Elections

Elizabeth Warren’s Native American Problem Isn’t Going Away

Elizabeth Warren at the Frank LaMere Native American Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, August 19, 2019. (Alex Wroblewski/Reuters)
Warren and her media allies will, however, keep doing their utmost to convince us otherwise.

‘I have listened and I have learned,” said Elizabeth Warren at a forum of Native American voters in Iowa last month. “Like anyone who’s being honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes. I am sorry for the harm I have caused.” Did any reporter ask her what harm, specifically, she’d caused, or what, specifically, she’d learned? Did any reporter ask her if her “mistakes” were ones anyone could have made, or ones she believed any of her peers, either at Harvard or in the Senate, had also made?

No, they did not.

I suppose people think that the controversy over Warren’s past claims of Native American ancestry has been put to bed, with Warren rising in the polls because she has plans for everything, including for Native Americans. But in fact, the controversy has not been put to bed, and it shouldn’t be. It points to Elizabeth Warren’s ambitions and lack of integrity, and forces us to ponder whether the rules really apply to those who would make them.

The media have certainly done their best to help Warren in putting the controversy to bed, though. The Boston Globe — in a story that briefly acknowledged that Warren’s “political enemies have long pushed a narrative that her unsubstantiated claims of Native American heritage turbocharged her legal career” — gave ample space to her own much-more-charitable version of events. Her reporter-defenders have pointed out that until a certain time in her life, she declined to participate in affirmative-action programs, though even they have had to admit that the crucial leaps in her academic career — her landing a job at the University of Pennsylvania and then moving on to Harvard — occurred after she began listing herself as a racial minority. The year before Harvard Law School hired her — and trumpeted her as the first woman of color so hired — it had been subject to major, headline-grabbing protests for giving tenure to four white men.

Of course, Warren could have been deluding herself as well. She claims that her belief in her Cherokee heritage came from longstanding family lore. But the fact that she participated in the now-cringe-inducing Pow Wow Chow cookbook and plagiarized her recipes from a French cookbook suggests a certain awareness that she was perpetrating a racial fraud. And then there is the fact that Cherokee Indian is not so much a “socially constructed” racial category as a specific, legally defined identity: You are a Cherokee when the Cherokee nation recognizes you as a member on its rolls. Surely someone who identified as a Native American academically and socially in the way Warren once claimed she did would have sought such official status. But she didn’t.

Warren has repeatedly claimed over the years that her parents’ marriage was rejected by racist grandparents because of her mother’s Cherokee ancestry. But Cherokee genealogist Twila Barnes has said there’s simply no evidence of Cherokee genealogy in Warren’s family. Warren’s mother was not some racial outcast, but the popular daughter of a prominent local family. And there’s no evidence of the romantic elopement, or racist animus on the part of her paternal grandfather, Grant Herring, who regularly played golf with Carnal Wheeling, a recognized Cherokee.

The media haven’t really known how to handle this story. Like a Geiger counter in a North Korean nuclear-weapons lab, the reaction of the “smart set” on Twitter was wildly disconcerting when Elizabeth Warren announced the results of her spectacularly ill-conceived DNA test earlier this year. At first, the trace amounts of Native American heritage were held up as proof against Donald Trump’s attacks. Then, as geneticists and common sense intervened in the discussion, it became obvious that Warren’s Native American roots were negligible.

As the social-climbing Warren begins to gain over actual socialist Bernie Sanders, I expect the Sandernistas to unload on the contradictions between the upwardly mobile Left’s hatred of cultural appropriation and the changing racial identity and falsified family history of its darling Warren. If she survives that and wins the nomination, she’ll face a general election in which the same basic problem remains.

I predict that should she make it that far, everyone will just try to change the subject.

Most Popular

How a U2 Anthem Defined Generation X

In Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything... (1989), Lloyd Dobler sketches out a stumbling, uncertain-but-nevertheless-determined path for his and my generation: “I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or ... Read More

How a U2 Anthem Defined Generation X

In Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything... (1989), Lloyd Dobler sketches out a stumbling, uncertain-but-nevertheless-determined path for his and my generation: “I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or ... Read More
Economy & Business

Is Biden Lying about Taxes?

A number of commenters to this post raise the possibility that Biden is lying when he says he won't raise taxes on households making less than $400,000. He might be. Maybe as president he would propose a tax increase on people making more than that, watch congressional Democrats lower the threshold, and then say ... Read More
Economy & Business

Is Biden Lying about Taxes?

A number of commenters to this post raise the possibility that Biden is lying when he says he won't raise taxes on households making less than $400,000. He might be. Maybe as president he would propose a tax increase on people making more than that, watch congressional Democrats lower the threshold, and then say ... Read More
World

The 82-Day Dictatorship

One wonders if it will be recorded in the history books that from March 30th to June 20th Hungary lived as the shortest dictatorship in European history, before voluntarily extinguishing itself. An odd act for a dictatorship. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary had used the coronavirus to make himself ... Read More
World

The 82-Day Dictatorship

One wonders if it will be recorded in the history books that from March 30th to June 20th Hungary lived as the shortest dictatorship in European history, before voluntarily extinguishing itself. An odd act for a dictatorship. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary had used the coronavirus to make himself ... Read More
Sports

Gregg Jefferies, Still Unfulfilled

Joel Sherman of the New York Post had an interesting feature Saturday on Gregg Jefferies, one of the great woulda-coulda-shoulda stories for Mets fans. The main theme of the story is that a number of Mets veterans now regret the extent of the hazing the team’s hard-living veterans imposed on the high-strung, ... Read More
Sports

Gregg Jefferies, Still Unfulfilled

Joel Sherman of the New York Post had an interesting feature Saturday on Gregg Jefferies, one of the great woulda-coulda-shoulda stories for Mets fans. The main theme of the story is that a number of Mets veterans now regret the extent of the hazing the team’s hard-living veterans imposed on the high-strung, ... Read More