I do not take any pleasure in thinking or writing about the actions or statements of Michael Avenatti. I am sorry. But it’s worth highlighting this part of a Time magazine profile of the bombastic grifter out today (emphasis mine):
A run for President would thrust Avenatti into the middle of the party’s identity crisis. The Democrats have not been this powerless since the 1920s, and their members have responded by nominating a historic number of women and people of color for office. But when it comes to the party’s presidential nominee in 2020, Avenatti thinks in different terms. “I think it better be a white male,” he says. He hastens to add that he wishes it weren’t so, but it’s undeniable that people listen to white men more than they do others; it’s why he’s been successful representing Daniels and immigrant mothers, he says. “When you have a white male making the arguments, they carry more weight,” he says. “Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes.”
Michael Avenatti: Democratic Nominee “Better Be A White Male” isn’t really the sort of headline you want coming out of your early 2020 preparations, particularly in a year where a record numbers of women and many prominent black and Muslim candidates are running as Democrats.
But the reasoning behind it, this paternalistic idea that he should be the standard bearer for “making the arguments”—to whom, exactly, isn’t specified, but it sounds like it means “to racists/sexists who won’t listen to people of color/women”—is just as offensive. Fuck off, dude!
The idea that his “success” representing immigrant mothers is due to his white male status is particularly egregious. Earlier this year, Avenatti did help many immigrant children and families at the border, which is commendable—though it’s impossible to ignore the glowing press coverage he received for it as a motivation, since it seems publicity powers Avenatti the same way a car runs on gas.
Instead of going on about how people listened to you because you’re a white man and then running for president because you’ve noticed just how much people love listening to white men, you could, instead, use your position to boost the work of the women and people of color who are doing the work every day. There are many, many more lawyers representing immigrant children and parents who are not cable news celebs, unsung heroes that Vox reported this summer take on a staggering “50 to 200 cases” each, many pro bono (and not getting the publicity that Avenatti gets for it). Many, like Veronica Walther, who spent her July 4 helping incarcerated immigrant kids in Texas, and Mayra Jimenez, the children’s program director and managing attorney at RAICES Texas, are not white men.
Using his work for immigrant families to boost his political ambitions is even worse given his opposition to abolishing ICE. He told the Washington Post it would be “like talking about abolishing the police.” That statement is a good way of understanding what he said to Time, in fact. Avenatti also told the Post he doesn’t think abolishing ICE is “the right message, especially if one is going to run against this president if he’s still in office in 2020.” Avenatti’s entire conception of how to run against Trump is to do so on Trump’s terms: accepting and working within the framework Trump sets, where only white men matter, where you can’t say things that will upset his rabid base too much.
Trump didn’t even win the popular vote in 2016, and by boosting turnout among people of color—according to Pew, black and Hispanic voters turned out in lower numbers in 2016 than in previous elections—you could get there without playing the game of racists who won’t listen to anyone but white men.
But if you are a white man, it’s actually quite comfortable living in a world where white men get listened to more. It’s no wonder he’s happy to work with this.