Sorry Democrats, you’re going to have to do better than Michael Avenatti
Some Democrats view him as a rock star. Others hope that his representation of adult-film actress Stormy Daniels – who alleges that Donald Trump paid her “hush money” in 2016 about an affair they’d had one decade earlier – will ultimately bring down the current president…or at least irreparably tarnish him. Ah, if only solving this centuries-in-the-making mess was that easy! But the truth is that outspoken attorney Michael Avenatti is really the last thing the Democratic Party (not to mention the rest of America!) needs, right now, if there’s any hope of evaporating the Trump Administration’s shameless scourge.
There are three main variables that tie into this stark reality: hypocrisy, inexperience, and neoliberalism. On balance, this trio of demerits will show any rational person how Avenatti is the WRONG politico to lead America into the next decade of gargantuan challenges.
First, I want to cite a recent piece for Time magazine that was co-authored by Molly Ball and Alana Abramson. In it, they warn mainstream Democrats about underestimating Avenatti’s viability as a presidential candidate for 2020…seeing how establishment Republicans made the very same mistake, back in 2015. They illustrate Avenatti’s propensity – as a leftist version of Trump – to crave the attention of rallies and meet-and-greet sessions, while getting into heated public brawls with adversaries on Twitter. In addition, they point out his cognitive advantages over Trump, given Avenatti’s past work as a consultant doing opposition research for Rahm Emanuel.
But the Ball/Abramson op-ed hardly makes a case for nominating Michael Avenatti. They quote Avenatti himself as acknowledging he isn’t necessarily the most qualified person in the field of potential Democratic contenders. However, Avenatti claims that all the qualifications in the world don’t matter if the Democrats can’t win. By saying this, he is clearly setting himself up to be portrayed as the Democratic Party’s best chance at finding a savior who isn’t afraid to wrestle with others in the mud. This is where Ball and Abramson challenge that assumption by asking:
“Does a party that spends its every waking moment deriding Trump as a divisive egomaniac really want to rally behind another pugilistic neophyte?”
Many Democrats are praising for Avenatti for his philosophy of “When they go low, we hit harder.” They love the idea of an attack dog who would spend the entire 2020 election cycle on the offense against Trump (or whoever else might end up at the top of the ticket). Unfortunately, this is the same “Cult of Personality” that we currently see glorifying Al Franken in the aftermath of his December 2017 resignation from the U.S. Senate. It’s essentially an inversion of the cult-like following that Trump himself has nurtured.
What these Avenatti-cultists forget is how a Democratic presidential standard-bearer can still take down Trump without transforming into some hyperliberal mirror image of him. In early-October, former Obama/Biden campaign adviser Patti Solis-Doyle cautioned fellow Democrats, “If you get in the gutter with Trump, no one will be able to tell the difference between the two of you. A three-round mixed martial arts fight between Avenatti and Donald Trump Jr. may be a spectacle to rival one of Trump’s press conferences, but really, have we gone that low?” She also pointed out how Avenatti weighing in on the Brett Kavanaugh hearings only emboldened the Far Right against a jurisprudent process.
Let me put it into my own words: if you have a problem with Trump’s malignant character and unapologetic ego…then you make yourself look sleazy by getting behind someone who likewise wears such vices as some badge of honor. Countless observers have already highlighted the blatant deformities in Michael Avenatti’s personal background. He brags about scoring more than $1 billion on behalf of his law firm; alas, that number is dramatically inflated when we consider the legal awards reduced upon appeal. There are allegations of him shortchanging his past legal partners, financially. He owes back rent on his properties, while basking in luxurious living conditions and opulent hobbies (e.g. art collections and sports car racing). His ex-wives have claimed that he is both hot-tempered and a negligent parent…in fact, one of his divorces is still being finalized.
If we (rightfully) call out Donald Trump for engaging in such sins – how can we possibly, with a straight face, make excuses for Michael Avenatti (as a presidential candidate) being guilty of the same?
EXPERIENCE (OR LACK THEREOF)
The next strike against Michael Avenatti should be a no-brainer: experience. He has none. Liberals and moderates understandably lamented how Trump was grossly inexperienced when he first ran for the presidency. Yet, a lot of the starry-eyed Avenatti-cultists seem fine with, once again, giving their folk hero a free pass on this issue.
Publicly, Avenatti claims to be in favor of Medicare-For-All while taking a more centrist stance on the idea of reforming ICE. Okay, fair enough. But those are only two issues out of the plethora that our next president will be forced to confront. Michael Avenatti hasn’t done crucial legislative work at either the state or federal levels. If he decides to run, what makes us believe his platform would be superior to those of the other Democrats who throw their hats into the ring? How can anyone make the case that he’d do a superior job (compared to everybody else who’ll be running) when it comes to forging congressional coalitions or finessing the details of public policy?
Several media gatekeepers practically salivate at the notion of Oprah Winfrey or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson mounting a presidential bid. But just like with Oprah and “The Rock” – Michael Avenatti has ZERO qualifications that would make him skilled at overseeing solutions for economic insecurity and social disharmony. And, if the last two years of Donald Trump have taught us anything, it’s that being an attack dog just isn’t a good enough reason to give somebody the power of the Oval Office.
In the past couple of weeks, Michael Avenatti has addressed the injustice of white privilege. He has correctly pointed out that white men have an advantage throughout our society given how Caucasian male power-brokers frequently possess the institutional authority to force changes and disseminate messages.
Avenatti’s core point about white male privilege is dead-on. But where he goes off the rails is his tendency to overcompensate via toxic virtue-signalling. When he got called out for having suggested that only another white male can beat Trump in 2020, Avenatti repeatedly doubled down, alleging that the factual reporting of his own words was “bullshit.”
In an interview with CNN, Avenatti sidestepped his earlier comment by claiming he’d been “misquoted” and that part of one of his past speeches “was taken out of context.” But then, he proceeded to elaborate: “A big tenet of my speeches is that we need more white men standing up and speaking up to defend women and minorities. When they do that, it carries weight among other white men.”
First, that’s not always true. White men, just like any other specific racial/gender/cultural group, are diverse in how we process and respond to things. This reductionist philosophy where Caucasian males somehow need Kindergarten-level “remedial” lessons to understand social problems – let alone the suggestion that we only understand things when we’re lectured by others who happen to cosmetically resemble us – is not only inaccurate and flawed…it’s insulting. It’s a misandrist worldview that teaches new generations of boys to be deferential and indoctrinated – rather than becoming inclusive and collaborative.
But, secondly, when framing racism and sexism in this narrow manner, Michael Avenatti is being manipulative…and he’s hoping Americans are just too dumb to realize it. When you blatantly say “I think it better be a white male” (in regard to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination), the way Avenatti explicitly did…and then you position yourself with the subtext of, “Oh, and by the way, *I* happen to be a white male…”
Smug. Underhanded. Intellectually dishonest.
You are suggesting that your “White Knight” savior complex somehow implies you’re the optimal choice to lead the country for the next four years due to your white privilege and male privilege.
Something tells me that Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marc Veasey, Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro, Eric Garcetti, and Tulsi Gabbard would probably disagree with that.
Believe this, Mr. Avenatti – you have to do a lot more than shoot your mouth off by demanding that your fellow white guys must “call out other white males” in order to make a difference. What is your plan for enacting criminal justice reform or combating institutional racism in ways that are actually EFFECTIVE? How are you going to persuade voters to support you when you have no qualms about talking down to them or attacking them while on the campaign trail? Clearly, you are ill-equipped for that…since your rhetoric appears to rarely go beyond clinging to interpretations of “chivalry” that fuel tribalism, collectivism, and gynocentric neofeminism.
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
Michael Avenatti rails against “establishment Democrats”…probably because he saw how such rhetoric significantly contributed to garnering Bernie Sanders a base of support throughout the 2016 primaries. So, without a whole lot of thought or substance, Avenatti assumes he can adjust that same recipe to work for him.
There’s a simple problem with this approach of his: Michael Avenatti *IS* the establishment. He oozes every stereotype of a smarmy trial lawyer that causes people in Rural America to distrust “the liberals” in the first place! He ignores realities of intersectionality, and recites every neofeminist platitude about privilege that rings hollow with so many citizens…and then he turns around and uses that very privilege (which he openly admits he enjoys, as a white male) to self-aggrandize himself and talk up his own presidential ambitions.
In other words, it’s all about him. Michael Avenatti is trying to make us believe that he’d be the strongest person to challenge Donald Trump “because he’s Michael Avenatti” – and that’s all there is to it! Isn’t this eerily similar to past presidential primary seasons – over the course of many, many decades of U.S. politics – during which certain “insider” candidates brainwashed partisan loyalists into boosting them because the mythical strength of their candidacies were so “inevitable” and undeniable?
That mindset sounds pretty “establishment,” to me. And it’s the exact mindset that Michael Avenatti wishes we’d all walk behind in lockstep.
Featured image by Joe Flood — Flickr.