As the midterm elections inch closer, speculation has run wild as to who will challenge Donald Trump in 2020. In late June, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer whose claim to fame is representing an on-screen prostitute who allegedly had consensual sex with the president 12 years ago, tweeted, “The candidate in 2020 better be a take no prisoners street fighter who is prepared to go 15 rounds in a VERY serious brutal campaign.” (Apparently, Avenatti thinks it’s still the early 1980s with 15-round boxing matches.)
Slowly, Avenatti began dropping hints that he just might be that street fighter. I initially laughed it off and figured he was just being his usual bombastic self by saying something sensational to stay relevant and book his next television gig. He’s become a vocal mainstay on left-wing cable television. David Rutz of the Washington Free Beacon reported that Avenatti had 108 appearances on MSNBC and CNN over a 64-day period earlier this year.
Then, last Thursday, Avenatti popped up at the Iowa State Fair, an event that has traditionally been a campaign stop for presidential candidates. One million people are expected at this year’s fair. While there, Avenatti told the Des Moines Register he’s exploring a run for the presidency.
In retrospect, we should have seen this coming. He went from challenging Trump on behalf of an adult film star to taking a loud, public stance against everything the Trump administration has seemingly done. He injected himself into the immigration debate when he began representing families separated after illegally entering the country. He was even in London “protesting” Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom. Avenatti has gleefully made himself the face of the resistance, and his already massive ego continues to grow with each public appearance and supportive tweet from his fans.
So it was to be expected when he headlined the Wing Ding Dinner in Iowa and his speech was essentially a page out of the resistance movement handbook. (Not everyone is an Avenatti fan, however. It was reported that, shortly after Avenatti was announced as the Wing Ding’s featured speaker, almost all of the statewide Democratic candidates pulled out of the event.)
True to form, during his speech, Avenatti made some over-the-top proclamations. He cried that Democrats are fighting for the “survival of the republic!” (Eye roll.) He exclaimed that Trump wants to send us back to the “dark ages” where people “disregard” women and minorities. (Even harder eye roll.)
Avenatti also apparently expects Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to kick the bucket in the next six years, because he said if re-elected, Trump will put the balance of the Supreme Court at 7-2. He even seemed to take a shot at Michelle Obama, saying, “When they go low, I say, we hit harder.” Quite the shift from Democrats not daring to besmirch the Obamas.
We also learned that Avenatti came from humble beginnings. He spoke to the Iowa crowd about his plight stocking produce at a grocery store, driving tractors, and umpiring Little League games. Poor Avenatti. I guess they haven’t they seen his divorce filings.
The guy has multi-million-dollar residences in Newport Beach, California, an antique Ferrari, a Porsche Speedster, a 2016 Ferrari GT Spider valued at $140,000, and an extensive watch collection of 11-12 pieces, including several Patek Philippe watches valued at $60,000 to $70,000 each.
Don’t get me wrong: success is great, and I am not begrudging Avenatti for living the high life. But you can’t be doing that while evading payroll taxes, employees’ salaries, vendor bills, and the Internal Revenue Service. (You can read more about that here.) But I digress.
When speaking of his now-beloved Democratic Party, Avenatti said he fears “we have a tendency to bring nail clippers to a gunfight.” He passionately told the Iowa crowd that now is not the time to be “nice” or “classy” with “our country under an unprecedented assault by a con man who fights only for himself and degrades the vulnerable and the powerless.” He ended his speech parroting Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan by declaring that he will make America decent, productive, dynamic, etc. again.
When I first wrote about Avenatti many months ago, I likened his actions to that of a clown at the circus. As a fellow lawyer, I was offended by his boorish behavior. It is undignified and unprofessional. Lawyers simply should not behave that way.
Well, he’s bringing that circus to the Democratic Party. While I am certainly here for it (after all, I’m a Republican), let’s not kid ourselves: he’ll never be president of the United States. He’s not qualified. He doesn’t have any experience. He’s just showboating. And we definitely don’t need the incendiary rhetoric.
That all sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it? I imagine the Never Trump conservatives are having major de ja vu. Avenatti is quite literally the Democratic Trump. He’s seen Trump’s success with his brash political style, and he is going to mimic it. I don’t actually think he’s going to be the Democratic nominee for president, but I absolutely believe he is drunk with fame and will stay on this ride as long as the public (and the Democratic National Committee) tolerates it.
At the end of the day, Avenatti is an opportunist with a huge ego. He absolutely loves the attention. He’s appeared more on television than any lawyer of recent memory. Why would he not “explore” running for president? He will literally be on television every single day. It’s what he wants. But does he really want to be president? I am not so sure.
That said, if he’s for real (and I remain skeptical), I would not miss a debate featuring Avenatti, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker. For now, he’s their problem.