Michael Avenatti, please go away

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In a week where the president of the United States disparaged two critics as “Pocahontas” and “Horseface,” no wonder most of the electorate is fatigued by our political discourse. Now Michael Avenatti enters the fray.

Avenatti is repurposing Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” to “when they go low, I say hit back harder.” Last week, he challenged Donald Trump Jr. to a mixed martial arts fight. Yes, Democrats should hit back harder, but with a strategy to win votes rather than headlines. Hitting below the belt may be cathartic for a dispirited base, but I’m more interested in victory than catharsis. It is nearly impossible to beat Donald Trump in a race to the bottom. He will outdo you every time.

{mosads}Democrats stand a strong chance of winning control of the House not because our candidates hit lower, but sharper. Not by calling their opponents names, but by articulating solutions. That is the discourse that wins votes, particularly from nonpartisans who are exhausted by the vitriol. We are talking about the three branches of government established by our Constitution, not a three ring circus.

What is a better strategy? Challenging Trump Jr. to three rounds in the ring or, say, running M.J. Hegar in Texas? She is an Air Force helicopter pilot who received a Purple Heart from her service in Afghanistan. Her leading campaign goals are not to disparage or insult, but rather “fight to make health care more affordable for everyone, support military families, and work hard to protect Medicare and Social Security.”

In blood red Texas, often thought of as out of reach for Democrats, Beto O’Rourke is competitive not because he has come up with a catchy nickname for Senator Ted Cruz (Trump beat him to the punch with his “Lying Ted” two years ago), but because he has traveled the state and inspired such vast levels of support, making national news.

Other candidates across the country are treading similarly constructive paths and running campaigns based on positive contrast, as opposed to name calling. These include Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey, Jason Crow in Colorado, Sharice Davids in Kansas, and many others. Despite what Avenatti may lead you to think, many of them are on track to win.

With a record number of women candidates, and first time candidates from varied backgrounds, Democrats are competing across the map. They are not racing to the bottom, but rather elevating our discourse and running towards a majority. So we should cede the low ground to Trump. Let him wallow in the muck and mud with the third of Americans who are fine with this stain on our democracy. Let Democrats win elections. Avenatti, meanwhile, should focus on winning lawsuits.

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years. He served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is a novelist whose latest book is “Big Guns.” You can follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael and on Facebook @RepSteveIsrael.

Tags America Congress Constitution Democrats Donald Trump Donald Trump Jr. Government Michael Avenatti Michelle Obama Steve Israel Ted Cruz

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