A growing number of Democratic politicians have decided that Michelle Obama’s rallying cry, “When they go low, we go high,” won’t cut it in the age of Donald Trump.
Campaigning for Democrats in Georgia over the weekend, former Attorney General Eric Holder took issue with the former first lady’s ethical entreaty.
“Michelle says, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No, no. When they go low, we kick ’em,” Holder told his audience to applause. “That’s what this new Democratic Party is about. We’re proud as hell to be Democrats. We’re willing to fight for the ideals of the Democratic Party. We’re proud of our history. We’re proud of our present, and we’re proud of the future that we can create for this country. And we’re not in this just to make a statement — we’re in this to win.”
Minutes later, Holder qualified his remarks.
“Now, when I say, you know, we kick ’em, I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate,” Holder said. “We don’t do anything illegal, but we got to be tough.”
Former US Attorney General Eric Holder
Former US Attorney General Eric Holder
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivers remarks on the second day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention at Wells Fargo Center on July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25.
(Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
Attorney General Eric Holder announces he is leaving the Department of Justice while U.S. President Barack Obama looks on.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrives to talk to the media about the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, and to announce pilot cities for DOJ program to build trust between law enforcement and communities they serve, at the Justice Department in Washington March 12, 2015. Holder said on Thursday the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, was a "heinous assault" that threatens reforms under way in the city.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Orlando July 16, 2013. Holder told the major civil rights convention that controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense laws that have been adopted in 30 states should be reconsidered.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (L) shares a laugh with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at an event in Chicago, Illinois July 2, 2014.
Eric Holder (L) is sworn-in as US Attorney General by US Vice President Joe Biden (R) as Holder's wife, Sharon (C) holds the Bible during ceremonies on February 3, 2009, at the Justice Department in Washington, DC.
(PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A packed room watches Holder's speech.
Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, captures a moment of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as Obama mentions Holder's presence at a town-hall meeting with students and Columbia area youth leaders about the importance of community involvement at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina March 6, 2015.
Attorney General Eric Holder makes a separated statement on the unrest after the unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, during a major financial fraud announcement press conference August 21, 2014 at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. Holder spoke on the current situation in Ferguson one day after his visit to the town and met with Browns family, saying the investigation of the shooting will be thorough and will be fair, and Department of Justice stands with the people of Ferguson.
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (R) embraces President Barack Obama after the president announced Holder's resignation in the White House State Dining Room in Washington, September 25, 2014.
US Attorney General Eric H. Holder is sworn-in during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill May 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. Holder and other members of the Obama administration are being criticized over reports of the Internal Revenue Services'(IRS) scrutiny of conservative organization's tax exemption requests and the subpoena of two months worth of Associated Press journalists' phone records.
(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Department of Justice May 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. During the event Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas administered the Oath of Citizenship to approximately 70 new U.S. citizens.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during the second day at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 26, 2016.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder returns an acknowledgement from President Barack Obama at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner in Washington September 27, 2014.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrives at the 46th NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, California February 6, 2015.
Eric Holder (L) is sworn in as U.S. Attorney General by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) at the Justice Department in Washington February 3, 2009. Holder's wife Sharon (C) holds the Bible during the swearing in.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder attend the National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the Capitol in Washington May 15, 2013.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is trailed by reporters upon his arrival on Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Washington March 6, 2015. Holder had accompanied U.S. President Barack Obama for the day to Columbia, South Carolina.
Attorney General Eric Holder (R) and his wife Sharon Malone attend the unveiling of Holder's official portrait with the artist Simmie Knox (L) at the Dept. of Justice, in Washington, February 27, 2015. Holder, the first African-American attorney general, serving since 2009, will be succeeded by Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman to hold the position if confirmed by the Senate.
U.S. Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch (C) speaks as U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and retiring Attorney General Eric Holder (L) look on, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington November 8, 2014.
United States Attorney General Eric Holder (L) participates in a selfie with Ju Hyeon Seo (R) during a ceremony for 70 citizenship candidates at the Justice Department in Washington July 22, 2014. Ju was formerly a South Korean citizen.
“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Clinton told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. “That’s why I believe if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”
One of the leading proponents of going toe-to-toe with Trump’s bellicose rhetoric is Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti, who has expressed interest in running for president as a Democrat in 2020.
“When they go low, I say, we hit harder,” Avenatti told a crowd in Iowa in August, adding, “I believe that our party, the Democratic Party, must be a party that fights fire with fire.”
Back in March, prospective 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden upped the ante on aggressive language when he mused that he would have “beat the hell out” of Trump if the two men had attended high school together.
“A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere, and she likes it,'” Biden said at a rally against sexual assault at the University of Miami. “They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said ‘no.’ I said, ‘If I were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.'”
Biden later apologized for the remark, but Avenatti, who has been locked in a war of words with Donald Trump Jr., has offered to hop into the ring with the president’s son for a three-round, mixed martial arts charity fight. In a tweet posted Tuesday, Avenatti suggested donating proceeds to an anti-sexual violence organization and to the rebuilding effort in Puerto Rico.
President Trump revels in such taunts and regularly recounts Biden’s quip at rallies, bragging that the former vice president would “go down fast and hard, crying all the way.”
While there is no shortage of debate in Democratic circles about how best to take on Trump in the midterm elections and in 2020, the president shows no qualms about endorsing a scorched-earth approach.
At rallies over the past week, Trump has portrayed Democrats as “an angry mob” and “the party of crime.” He told a rally in Minnesota that the “Dems are willing to do anything, to hurt anyone, to get the power they so desperately crave.”
A few days later he was in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he stood by, smirking, while his audience chanted “lock her up” at the mention of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.