Elizabeth Warren seemed to be on the fast-track to the Democratic nomination in early 2017. Thanks to a very unfortunate turn of phrase used by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Warren soared to new heights of political popularity as the woman who “persisted” in the face of the patriarchy. Thanks to that moment and her close ideological alignment with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Warren was poised to become the voice of the progressive movement in America, and it felt unlikely that President Trump’s “Pocahontas” jabs would do much to stop her speeding train.
Then, she made what might turn out to be a fatal mistake.
Instead of coming out and admitting to the country that she had unwisely claimed Cherokee blood in her professional career, Warren doubled down on her unproven cultural background. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to write a statement or hold a press conference. Just tell Americans that she gave too much weight to her family’s tales of Indian triumph, she regretted any harm that had been done with her (actual) cultural appropriation, and strive to put the whole messy situation behind her.
She didn’t do any of that, though. No, she took a DNA test to “prove” that she was indeed a modern-day Cherokee Princess. And her supporters are starting to worry that it might be a mistake from which there is no coming back.
From the New York Times:
Publicly, at this point, the senator isn’t second-guessing her actions.
“There have been a lot of thoughtful conversations about this, and I appreciate that,” Ms. Warren said in an interview. “I believe for everyone in public life that transparency is crucial.”
Asked if the criticism of the test has inspired any regret, Ms. Warren said: “I put it out there. It’s on the internet for anybody to see. People can make of it what they will. I’m going to continue fighting on the issues that brought me to Washington.”
For some Warren allies and progressive groups, Ms. Warren’s standing by the DNA test amounts to profoundly poor judgment. Some said she was too reactive to Mr. Trump’s attacks — test results would never silence a president who often disregards facts, they said — and created a distraction from her own trademark message of economic populism. The president revels in repeatedly slurring Ms. Warren as “Pocahontas,” and conservative commentators like Howie Carr of The Boston Herald have enjoyed holding the DNA issue over the senator’s head.
Though the Times highlights the fact that “racial genetics” is a subject fraught with controversy, especially among Native American tribes, it repeats the myth that Warren’s DNA test proved that she had Cherokee pedigree in her family. It actually did nothing of the kind, so this was a swing-and-a-miss on two fronts. One might even recognize a third point of error, which is that regardless of whatever Native American ancestry Warren might or might not have, she has undoubtedly lived her life as a white woman. In claiming Indian heritage, many Native Americans accused her of trying to have the best of both worlds.
At a time when the Democratic Party is claiming the mantle of ultra-sensitivity to social justice concerns, nominating this fraud for president would be the ultimate show of hypocrisy.
That doesn’t mean they won’t do it, of course.