Today seems to be a turning point in the Elizabeth Warren-Cherokee story. Her shifting and implausible explanations have made her a laughing-stock, never good for any candidate. Warren has lost the argument, and her credibility.
Two pieces of proof today: Her supporters have amplified the sexism-card she played into the “birther” and race cards, and a fairly level-headed political analyst not prone to partisan hyperbole calls her a liar.
Proof No. 1: A supportive law professor from Syracuse University, who says he is Native American, comes to Warren’s defense in The NY Times by playing the “birther” and race cards, Elizabeth Warren’s Birther Moment:
This tactic is straight from the Republican cookbook of fake controversy. First, you need a rarefied elected office typically occupied by a certain breed of privileged men. Both the Presidency and the Senate fit this bill. Second, add a bit of interracial intrigue. It could be Kenyan economists eloping with Midwestern anthropologists, or white frontiersmen pairing with indigenous women. Third, throw in some suspicion about their qualifications and ambitions. Last but not least, demand documentation of ancestry and be dissatisfied upon its receipt. Voila! You have a genuine birther movement.
The Republican approach to race is to feign that it is irrelevant — until it becomes politically advantageous to bring it up. Birthers question Obama’s state of origin (and implicitly his multiracial heritage) in efforts to disqualify him from the presidency. They characterize him as “other.” For Warren, Massachusetts Republicans place doubts on her racial claims to portray her as an opportunistic academic seeking special treatment. In both birther camps, opponents look to ancestral origins as the smoking gun, and ride the ambiguity for the duration.
Ironically, by the end of the professor’s piece, he actually has made the argument as to why Warren’s conduct is relevant to her credibility as a Senate candidate:
Native faculty are familiar with “box checkers”: those students and faculty who become Native for the temporary moment of admissions or employment. As soon as the application is mailed or the interview completed, the candidate returns to life as usual. The Cherokee Princess Grandmother served her purpose, and her memory is revived at convenient times.
Proof No. 2. Larry Sabato is not prone to partisan flame-throwing, but even he has had enough, via Joe Battenfeld in The Boston Herald (emphasis mine):
Some national political experts had much stronger words for Warren’s conflicting explanations about why she listed herself as a minority in university directories.
“This takes her biography into a bizarre dimension,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “It has derailed the effort to define Warren in a voter-friendly way.”
Sabato also said that Warren’s claim that she didn’t list herself as a minority to gain an employment advantage is not believable.
“This is what happens when candidates don’t tell the truth,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious she was using (the minority listing) for career advancement.”
I’m not saying Warren will lose the election. It is Massachusetts after all. But she’s lost her credibility, and her seriousness as a candidate.