Former Elizabeth Warren adviser: DNA test a “strategic failure” that was “depressing and unforgettable”
NY Times: “the lingering cloud over her likely presidential campaign has only darkened”
The NY Times has an extensive report on the lasting and profound damage to Elizabeth Warren’s presidential ambitions from her decision in October to release the results of a DNA test to supposedly prove she was Native American.
When the DNA test was released, we noted the problems, Elizabeth Warren DNA test does NOT prove she’s Native American, contrary to the hype.
Warren’s slick rollout of the DNA test results, accompanied by a professionally produced video about her family and a Boston Globe puff piece, collapsed into widespread mockery when the Globe had to issue corrections to its math, indicating Warren may be as little as 1/1024th Native American by DNA.
But that math was the least of her problems. As we discussed many times in posts dating back to 2012, DNA is not the measure of whether one is Native American. Warren can’t show any Native American ancestors, and never affiliated with Native American groups through tribal membership or otherwise.
The Cherokee Nation issued a blistering statement (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.”
I characterized Warren’s misstep as a DNA Disaster: Elizabeth Warren proved she doesn’t have what it takes to take on Trump:
Why should Democrats nominate someone with such problems that go to the core of who she is as a person, who will be so easily mocked and turned into a sad caricature? There are other choices, likely dozens of others without the baggage.
Nathan Robinson, someone who considers himself generally a supporter of Warren, wrote in Current Affairs that how Warren has handled the Native American issue has rendered her an unwinnable challenger to Trump:
… I have liked Elizabeth Warren for a long time, but this is a massive political liability. She is wrong on this, she doesn’t seem to know she is wrong, she refuses to apologize, and she continues to make it worse. I don’t know why, instead of suggesting that this is a baseless smear, she can’t just say clearly and definitively that she shouldn’t have spent years publicly touting her Native ancestry. This stupid issue would dominate any contest with Donald Trump. It would never end. It would prevent us from ever actually discussing any serious issues. It would be like the goddamn email scandal all over again. And Warren has shown that she would handle it badly. At this point, I do not see how she can be a serious presidential contender.
That is the cruelest cut from this episode. Having set out to prove she can take on Trump, Warren proved the opposite.
Democrats want someone who can beat Trump. ANYONE who can beat Trump. Warren showed Democrats she is not The One.
Polling reflected the damage to Warren’s credibility, Poll Confirms Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test backfired on her, big league and even Nikki Haley used the DNA test as a punch line, Nikki Haley: ‘You wanted an Indian woman, but Elizabeth Warren failed her DNA test’.
The New York Times story mentioned at the top reflects on the damage to Warren, Elizabeth Warren Stands by DNA Test. But Around Her, Worries Abound. The article points out that Warren has damaged her credibility with progressives and actual Native Americans by relying on DNA-based racial theories, and that such a misstep may be so severe she can’t recover:
… nearly two months after Ms. Warren released the test results and drew hostile reactions from prominent tribal leaders, the lingering cloud over her likely presidential campaign has only darkened. Conservatives have continued to ridicule her. More worrisome to supporters of Ms. Warren’s presidential ambitions, she has yet to allay criticism from grass-roots progressive groups, liberal political operatives and other potential 2020 allies who complain that she put too much emphasis on the controversial field of racial science — and, in doing so, played into Mr. Trump’s hands.
Advisers close to Ms. Warren say she has privately expressed concern that she may have damaged her relationships to Native American groups and her own standing with progressive activists, particularly those who are racial minorities. Several outside advisers are even more worried: They say they believe a plan should be made to repair that damage, possibly including a strong statement of apology….
Three people close to senior members of Ms. Warren’s team, who were granted anonymity to speak freely on the issue, said they were “shocked” and “rattled” by the senator’s decision to take the DNA test, which they described as an unequivocal misstep that could have lasting consequences, even on 2020 staffing. One former adviser, who also asked not to be named, called it a “strategic failure” that was “depressing and unforgettable.”
Jennifer Epps-Addison, co-director for the Center for Popular Democracy, a progressive group that has previously been supportive of Ms. Warren, said, “If she wants to be considered the leader of our party or the leader of the progressive movement, she needs a reconciliation.”
Twila Barnes, the actual Cherokee genealogist who has been on Warren’s genealogical case since 2012, is quoted in the Times article:
Twila Barnes, a Cherokee genealogist who has thoroughly tracked Ms. Warren’s claims of native ancestry since it became national news in 2012, said her “jaw was on the floor” when she saw Ms. Warren’s decision to take the DNA test, and the slick video that accompanied the announcement of the results.
Ms. Barnes said Ms. Warren had an opportunity to teach the broader public about how genetic testing has historically been used as a weapon against Native communities, but instead she “helped perpetuate a very dangerous idea.”
It has pushed Ms. Barnes, a self-described liberal, to make something of a personal pledge: She will never vote for Ms. Warren under any circumstance, including in an election against Mr. Trump.
Not even an apology — at this point — would help.
“She’s had six years to apologize,” she said.
Warren may finally “apologize,” but it will contrived by the same political advisers who created the DNA debacle:
Advisers close to Ms. Warren say she has privately expressed concern that she may have damaged her relationships to Native American groups and her own standing with progressive activists, particularly those who are racial minorities. Several outside advisers are even more worried: They say they believe a plan should be made to repair that damage, possibly including a strong statement of apology.
The advisers say Ms. Warren will have to confront the issue again if she announces a presidential campaign, which is expected in the coming weeks, and several would like her to act soon.
This apology strategy misses the point. Warren will not be apologizing for falsely claiming to be Native American, she will apologize for taking the DNA test.
Elizabeth Warren had a chance to apologize for falsely claiming to be Native American to try to advance her career. That time was six years ago when the issue first arose. Instead Warren just kept digging, and now her irrational stubborness is coming back to haunt her.DONATE
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