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Elizabeth Warren Just Walked Right Into Donald Trump's Trap

Screenshot from "Elizabeth Warren's Native American Heritage" video. (YouTube)
Screenshot from "Elizabeth Warren's Native American Heritage" video. (YouTube)

“Who cares?” is exactly the right response to what is surely Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s first misguided campaign video of the 2020 presidential campaign.

That Warren did not anticipate the verbal shrug President Trump gave to news that a DNA test found “strong evidence” that she has a Native American ancestor “in the range of six to 10 generations ago” underscores just how incapable Democrats are of countering the Republican fog machine.

Forget the farcical attempt to legitimize family folklore with a genetic test. What does it prove that DNA suggests Warren has a distant familial connection to the original inhabitants of North America? Did Warren really think Trump cared about her family’s heritage, anymore than he cared about Barack Obama’s birthplace?

He mocks the Massachusetts Democrat as “Pocahontas” for the same reason he suggested Obama was a “Kenyan,” to sow doubts about his opponents’ honesty and to fuel his followers’ rage over uppity blacks and nasty women and the affirmative action policies they believe have marginalized white men. It does not matter that Warren’s promotions in some of the nation’s best law schools had nothing to do with her gender or her ancestry; stoking his supporters’ conviction that this “impolite arrogant woman” gamed the system is Trump’s real goal.

“I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders once said with her customary casual dismissal of the facts.

[Trump's] taunts are not about finding the facts; they are about fueling the fire. Two years into this presidency and the Democrats still do not get that?

Warren’s Stanford-certified DNA test is of as much interest to Trump as Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate. His taunts are not about finding the facts; they are about fueling the fire. Two years into this presidency and the Democrats still do not get that?

Warren invites ridicule when she claims she “never expected the president of the United States to use my family’s story as a racist political joke.” Why not? It resonated with the GOP base well enough when Scott Brown first weaponized it during the 2012 Senate race. Why would Warren think she would be spared Trump’s dishonest bullying? Where was she when he mocked a New York Times reporter with disabilities, when he scoffed at Sen. John McCain’s war record, when he equated demonstrators protesting racism with white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville, Virginia?

By walking into Trump’s trap, Warren did not dispense with this distraction; she opened new lines of absurdist posturing. Trump’s minion-in-chief, Kellyanne Conway, dismissed as “junk science” the DNA analysis, conducted by Carlos Bustamante, a Stanford University professor who specializes in biomedical data science and genetics. Trump himself denied his promise (made in front of television cameras and an arena full of supporters in Montana) to donate $1 million to a charity of Warren’s choice “if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian."

The dog-and-pony show mounted by Warren’s fledgling presidential campaign was apparently designed to show voters how tough she is, how willing she is to push back against Trump. But who does she suppose is impressed by her standing up to the president on a matter of absolutely no consequence?

... who does she suppose is impressed by her standing up to the president on a matter of absolutely no consequence?

There are thousands of migrant children in tents in the desert who could use some of that aggressive advocacy. There are survivors of Hurricane Michael whose family stories are being written right now, not on ancestry.com, but in the wreckage of Mexico Beach. There is a planet that could use a muscular defender against a president who thinks global warming may not be man-made. There are, as Warren herself noted in asking Trump to write his $1 million check to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, too many Native American women in need of protection from domestic violence.

Let’s hear more from Warren about those families and less about her own.

Warren expresses faux puzzlement in her video over the motives of Trump and his followers who "have questioned my heritage and my family history. Maybe they do it to insult me. Maybe they do it to distract from the kinds of changes I'm fighting for."

There’s no “maybe” about it, Senator Warren. Consider yourself distracted.

Related:

Eileen McNamara Cognoscenti contributor
A Pulitzer Prize-winning former columnist for The Boston Globe, Eileen McNamara is the author of "Eunice, The Kennedy Who Changed the World."

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