Michael Avenatti, adult film star Stormy Daniels' attorney and potential 2020 presidential candidate, recently visited Iowa to call for the Democratic party to be more aggressive and "hit back harder" against President Donald Trump. While the strategy has been presented as a new approach for Democrats, it has in reality been employed by Trump's critics since he took office in January 2017.
The Hill reported on Tuesday that Democrats are embracing Avenatti's strategy and moving beyond former First Lady Michelle Obama's 2016 mantra of "When they go low, we go high." The potential 2020 contender told a crowd at an event in Iowa Friday that "when they go low, I say hit back harder."
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Steve Israel, a former Democratic congressman and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, said Avenatti is "tapping into a Democratic rage that Trump must be defeated and it doesn’t matter how." He went on to claim Trump created "an electorate that is angrier, nastier and more desperate."
The Hill shed light on the party's approach to Trump by speaking with various Democratic strategists. They said Trump must be destroyed using his own tactics.
"We have no other choice," said one political strategist who has been having preliminary conversations with candidates about running for the presidency. "You can’t kill him with kindness. That doesn’t work. So you have to go the other way."
"This notion that you go high or go low is a false choice, it’s become a misnomer," Philippe Reines, a longtime adviser to Hillary Clinton, told The Hill last month.
"Democrats are going to want to see someone with moxie, they’re going to want to see absolute contempt for Trump," said Reines, who played Trump in mock debates in 2016 to prepare Clinton, the Democratic nominee.
Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, penned a piece for CNN on Sunday titled "Avenatti is right: Democrats need to fight fire with fire."
Avenatti has already attempted to take credit for shifting the Democratic strategy towards being more combative against Trump, but his strategy isn't anything new in the anti-Trump "resistance" movement. The movement has been utilized as Avenatti described since Trump took office, starting with the Women's March that was held in Washington, D.C. the day after Trump's inauguration ceremony. Not only did singer Madonna tell Trump to "suck a d–k" and say she thought about "blowing up the White House," but many of the other female resistance leaders delivered profanity-laced speeches castigating Trump and his policies.
Standup and television comedienne Kathy Griffin did a photo shoot last May holding up a severed, bloodied head resembling Trump's. While she initially apologized, she has since taken back her apology, adding, "F— him!"
"Look, I'm not holding back on this family," Griffin said. "This president is different, and I have been through the mill. And so now I'm back on the road."
Rapper Snoop Dogg also depicted Trump's death in a music video by shooting a clown character named "Ronald Klump" who is dressed as the president.
In addition to the Women's March speakers, celebrities from Hollywood and late-night comedy shows have worked overtime against Trump by calling him, his family, and administration officials various expletives. Actor Robert De Niro received a standing ovation at the Tony Awards in June for saying, "It’s no longer ‘down with Trump,’ it’s f—k Trump!" He did receive backlash from some Democrats for the remark because they argued it helped Trump and some Democrats have argued Avenatti's approach could be counterproductive.
Patti Solis Doyle, a Democratic strategist who served as Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign manager, told the Hill the party needs to stand up to Trump but questioned the combative approach.
"Does he need to be called out? Do we need to see his tax returns? Absolutely," Solis Doyle said. "We need to be strong to deliver attacks on him."
"But I’m not sure that someone who is remarkably similar to Donald Trump is the answer," she added, referring to Avenatti.
Colorful attacks on Trump have nonetheless been ongoing, coming from others in Hollywood and Democratic leaders.
Late-night comedian Samantha Bee called the president's daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump a "feckless cunt." She's also called former White House communications director Hope Hicks a "bitch," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders "completely evil," and counselor Kellyanne Conway a "soulless, Machiavellian despot."
"The View" co-host Whoopi Goldberg told Trump ally and Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro to "fuck off" backstage, co-host Sonny Hostin said someone should take Trump out back and ‘Kick his little butt’–echoing potential 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden's comment about "beat[ing] the hell" out of Trump– and co-host Joy Behar mocked Vice President Mike Pence's Christian faith as a "dangerous" form of "mental illness."
Democratic leaders have also rebuked Trump, ranging from Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) calling him a racist and calling for his impeachment dozens of times to Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez claiming Trump doesn't "give a shit" about the people affected by his policies. Perez also said Trump's "skinny budget" proposal should be called a "shitty budget." Democrats also made hyperbolic statements comparing Trump to former al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and saying that if Trump is not impeached he could do the kind of harm carried out by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler when he ruled in Europe.
In addition to calling for Trump's impeachment, Waters endorsed the practice of publicly harassing Trump administration officials during a speech in June, which followed multiple administration officials being harassed in public. A couple days before Waters' speech in California, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was confronted by protesters at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C. for the administration's zero-tolerance policy on illegal border crossings. Sanders, the White House press secretry, was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant because she worked in the Trump administration. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), were also confronted by protesters regarding the administration's immigration policies.