In a Democratic Convention that featured a seemingly endless stream of speakers throwing red meat to the liberal base of the party in attendance at Charlotte, no one tilted farther to the left than Elizabeth Warren. The Harvard Law professor and Democratic Senate candidate was greeted enthusiastically by the delegates, who ate up her rant about the system being rigged against working people. However, as many have already pointed out, her speech seemed slightly out of place at a gathering in support of the party in power, rather than the opposition. Her hostility to the business world was also exactly what the Charlotte Democrats wanted to hear but the party’s corporate sponsors and major donors also could not have enjoyed it.
However, we should assume that Democratic donors are used to being abused by their party’s professional rabble-rousers and take the spectacle of a Harvard elitist masquerading as one of the hoi polloi with the bucket of salt that perhaps we should all employ when listening to Warren. Nevertheless, there was one group at the Democratic Convention that was not very happy with Professor Warren: Native Americans who still think she is a big phony for her bogus claim of Cherokee ancestry. As the New York Times reports today, Warren was the subject of some scathing comments by Native American delegates.
Genealogy has become a popular American pastime, but it’s not one that Elizabeth Warren seems to be enjoying. The law professor turned Democratic Senate candidate has discovered to her displeasure that more attention is being paid to her somewhat tenuous claim to Native American ancestry and the use her academic employers made of this fiction than her attempt to defeat Massachusetts incumbent Scott Brown. The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta has compiled all the available evidence on the matter and found some facts that will comfort Warren and others that her critics will promote. But even after we have gotten to the bottom of this — and Franke-Ruta appears to have done so — that won’t solve her problem. Warren’s dilemma is more pressing than merely the irony of a “progressive” hoisted on the petard fashioned by the left.
Warren is vulnerable on this score not just because it is amusing to see a liberal squirm after being called out for masquerading as a minority. Rather it is the fact that she’s a relative newcomer to politics and this controversy is helping to define her. Though she’s right that this is a distraction from the issues, having entered the public imagination as the object of popular scorn in this fashion, it’s going to be difficult for her to shake this image of faux Indian in the next six months.