We are in the midst of perhaps the most contentious Supreme Court nomination in memory. Other nominations have been controversial, such as Robert Bork in the eighties and Clarence Thomas in the nineties. Those confirmation hearings, like Kavanaugh’s, were contentious and mired in scandal, but they were from a very different era. Though it is almost unnecessary to point this out, we live in the most connected society in history. Never before have people been able to contact one another so readily — hundreds and thousands of miles apart, yet closer than ever. It might’ve made us more empathetic and willing to engage in legitimate conversation, but political tribalism is juiced and most of the participants are more interested in jockeying for ephemeral fame, personal gain or, often, both.
Michael Avenatti comes to mind. He’s the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, the adult film star Trump paid off right before the election to keep quiet about their alleged affair back in the day. When he first became prominent, I think most people shrugged him off as just another minor character in the ever-expanding Trump universe, destined to fall off the stage at the end of whatever was driving the news cycle that week. But he hasn’t. In fact, Avenatti has consistently raised his profile, injecting himself into most, if not all, controversies related to this presidency. What’s more, instead of simply engaging with these debates and offering his opinions, he’s actually presented himself as a solution. He has openly entertained the idea of running as the Democratic nominee for president against Trump in 2020, and has spoken to Democrats in key states outlining his priorities and his platform. It’s a terrible idea for Democrats to look at him for redemption.
Avenatti is framing himself as an answer to Trump; he considers himself a fighter and the only Democrat willing to push back against the President in ways that typical politicians might not. Recently, in the wake of the Kavanaugh debacle, he suggested that he now represents some folks who have terrible, career-ending information about the nominee. He mused about it flippantly on Twitter and, now, the Senate has reached out to him in order to verify his claims. If what he has is legitimate, then by all means it ought to be heard and reviewed. I am personally concerned that this is just another example of the lawyer raising his own profile in order to bank in on the anti-Trump sentiment that is widespread amongst the Democratic Party. There should be no place in our political arena for outright smearing, and that is true across all ideologies. Avenatti needs to spill on whatever information he has sooner than later. If this is just some ploy to delay the vote on Kavanaugh, it’s disgusting. I’ll happily acknowledge my error if what he produces is credible, but whenever people take Avenatti at face value, I worry they’re being played.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.