When lawyer Michael Avenatti rose to national prominence in 2018, seemingly no self-identified Democrat had him figured for a scammer and charlatan. Yet the signs were there. His company Global Baristas had been the subject of dozens of lawsuits and federal complaints due to the botched purchase of a coffee shop chain. His law firm had filed for bankruptcy in 2017 amid claims it had not paid a former employee and an (unlicensed) investigator for their work.
However, because Avenatti was representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her legal battle with Donald Trump over the hush money he paid to conceal their alleged affair, his background was moot to the liberal establishment. Obviously, this was one of the good guys. A sex symbol, even! That he tended to hog the spotlight — more than a hundred cable news appearances in the space of a couple months — was good, actually. He was aggressive. He stayed on the attack. Someone who, with precision and panache, could bring the clownish Trump to account.
Today, Trump is a free man, while Avenatti is serving concurrent prison sentences for attempted extortion, wire fraud and exaggerated identity theft.
This should be a familiar script by now. Whenever liberals try to fight fire with fire — to combat the brash and reckless voice of the GOP with one of their own — things quickly fall apart. It was only weeks before Rep. Anthony Weiner was forced to resign from Congress in 2011 over a sexting scandal that the media spoke of “The Weiner Effect,” other legislators trying to turn their floor speeches into viral content as he had by delivering monologues of high drama and outrage. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo soared high in Democrats’ esteem as the counter-authority to Trump’s denialism in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, only to have his third term cut short by sexual harassment allegations. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota was for nearly a decade beloved as the kind of celebrity-turned-politician more common on the right; he, too, left office under the cloud of sexual misconduct claims from seven women.
It’s almost as if the liberals who, in one way or another, mirror the style and status of prominent conservatives also share the crummy values and morals of the other side. Can we really be surprised? Democrats will never prevail with a savior chosen to be a shining symbol instead of an effective leader and policymaker. The ones who quickly rise in the ranks because they seem “tough” or appear to have bested the GOP at their own game — remember that Avenatti drew speculation of a presidential bid — are ticking time bombs.
Let’s see if we can’t defuse the next.