears repeating: "He’s the president-elect, so that’s presidential behavior."
Process that one. Conway has launched a presidency off of pure deflection.
Inauguration day saw a predictable amount of Kellyanne-bashing—but not about her role. The internet focused on her not-actually-that-important outfit and ripped into her looks with delight, in a way that was downright sexist.
Classic the internet, sure. But in my opinion this is where meme culture falls horribly short. Because—again, as others have pointed out—once you make something ridiculous, you become less afraid of it. If you're fortunate enough to be in a position of physical safety, fear can be a good thing. If you're trying to come to grips with an extremely dangerous change in the way politics can be held accountable, fear can be downright healthy.
Kellyanne Conway is not a joke. She's a woman with a very impressive amount of power, who has worked hard to get to where she is, and succeeded. And we need to watch her.