Was it perhaps stupid of me to take Avenatti’s presidential chances seriously?

5 mins read



Was it stupid in the abstract, given that this guy’s now facing 40 years in prison and still has two more trials to go? Perhaps. Perhaps.

But I understand the impulse after 2016 to take even outlandish longshot candidates semi-seriously, and I think there may be a pro-Trump/anti-Trump divide on that point. If you’re pro-Trump, his victory four years ago holds no lessons for anyone else. He’s a singular figure, a winner to his core, who ran on an unusual right-wing populist platform that galvanized white working-class voters. That special magic can’t be duplicated. So why would his win portend anything for any Democratic “outsider,” including and especially Creepy Porn Lawyer?

Whereas if you’re anti-Trump, the shining lesson of 2016 is even the craziest sh*t is now possible. The guy from “The Apprentice” as president of the United States? Done. A no-name under-40 mayor from Indiana finishing right near the top in Iowa and New Hampshire? Also done. A mega-rich former Republican and Wall Street plutocrat contending for the nomination of America’s left-wing party? Now in progress. Oprah jumping into the field tomorrow and racing out to a 10-point lead in polling? None of us would rule it out. A pugnacious litigator turned ubiquitous media celebrity energizing Democrats nationally with his legal crusade against Trump, then parlaying that into some interest among voters whose fondest wish is seeing Trump punched in the nose? Hmmm.

Not likely. But remember the shining lesson.

Avenatti was an … imperfect vessel for his strategy but Mike Bloomberg’s campaign is following similar instincts in how to appeal to Democratic voters. First, attack Trump relentlessly. Second, be on television at all times. Bloomberg manages that with unprecedented ad spending, Avenatti tried to swing it with personal appearances. They’re poles apart in other ways, of course — Bloomberg’s not just a three-term former mayor of NYC, he, you know, pays his bills — but I think most of his polling surge thus far is owed to sheer ubiquity plus a demonstrated commitment to attacking Trump more so than his record in business or government. That’s what proto-candidate Avenatti was eyeing too. The effect is a bit larger when you can devote a billion dollars to the effort instead of trying to do it all through “Morning Joe” interviews, but still.

And Lachlan Markay’s right in the clip below about how some Democrats crave a scoundrel who can do to Trump what Trump has done to them. They feel bullied by him; they resent that he wriggles out of jam after jam; it gnaws at them that they followed the “rules” in 2016 and nominated the name-brand establishment politician and saw the election go to President “Access Hollywood” anyway. Are there enough of them out there to have made Avenatti a vaguely plausible-ish contender assuming he hadn’t allegedly engaged in a full-blown crime spree? Nah. But there may be enough of them to nominate Mike Bloomberg despite his many flaws as a person and public executive. I remember writing a few months ago when he announced his candidacy that he was a man without any natural constituency — which is true. But there’s a *big* “nuke Trump” constituency. Avenatti tried to talk his way into their hearts before he blew himself up. Bloomy’s going to try to buy his way in.





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