In an op-ed for CNN this Wednesday, authoritarianism expert and historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat writes that the Holiday video posted to social media this Christmas featuring Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle contained a low-key insult aimed at Guilfoyle.
"I've managed to maintain a very low bar with Kimberly. I don't want her to get too big an ego, or accustomed to kindness. I want to keep her tough," said Don Jr. says in the video, while Guilfoyle stood beside him.
According to Ben-Ghiat, Don Jr.'s perceived swipe at his girlfriend is a reflection of his father's penchant for letting even his supporters know how little he thinks of them, adding that Don Jr.s comments to Guilfoyle exposes "the dynamics of emotional domination, including through public humiliation and grooming people to have low expectations, that have characterized the Trump way of being in political and private life."
"Yet we'd best become more familiar with the attitudes of the younger members of the Trump clan. Donald Jr. and Guilfoyle are said to have plans to expand their influence within the Republican National Committee, part of a strategy to win back Republican control of the White House in 2024," Ben-Ghiat writes. "And Trump, like other leaders that bring relatives into their governments, thinks of power in family terms. He would not be the first head of state to build a political dynasty."
Ben-Ghiat writes that Don Jr. and Guilfoyle coming together signals a peek into the future of Trump family politics, and that future could hold some disturbing things -- as suggested by Jr.'s talking down to his girlfriend.
"No good ever comes to societies when leaders lack empathy. The political and other health of our democracy will be challenged if the next generation of Trumps follow the president in making 'toughness' their brand."
Read the full op-ed over at CNN.com.