Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was one of the first Democrats off the starting line eager to launch an exploratory committee and begin the process of setting up a 2020 presidential campaign. In fact, she did so back in December to get the jump on the new year.
However, since October of last year, it has been one misstep after another for the progressive warrior who has spent the past few years hinting and toying with a presidential run.
The first mistake happened back in October of 2018 when Warren claimed that the results of a DNA test showed that she did indeed have Native American blood in her. The DNA release, however, did not go as planned once the media began analyzing the full results.
CNN reported at the time that the release of the test results probably made the entire situation worse for Warren:
Warren’s goal was to take the issue of her heritage off the table for nervous Democrats and to show that she was ready, willing and able to stand up to President Donald Trump if and when the time came that she was the party’s nominee against him in 2020. The problem is that, when you strip away all of the glitz of her well-produced video, you are left with this: There’s still no certainty that Warren is, in any meaningful way, Native American.
Yes, Stanford geneticist Carlos Bustamante tells Warren in the video that “the facts suggest that you absolutely have a Native American ancestor in your pedigree.” But the estimates of just how much Native American blood Warren actually posses range from 1/64th to a whopping 1/1024th. Which, um, ain’t a lot.
Aside from showing a range from 1/64th to 1/1024th Native American, Warren angered several tribes who strongly condemn the use of DNA testing to prove Native American heritage:
“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” the statement from Cherokee Nation secretary of state Chuck Hoskin Jr. read. “Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”
Hoskin’s statement also said Warren’s DNA test “makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses.”
Let’s jump ahead from October to just a few days ago, on February 1, 2019, when Warren said she privately apologized to Cherokee leaders for attempting to use DNA as a way to prove her Native American heritage. The New York Times reported at the time:
On Thursday [Jan. 31, 2019], Ms. Warren called Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, to apologize for the DNA test, said Julie Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the tribe. She called it a “brief and private” conversation.
Ms. Warren’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“I understand that she apologized for causing confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and the harm that has resulted,” Ms. Hubbard said. “The chief and secretary of state appreciate that she has reaffirmed that she is not a Cherokee Nation citizen or a citizen of any tribal nation.”
You’d think that would be the end of the story. Warren tried a stunt back in October with a DNA test to put the issue of her ancestry to bed. Instead, the stunt backfired and actually played directly into her critics as it did not show any significant amount of Native American DNA any more than most people in the general population.
Texas Bar Application
Then, a new chapter emerged this week, as the Washingon Post exposed:
Warren has been trying for the past year to get past the lingering controversy over her past assertion that she is Native American.
In addition to the DNA test, she released employment documents over the summer to show she didn’t use ethnicity to further her career. And in a speech a year ago she addressed her decision to call herself a Native American, though she didn’t offer the apology that some wanted at the time.
But as Warren undergoes increased scrutiny as a presidential candidate, additional documents could surface to keep the issue alive.
Using an open records request during a general inquiry, for example, The Post obtained Warren’s registration card for the State Bar of Texas, providing a previously undisclosed example of Warren identifying as an “American Indian.”
Warren filled out the card by hand in neat blue ink and signed it. Dated April 1986, it is the first document to surface showing Warren making the claim in her own handwriting. Her office didn’t dispute its authenticity.
Many Native American tribal leaders remain angered over the episode, and the issue probably will continue to dog Warren into the Democratic primary:
“I want to see it in writing,” said David Cornsilk, a historian and genealogist who is also a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. “I want her to go on national TV. I want her to do a video like she did to announce her DNA results. It just seemed very lacking.”
This all does not bode well for Warren who has been unable to cast this issue aside and begin focusing on her campaign platform. As it stands right now, the progressive lane is crowded, and filled with candidates who, unlike Warren, do not have this type of baggage hanging around on an especially delicate social justice subject.
A writer in High Country News, a magazine which focuses on issues being faced in the Western part of the United States, says Warren’s actions illustrate a vehement anti-Native American streak seen among politicians in both parties:
This is the legacy that Elizabeth Warren inherits and champions. In the years since her claims to being Cherokee, she has ignored Cherokee requests to meet and rectify her assertions — a clear illustration of her lack of integrity, commitment or relation to the very people she claims to have descended from. Instead of kinship, she has chosen colonialism. She is a bad relative, as are the political conservatives and liberals that share a common, anti-Indigenous bond — a story that sacrifices Indigenous worldviews and the good relations between humans and non-humans those beliefs espouse.
What now for Warren? She’s still rebuilding her reputation from all this, and still pushing onward toward launching a full presidential campaign set for Saturday, February 9.
Whether she can dig out from this controversy remains to be seen, but by any account, this is a terrible way to kick off a Presidential campaign mired in a scandal of what some reporters are calling “cultural appropriation.”