On a visit to Iowa this week, a hotspot destination for any aspiring president, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who's made a name for himself by representing Stormy Daniels in court and himself on cable news, told the Des Moines Register: "I’m exploring a run for the presidency of the United States, and I wanted to come to Iowa and listen to people and learn about some issues that are facing the citizens of Iowa and do my homework."
Jesus Christ, kill me now.
Before you call me a drama queen, let me explain why reading this news made me feel more miserable than I usually do. Michael Avenatti, with his frequent and brash cable news appearances, looks to me a lot like a resistance iteration of Donald Trump. And embracing politics as a contest of pure bombast and salaciousness is a surefire way to guarantee the chaos of the Trump era will last long after our reality TV-in-chief is out of office.
As fellow lawyer and Popehat blogger Ken White explained to Rosie Gray in her excellent profile of Avenatti for the Atlantic, the man's rabid fans, whom White calls "Avenattos," react to criticism "exactly the way I’ve seen Trump cultists act the last two or three years." After the conservative news site the Daily Caller published an unflattering article about his past business problems, he threatened to sue the organization, without providing any evidence to indicate the story was false. As Callum Borchers at the Washington Post noted, his email threatening litigation "read a bit like a PG version of what President Trump's longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said to a Daily Beast reporter in 2015" after the news organization published a story about Ivana Trump's claim that Donald Trump had raped her, which she later recanted.
“There may be some similarities in the form, but we actually back it up with substance,” Avenatti insisted to Gray when responding to comparisons between him and the president. And when speaking to the New York Times about a possible presidential run, he explained, “We live in a different age... We don’t want another candidate that just has a lot of experience. Democrats need to nominate somebody who can actually beat this guy.”
Avenatti also has become something of a left-wing sex symbol—something I truly don't understand—frequently drawing the label "Zaddy" on social media and elsewhere.
But as the Times's Jonathan Martin aptly pointed out, "[Avenatti] is another brash cable news fixture who is busy on Twitter and seems intoxicated with the publicity derived from a media profile and connections to a photogenic woman."
If we fight Trumpism with Trumpian tactics, American politics will continue to be a pissing match of who can be the most outrageous and entertaining candidate. Can't we go back to having presidents who have some experience in politics prior to their run for the highest office in the land? Can't we go back to having presidents who are primarily politicians and not media personalities? There are so many deeply qualified Democrats and left-leaning politicians that could be the party's 2020 candidate—like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris. It's not always bad when a celebrity enters the political realm—see: Cynthia Nixon's bid for New York governor—but the reason Nixon's campaign feels legitimate is because she was involved with New York politics long before she decided to run for office.
I look forward to a time when the nation isn't preoccupied with its leader's sheer celebrity and entertainment value, when people don't have to consider politics a horrific reality show they can't stop watching.
Do I really have to explain this further? It's all bad, it's all very bad.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.