Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren made it official on Saturday: She’s running for president.
Now, she had technically been running for president since she’d started an “exploratory committee” on New Year’s Eve — federal election law makes no difference between a so-called exploratory committee and an actual campaign, something that always sticks in my craw every time a presidential election comes around. However, this was the official kickoff of her 2020 bid, and just in case you didn’t get what themes she’ll be touching on during the campaign, she held it in Lawrence, Massachusetts — site of a 1912 labor strike started by women.
“It won’t be enough to just undo the terrible acts of this administration,” Warren said during the announcement speech Saturday, The New York Times reported.
“We can’t afford to just tinker around the edges — a tax credit here, a regulation there. Our fight is for big, structural change.”
From that snippet, you can pretty much gather another theme of her campaign: Warren plans to differentiate herself from the field, for better or worse, by pushing a wonky suite of far-left economic ideas, particularly what she’s fond of calling her “ultra-millionaire tax.” Wonkery doesn’t necessarily impress voters the same way that other, simpler issues do — particularly this year’s popular theme, identity politics.
But of course, that’s pretty much off the table for Warren, and the GOP’s reminded us why on their official Twitter account:
Elizabeth Warren's last few months have been a disaster.
Her chances of becoming president are as real as her Native American claims… pic.twitter.com/xsEpuACZRA
— GOP (@GOP) February 9, 2019
The greatest hits are all there. Everything from the “high cheekbones” to the beer livestream. And it was all capped off with a perfect reference to the infamous DNA test which proved she may be as little as 1/1024th Native American. It all goes to show that it’s been a tough couple of months for Warren, and all of the wounds were self-inflicted. That’s probably why, as Fox News noted, she made absolutely no mention of the controversy during the speech on Saturday.
The latest revelation in the Native American department involved a form Warren filled out to register for the State Bar of Texas back in 1986 in which she listed her race as “American Indian.”
Beyond ripping off the DNA test scab yet again, the form is important for two reasons.
First, it’s some of the oldest evidence we have of Warren representing herself as a Native American. While the card likely had no influence on her career prospects, it came at about the same time she listed herself as a “minority” in the Association of American Law Schools directory, according to The Washington Post.
That directory, by the by, was used by law schools looking for new faculty, so the idea that this was consequence-free at a time when universities were looking to add diversity is a bit of a stretch.
Second, this doesn’t gibe with the stories that Warren has been telling about her heritage. As the Washington Times notes, “Warren has downplayed similar claims (about her heritage) in other venues such as the Harvard Law School diversity reports, in part by saying the claim was made by others on her behalf.”
Yet well before Harvard, it seems, Warren was making the claim on her own behalf.
Warren’s revisions on how she claimed her Native American heritage and why she did it reminds me of the infamous words uttered by Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler after one of Nixon’s many public shifts on Watergate: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”
The story always shifts. Whenever a new piece of evidence emerges, it’s always integrated into the wider story. And yet, this all could have been stopped back in 2012 if Warren had just said she’d made a mistake by claiming Native American ancestry. We could have left it there. But, nope.
At least the media is willing to run damage control for her. Take the New York Times’ description of the controversy, conveniently buried far, far down in the story.
“Her announcement comes as she seeks to establish herself in the race as a champion of liberal policy but also as she continues to face questions about her claims to Native American ancestry and her sometimes awkward attempts to settle the issue,” they said.
“Although there is no evidence that claiming Native American identity helped her professionally, the matter has dogged her throughout her political career. Mr. Trump has long branded her with the slur ‘Pocahontas,’ suggesting that she made up a minority identity.”
Ah yes, Pocahontas is a “slur.” While I’ve always preferred “Fauxcahontas” (or “Liewatha” in a pinch), the nickname isn’t meant to derogate her heritage. It’s meant to call attention to the fact she’s a very, very white woman who appropriated someone else’s heritage for reasons we’ll never be able to fully divine but which could plausibly have to do with career advancement.
As for the claim “there is no evidence that claiming Native American identity helped her professionally” — well, how could there be? Short of a former dean coming out and saying they wouldn’t have hired her if she hadn’t identified herself as a Native American — a situation about as likely as a Vermin Supreme presidency — there’ll never be any evidence to that effect. How is this exculpatory?
What the kerfuffle over the State Bar card proves is that this story isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s more than likely going to see more and more previously unknown details leak out, and her story will continue to shift in the same protean way it always has. And as long as the Native American heritage controversy keeps grinding away, it’s going to overshadow whatever wonkery she wants to offer Democrat voters. That 1/1024th chance seems awfully generous.