Difficult time appear to cal for action, but they demand first and foremost character and judgment. Unfortunately, Sen Elizabeth Warren failed spectacularly at demonstrating both.
Her desire to take a new approach to countering bullying and nonsense in public discourse is understandable, but it takes a lot more than a cute gimmick. Worse, her inability to navigate the delicate issues of race and identity have demonstrated that Democratic leadership is still generally clueless about this topic and will continue to only make things worse.
It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. If Republicans, led by Trump, want to make a big deal over her indelicate recounting of family lore about her Native heritage the problem should be faced head-on with something decisive. After all, didn’t we learn from Hillary Clinton that ignoring the nonsense only allows it to grow and fester into a cancer which cannot be controlled?
This is no small matter, especially for women seeking leadership. Without strong archetypes women have to define themselves as leaders rather than simply fit into easy existing identities. Every one has to identify themselves before their image is crafted by the opposition.
Clinton faced this by bravely soldiering on, which was clearly a mistake. The amount of nonsense and lies about her is breathtaking in scope, and most of it was never directly countered. If you believe that 90% of what has been said about her is ridiculous, which it certainly is, she still looks like a horrible person. If 99% can be discounted, she’s more trustworthy than the average politician at a high level. The truth is probably somewhere in that range, but who can tell?
In this sick and twisted world, Warren tried to get ahead of it all with a DNA test that showed she did indeed have some Native blood. It was a horrible mistake, and too clever by more than half.
The most immediate problem is how, by playing the opposition’s game, she stumbled into a place of terrible pain for most Natives. It’s not about blood, it’s about culture and the genocide that destroyed it completely. Playing a game of blood is white supremacist territory all around, the language of the conquerors. It should never have been considered.
On top of that, it appears that Sen Warren is taking this far too personally. That is somewhat understandable, especially given that one rap against Clinton was that she never took any of the nonsense leveled at her personally enough. But it tells us that the bullies have already won, that they got to her. It does not look decisive, it looks weak.
This probably will make it impossible for Sen Warren to run for president now, which is sad. Nothing good can come from gimmicks like this other than more pain and a clear demonstration that Democratic leadership is indeed not just too pale but personally and emotionally very white.
It seems strange to pile onto her like so many other people have, but several lessons need to be taken from this sorry episode. The desire to confront bullies and change the discourse is essential, but this is not the way to do it. Playing their game means that they have already won. While Clinton made a terrible mistake by not engaging, the situation calls for a leader who is very much above the nonsense and noise.
We have now sacrificed two very capable women in high positions to different attempts to work through the lack of basic decency in our politics. That’s the terrible shame of all of this. Women need to be in leadership positions, but sadly they have to demonstrate a level of skill which is far above and beyond that of men to get through what we have now. It’s almost impossible to imagine any of them succeeding. Yet it is possible with strong character and judgment coupled with a the ability to clearly define the real issues with intellect, determination, and empathy.
At least we can all hope as much. What we do know is that playing the games of the supremacists has not worked out for anyone. There is no gimmick that can get us through this.
Oh, no. We will not do this. Are you truly saying that a man such as Trump can get away with vile, immoral behavior and language, constant lying, destructive actions that destroy our democracy while enriching himself, as well as flagrant bullying and taunting, yet a woman cannot recover from one action taken to fight back against an attack from that same man? Her action makes her “look weak?” She “let him win?” We have to just give up and throw Warren out with the trash because she confronted her bully on his own grounds?
Pardon my language, but not on your fucking life. Elizabeth Warren has done more good for the people of this country than any other politician currently in office. She has pragmatic ideas that cut to the heart of the problems in any system Americans must deal with. She continually stands up to the criminals in charge of our country and economy, and does everything possible within the system to bring true control to their rapacious behavior. But OMG, she got a DNA test! Never mind that the results proved Trump’s attack was without merit, she did an unforgivable thing! She’s a Ruined Woman now! She can’t recover from this!
Seriously, what the hell? If ANY male senator in the same situation had taken a DNA test, it would be regarded as a sensible and honorable response to a derogatory attack. I get that for the Native Americans, it’s about culture more than blood. Warren should acknowledge that. But that was not what Trump’s attack was about and it’s not what the DNA test was about. It is absolutely, 100 percent wrong to bring that standard into this issue.
You should be standing up for Warren, not writing her off.
I agree that this is not a time to write her off. I agree that this was a mistake but it is not the end of her career. Democrats are way to quick to do that with good people like Franken. We have to stop that.
I hope she can recover from this, but I think it is unlikely. Race is such a poison that a misstep in this area causes a lot of damage. That’s my problem with this. We will see how it plays out more generally, however. But the rest I am sure of – we do have to fight back, but it can never, ever be on their terms.
I pretty much agree with you, and with a NYT column today. This whole episode was a real error on Warren’s part, and played into trumps tiny little hands. But to write her off over it is wrong. It really has nothing to do with where her real expertise lies.
Nice article. I can prove both by direct lineal ancestry, and of course DNA that one branch of my family is Choctaw. My 8th great grandparents were Choctaw on two lines. My 1st cousin 6x removed was John Houston Cooper, a chief who, at the bequest of Andrew Jackson, brought his men to fight the Creeks in the War of 1812. ( pathetically Indian fighting Indians) The slaughter at Horseshoe Bend is but one of many genocidal atrocities. Jackson promised Cooper if he did this, that he could keep his land in Tennessee. However Jackson reneged, put Copper in chains, then sent him and his family on the Trail of Tears. Cooper, however, was two days late to sign the paperwork to obtain land in Oklahoma, essentially leaving him as a man without a country. FYI Nancy Cooper vs. The Choctaw Nation is one of the oldest court battles on the US dockets. It was an attempt to re-instate this Cooper branch as being part of the First Nation. Unfortunately it failed. Donald Panther Yates, whose mother was a Cooper is a distant relative. He has written extensively on Native American history as well a Jews in early America and Scotland, also historical DNA etc. Interestingly enough it was two of my 8th Great grandfathers who were Sephardic Jews that emigrated from Europe ( Spain to London to America) and married the Choctaw women that are my ancestors. Mixed race people, known as Melungeons were castigated, and scorned as social pariahs. Of additional interest is that my 7th GG was a Spanish speaking scout for Daniel Boone, married a 1/2 Choctaw woman and was one of the first “whites” to plant corn in Kentucky. Ironically he was killed fighting Indians at the Battle of Nasbrough. Persecution of the Spanish Jews and the three Spanish purges goes without saying and was the poster child for what the Nazis did in WW II. It is interesting then that my family history not only highlights the “Original US Melting Pot” but worse illustrates the ugly penchant that human beings have for hate, violence and war. We are really only highly evolved apes, born with a genetic hate chip and a penchant for territorial imperatives. The current hatred spewed by American politicians is as disgraceful s it is counterproductive. Hatred only begets more hatred. I am not a Native American. But I do have Native American DNA. My ancestral story and the genocidal nature of human beings is the real Trail of Tears. It is time to revert to peaceful discourse and compromise in politics. Otherwise we remain nothing better than the wild animals that still lives in all of our DNA.