Own Goal: It’s as if Trump set a trap, and Warren walked right into it.
Elizabeth Warren is not a spontaneous politician. Much like Hillary Clinton, every political move is planned out meticulously.
It’s why Warren has become notorious for avoiding unplanned encounters with reporters, where she can’t control the format. Her preference has been to sit down only with friendly interviewers who will not challenge her in any meaningful way.
Warren also uses The Boston Globe as her press publicist, spoon feeding Globe reporters with exclusive access to family members and documents to promote the narrative Warren wants on her claim to be Native American.
When Warren rolled out her DNA test results via The Boston Globe on October 15, 2018, it was well-planned. Warren did not use the normal commercial method of obtaining an interpretation of her DNA test data, instead handpicking a Stanford professor. Warren provided the professor’s report to the Globe, which does not appear to have demanded the underlying data for review by other experts. It all was very controlled. The Globe even resurrected the claim that Warren’s great-great-great grandmother O.C. Sarah Smith might be Cherokee, a claim that the Globe retracted as without basis in May 2012.
Warren combined the Globe promo piece with a highly produced video telling Warren’s family story to support her claim of “family lore” of Native American heritage.
So when the Globe article went live, Warren had every reason to think this might put an end to the controversy. But just the opposite happened.
The test interpretation was revealed to be based largely on non-Native American DNA sample data, and worse still, was inconclusive. The interpretation of the data was that there was “strong evidence” that Warren might have a Native American ancestor 6 to 10 generations ago. That would put Warren somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American based on DNA. It also meant that Warren might have less Native American DNA than the average American of European descent.
Worse still, Warren offended Native Americans by using DNA as proof of ancestry. That’s not how it works for tribes. Warren has to show an actual Native American ancestor, not just a hypothetical DNA donor 6-10 generations ago.
The Cherokee Nation responded with fury, Cherokee Nation: “Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage” (emphasis added):
“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said. “Sovereign tribal national set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”
Other Native American leaders have been even more scathing, accusing Warren of undermining Native American sovereignty and feeding into negative narratives. Even the Warren-friendly Washington Post noted, Elizabeth Warren angers prominent Native Americans with politically fraught DNA test:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s release of a DNA test that suggested a lineage to a distant Native American ancestor has roiled the indigenous community, frustrated about the seizure of cultural and social ties for political maneuvering….
Kim TallBear, a researcher at the University of Alberta, called Warren’s claims “yet another strike” against “tribal sovereignty.”
That erosion, TallBear said Monday on Twitter, has been long-standing.
“Non-Indigenous Americans will never stop making claims to all things indigenous: bones, blood, land, waters, and identities. The U.S. continues to appropriate every last thing.”
Gyasi Ross, an author focused on Native American issues and culture, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that “there is definitely a level of anger, of tone-deafness” in Warren’s approach.
Aaron Blake at WaPo writes that the Cherokee Nation rebuke is important:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s decision to release a DNA test verifying a claim to (very distant) Native American heritage was always a strategy of necessity rather than choice. This claim dogged Warren in her first Senate campaign in 2012, and regardless of the appropriateness of President Trump’s “Pocahontas” attacks on her, it very much threatens to be a liability if the Massachusetts Democrat runs for president in 2020.
Now the gambit seems to have backfired with some prominent Native Americans — most notably the Cherokee Nation. And that group’s response is particularly important when you consider this: Six years ago, it gave Warren a pass.
The Cherokee Nation’s secretary of state, Chuck Hoskin Jr., released a blistering statement Monday in response to the test showing Warren was between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American…
However you feel about Trump’s rhetoric or Warren’s claims, the rebuke is a significant political moment. This is the very nation to which Warren claims a connection saying that she is “undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.” They’re effectively saying her claims and efforts to prove her heritage are no longer helpful and even harmful. Individual Native Americans have denounced Warren before; now the Cherokee Nation has taken a pretty firm stand against her, thanks to the DNA test….
It’s one thing for Warren to lend some credence and proof to her ancestry claim; it’s another for that claim to be judged sufficient for Warren to use it in a professional setting. The Cherokee Nation’s statement and the reactions of other Native Americans suggest they’re unwilling to accept the latter.
The DNA test has given Trump even more ammunition:
Republican Senators are openly mocking Warren’s DNA test:
Mockery from Republicans could be expected, but some Democrats are not happy Warren pulled this publicity stunt right before the midterm elections:
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., might have believed that releasing DNA test results that apparently prove her Native American heritage would show up President Trump and other Republican critics and put the controversy to rest. However, it has only breathed new life into the story and angered fellow Democrats who fear a blue wave may not happen in next month’s midterm elections … President Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, on Monday sharply criticized Warren, saying she was throwing the Democratic Party off-message just weeks before November’s critical midterm elections. “Argue the substance all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we MUST win house and senate to save America, why did @SenWarren have to do her announcement now?,” Messina tweeted. “”Why can’t Dems ever stay focused???”
This has been an ‘own goal’ for Warren.
CNN’s Chris Cillizza noted Warren “might have actually made things worse with her DNA gambit.”All of this, keep in mind, is because Trump relentlessly has branded Warren as “Pocahontas.” That term is meant to mock Warren’s fake claim to be Native American, not to mock Native Americans, as Warren claims.
I wrote about this branding in April 2017, Trump branding of Elizabeth Warren as Fake Indian continues, expecting her to run in 2020:
When Newt Gingrich spoke at Cornell earlier this semester, he made a very important point.
Trump doesn’t attack his political opponents, he brands them. The brand for Jeb was “low energy.” For Rubio, it was “little Marco.” For Cruz, it was “lyin’ Ted.” Once branded, they could not shake the image.
Just ask “Crooked Hillary.”
Which brings up Elizabeth Warren….
Speaking at the NRA today, Trump warned that members should expect “Pocahontas” to run:
“I have a feeling that in the next election, you’re going to be swamped with candidates, but you’re not going to be wasting your time,” said Trump, the first sitting president to address the NRA’s convention since Ronald Reagan. “You’ll have plenty of those Democrats coming over and you’re going to say, ‘No, sir. No, thank you. No, ma’am.’ Perhaps ‘ma’am.’ It may be Pocahontas, remember that. And she is not big for the NRA, that I can tell you. But you came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”
… Trump is branding her. And being someone who was a fake Indian is her brand. She’ll never shake it.
By taking the DNA test in response to Trump’s mocking her, Warren has solidified her ethnic deception as part of her brand.
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