Another week, another apology from Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her phony claims of Native American heritage. But the latest evidence against her should spell the end of her presidential ambitions.
Sen. Warren’s discredited story of Indian ancestry has made her an object of ridicule coming from President Donald Trump, who dubbed her “Pocahontas,” and conservatives generally who prefer the more pointed “Fauxcahontas.” Liberals seem to have been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, seemingly accepting each new explanation for her shifting story of how and why she was mistaken for a member of the Cherokee Nation.
Warren’s 1986 registration card for the State Bar of Texas could put an end to all that. The Washington Post obtained a copy of the signed document in which she wrote that her race was “American Indian.” This supports the two critical charges against her: that she knowingly and personally claimed Native American heritage, and that she did so for the purpose of career advancement.
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On the first count, Warren has consistently dissembled about how and why she came to be thought of as Native American. For example, when the Boston Herald broke the story during her 2012 Senate campaign, Warren said that she had no idea Harvard was saying she was a minority hire, and that she couldn’t “recall” having listed herself as such on any job or “other applications.”
The Texas Bar registration shows this isn’t true. Also, the document coincides with the year Warren began self-reporting as a “minority professor” in the Association of American Law Schools staff directory. This suggests it was all part of a deliberate plan on her part to adopt a Native American persona. It was also two years after she contributed recipes to the “Pow Wow Chow” Native American cookbook, some of which appear to have been plagiarized from a French chef in The New York Times. In this case, Warren proved she could appropriate from two cultures simultaneously.
Warren used ‘ancestry’ for career advancement
Why would Warren pretend to be an American Indian in the 1980s if later she downplayed the matter as a misunderstanding based on family lore? Fairly obviously it was for career advancement. Despite the current leftist mania to call out supposed “white privilege,” the fact is that even in the 1980s minority status could confer distinct advantages in hiring and promotion in career fields dominated by liberals for whom affirmative action is an article of faith. For any young academic, identifying as a Native American could be the key edge for landing important faculty slots. As the 1983 guidance from the American Association of University Professors noted, when it comes to filling academic positions, “in the interests of diversity, affirmative action considerations might control the final selection.”
A 2018 investigation by The Boston Globe found little to support the idea that hiring committees at various law schools where Warren taught openly discussed her alleged Native American heritage as a factor in bringing her on board. Yet, Harvard was quick to tout her as the law school’s first “woman of color,” of which Warren said she was unaware. She was identified as a minority winner of a teaching award at the University of Pennsylvania, apparently also without her knowledge. Maybe these schools did not discuss her supposed ethnicity, but they recognized and exploited it.
Yet whether you believe that diversity-hungry university departments completely ignored Warren’s unique supposed ethnic background, Warren was still trying to game the system. There is no other reasonable explanation for her sudden ethnic shift. She was never a member of a tribe, never lived as part of that culture or heritage, had no even incidental connection other than the alleged family story. It is hard not to conclude that she claimed she was a Native American to get a professional edge.
The troubling implications of bloodline identity
This new evidence comes on the heels of Warren’s apology for the DNA test finding “strong evidence” that she had a Native American ancestor six to 10 generations ago. But “by blood” definition of racial identity has troubling implications; it was the tool of segregationists and underpinned the Nuremberg Race Laws in Nazi Germany.
“South Park” and “Portlandia” cleverly satirized people using fractional results of genetic tests to claim new awareness of their victim status. But there can be no meaningful definition of a cultural affiliation based on that factor alone. And DNA evidence is not accepted by the Cherokee Nation anyway, so the whole fiasco shows a terrible sense of judgment — and perhaps panic — on Warren’s part.
It is fair to speculate that Warren’s presidential campaign will soon be over. If Democrats want to nominate a progressive/socialist who will also be a standard-bearer for identity politics, they have other, more authentic choices available. As a nominee, Warren would have to spend the entire campaign explaining to people of color why her candidacy is not a standing indictment of the cynical abuse of affirmative action programs for personal gain. This would be in addition to having to demonstrate to moderates and conservatives why her outdated economic policies would not turn the United States into the next Venezuela.
President Trump said he would love to run against Warren, and she keeps showing why.
James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and author of “Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past,” has taught at the National Defense University and the Marine Corps University and served as a special assistant in the office of the secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. Follow him on Twitter: @James_Robbins