Published 8:27 PM EDT Oct 10, 2018
WASHINGTON - Former Attorney General Eric Holder says he thinks former first lady Michelle Obama was wrong in her signature line "when they go low, we go high."
Campaigning for Democrats in Georgia, Holder told an audience that "when they go low, we kick them."
"Michelle [Obama] always says ‘When they go low, we go high,'" Holder told the crowd. "No. No. When they go low, we kick them."
The comment drew applause, cheers and chants of "fight" from the crowd supporting Stacey Abrams for Georgia governor and several other Democratic candidates. He continued, though, saying he did not want people to actually kick Republicans.
"When I say we kick them, I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate, we don’t do anything illegal, but we have to be tough and we have to fight," Holder said.
Holder, a potential presidential contender for 2020, said this was the start of a "new Democratic party," adding it was time to be as "tough" and "dedicated" as Republicans.
"That's what this new Democratic party is about. We're proud as hell to be Democrats," he said. "We're going 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 we can create for this country."
Michelle Obama coined the phrase during her 2016 speech at the Democratic National Convention when Hillary Clinton was still a candidate running against Trump for the presidency. The line became a motto for Democrats on how to respond to Donald Trump's campaign tactics.
Holder was the latest Democrat pointing to the need to toughen up ahead of next month's midterms, where liberals could take control of the House or Senate.
Clinton herself told CNN in an interview that aired Tuesday that it was time to be "tougher" with their opponents.
"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. "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."
More: Hillary Clinton: You 'cannot be civil' with Republicans, Democrats need to be 'tougher'
The comments by Holder and Clinton have become talking points for Republicans who are seizing on protests over Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination to try to paint Democratic activists as an angry "mob."
In a tweet, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel listed comments from other Democrats, such as Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and suggested that Holder "wants the mob even angrier."
Allen West, a former Republican congressman, also chimed in on Twitter, accusing Holder of "advocating physical assault" and describing him as a "mob" leader.
Holder did not immediately return a request for comment from USA TODAY.