AJ Calhoun — Oct. 28, 2018
Michael Avenatti, whose name was not well known nationally until he threw himself into the anti-Trump “mob” by choosing to represent Stephanie Clifford, aka: Stormy Daniels, in a lawsuit against Donald Trump, claiming that a non-disclosure agreement she had signed at Trump’s urging to cover up an affair the two had had, was invalid because Trump had not personally signed it. The agreement had been in exchange for $130,000 in hush money paid by Trump — or somebody, maybe Trump’s then attorney Michael Cohen, but whatever. The important thing really was: Enter Michael Avenatti, former attorney and sudden political hack.
Of course Ms. Daniels was also a political hack, having been involved in politics before Avenatti had noticed the possibilites that came with representing her in her somewhat confusing argument with Trump, Cohen, et al. She had run (as a Republican) against Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana in 2010. There was a spot of bother, Daniels felt she wasn’t being taken seriously, and so dropped out before the election. But that is neither here nor there. We are discussing Mr. Avenatti, Esq., and the interest people are taking in him as a possible 2020 presidential contender.
Does that seem like a good idea? If so, please tell me why.
Good idea or not, Avenatti is now in the public eye quite often, usually for taking aim at Donald Trump, which is always a good idea, I suppose, if an awfully easy one. Consequently Time Magazine recently interviewed Avenatti, making him yet more visible, and during that interview, at least as it was published, when asked his opinion on how Democrats could unseat Trump in 2020, and who might make a good candidate, Time quoted Avenatti as responding to Time’s Molly Ball this way:
“I think it better be a white male. When you have a white male making the arguments, they carry more weight. Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes. I think this is a very unique situation. I think Donald Trump is a very unique candidate. And I think if you run anyone other than a white male against him in 2020 — and I think a lot of people in the party agree with me on this, and I think a lot of people disagree with me — I think you are begging for a repeat of 2016. That’s what I believe. Firmly.”
The answer that exploded.
Half the people who reacted to this seem to have thought it was a wildly racist remark (and no, I have taken no polls, it is only my observation), while the other half (still an observation) seem to think this sentiment jibes well with the idea that white people are the only ones who can correct the inherently racist system in this country, so hell yes, a candidate should be exactly what Avenatti describes, and for the reasons he advances (though he now claims he was both “misquoted” by Time and also that the remark was “taken out of context.” Which was it really, Mike? Either? Both?
Let me break it down for you: In his opinion that white males are more likely to be heard and taken seriously in our society generally, I think it is difficult to disagree, no matter how hard we try to play at being on the level. With both race (a societal construct, but one we nonetheless have to deal with) and misogyny (not a construct, but also something we need to deal with), there can be no reasonable argument that white men still hold the advantage generally.
Avenatti, though, makes this a reason to insist on a white male candidate as the only possible way to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 (again, should Trump still be around by then). In this part of his argument, which is his whole argument really, he is absolutely, without question, dead wrong. And not because he recognizes and points out our systemic racism and misogyny, both of which exist and are, frankly, unavoidable, even as I dismiss race as an invention of white people (perhaps starting with British Colonials who helped establish the construct in order to subjugate much of the world at one time). The notion of European white supremacy is so thoroughly embedded in our society that we (white folks, at least) get it by osmosis in the womb, are born with it, inhale it with our first breath when we are born, and so no matter how “good” we try to be (and it doesn’t necessarily make us bad people), we are still white and the system is still tainted and we can’t get it off of us, at least until and unless we all, as white people, wake up to the fact that we are given a leg up at the moment of our birth and every time we do anything or in any way participate in this society, we are enjoying, to some degree or another, white privilege. You can’t just shake it off.
Misogyny is similar, though somewhat different, because white women also enjoy that little edge, though it is blunted somewhat by the fact that they are women.
People of color tend not to be taken as seriously as white people, and women are rarely taken seriously in serious positions. Avenatti’s got us there.
The job of the President of the United States, however, is not to change the hearts and minds and thinking and habits of white Americans. He is not elected to be a corrective, a guru, a sociologist. (See what I did there? “He” is not).
“But we elected a black president!”
Yes, we did, but he did not succeed or fail because he was black — although he might have achieved a lot more and encountered far less obstructionism had he been white. He succeed and was elected because he was far and away the most competent contender, and that he succeed at all was because he did not preach to people about race, because he had another job: CEO of the United States of America.
By the same token, Hillary Clinton did not lose twice simply because she was a woman. The first time she was the lesser candidate. The second time she carried the popular vote, though being a woman did not help her, else she probably would have won bigger and won outright.
No, we do not require a white man to beat Trump in 2020. We need a charismatic, competent, experienced, caring, compassionate, visionary person who can string together a few intelligible sentences, who is not a racist, a bigot, a misogynist nor a xenophobe. Not being Trump doesn’t mean being the Messiah (though it may feel that way for at least a few minutes). Just as the job of President does not include healing, in any direct way, the racial and sexual divisions (or any of the other ones, for there are many), any more than it includes creating or exacerbating those divisions. It does mean having the skill and grace to try and unite rather than divide, of course, but it doesn’t mean being the nation’s psychiatrist. Not being Trump doesn’t mean being the opposite of Trump. It is enough to not be him. Only a doctor can stitch up wounds. Any fool (as Trump has proven) can rip out the stitches.
The burden of healing the racial and gender divides of our society lie with members of our society; the burden of undoing race is a burden belonging exclusively to white people, because without white people we would not have a race problem.
No, seriously, think about that for a moment: with no white people there would be no racism. It was created, invented by white people, to benefit white people, and with no white people, there would be no race — period.
Misogyny can only be cured by white men. Same rule applies here as above, but to a slightly different problem. Trouble is, the two tend to go hand in hand.
Michael Avenatti was right to say that white men are more likely to be taken seriously and that only white men can call out other white men over the matters of race and misogyny. He was wrong to suggest that is a qualifier for being President. That is not the job of the president, though of course the responsibility for not making those things worse certainly is a responsibility of the President — and of everyone else as well.
The President must understand how to direct the business of this country. The soul of the country, the hearts and minds of this country, can not be straightened out by an election, by one person.
I also think that when Michael Avenatti said what he said he had someone in particular in mind. I think that person he had in mind was Michael Avenatti.
I think it is time for Michael Avenatti to go quietly now, back to case law, where he is probably fairly competent. He should neither run for nor opine on who would do for us as a President.
I also think Time Magazine should not make more of marchers in the passing parade than is necessary. There are plenty of more important people to interview than Michael Avenatti. I can think of about a hundred, off hand.
All that said, if a white man runs for President and he is more competent, more decent, more intelligent, more sane, more articulate, and more graceful than the rest of the field, I will probably vote for him. Because frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn about anything else.