It’s October 2018, and as of this writing, the 2020 presidential election cycle is a little more than a year and some change away. Many prominent Democrats are in the process (and have been for much of this year) of putting together the infrastructure of a presidential campaign. Names such as Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden have been circulating among political junkies as the likely starting lineup of Democratic candidates who will spar for their party’s nomination.
There has been a lot of speculation about what kind of candidate would present the best challenge to Donald Trump in a general election. The tone of the Trump presidency, many believe, has helped to further divide the United States, especially along the lines of race and gender. In particular, Trump has found great success in his appeal to working-class white male voters. One likely, but atypical, candidate to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 has a very specific preference for who they think should be the nominee, and it’s got a lot of people talking.
Recently Time Magazine published an article in which they interviewed Los Angeles based attorney, Michael Avenatti, who has gained widespread attention for representing Stormy Daniels, a woman who claims to have been Donald Trump’s mistress. Avenatti, who has been a strong critic of the president and his policies, is now seriously considering running for president in 2020 in hopes of winning the Democratic nomination. In the Times article, published on October 25th, 2018, titled Michael Avenatti's Past Won't Stop Him From Running in 2020, when asked who should be the Democratic nominee for president, he is quoted as saying: “I think it better be a white male...” Later in a separate interview, Avenatti is quoted saying: “I think it’s different when you have a white male making the arguments. I think they carry more weight. Should they carry more weight? Absolutely not. But do they? Yes.” He goes on to say that there is no doubt in his mind that neither a minority or woman “can successfully lead the ticket” in 2020. In the interview, and in subsequent interviews that followed due to the backlash to statement, Avenatti insists that, unfortunately, this is just the way things are.
Avenatti’s statement presents an interesting dichotomy in that it is both a failed attempt to deconstruct (or at least call out) white male privilege, and simultaneously an assertion and affirmation of his own privilege as a white male, which in this case he is a benefactor. Peggy McIntosh argues that white privilege gives whites “cultural permission not to hear voices of people of other races or a tepid cultural tolerance for hearing or acting on such voices”. When Avenatti says that a white male’s voice carries more authority, the question one must ask is to whom? Other white people? In particular, white males? What Avenatti’s assessment fails to realize is that no Democratic presidential candidate can win the party’s nomination (or the presidency for that matter) without winning strong support of minorities, in particular African American women, and Latinos. His assumption is that only white people vote, and only white people’s voices matter.
In the article, Avenatti also claims that a white male candidate will be more effective at calling out Trump on his racism and bigotry because, once again, his assumption is that white males carry more authority and credibility when they call other white men out. This goes directly to McIntosh’s assessment of white privilege; that “(i)f (a white person) claims there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have”. So in the case of the Democratic nominee in 2020, someone like U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, who is an African-American and Indian-American woman, would not have as much credibility calling out Trump on his administration's perceived racist policies simply because she is a woman of color - based on Avenatti’s assumptions.
To conclude, the simple fact of the matter is that Michael Avenatti himself wants to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. Whether he is right or wrong about the mood of the electorate, the point is that Avenatti is using his white male privilege to pretend to call out white male privilege, but not necessarily to challenge it or correct it, but to use that privilege for his own political gain. In the final analysis, this argument is hypocritical and self-serving and simply ignores historical facts and data. Avenatti’s assumption is that because white people are the majority in the United States, their voice is the deciding factor. Avenatti ignores the fact that Barack Obama - an African-American - won the white male vote in 2008 against John McCain - the same voting bloc that switched to vote for Trump in 2016. He also chooses to ignore the fact the Hillary Clinton - a white woman - won about 3 million more votes than Trump in 2016 and would have probably won the presidency were it not for Russian hackers and the electoral college. The point here is, Avenatti’s claim that anyone other than a white male cannot possibly beat Donald Trump in 2020 is unsubstantiated and mired in self-interest. It’s an absurd and dangerous weaponization of white privilege for political gain. But what's new?
Michael J. Payton is the Founder of CSUITEMUSIC.com