Warren still vulnerable to attacks on her honesty in a general election


According to one Monmouth poll published Monday, Elizabeth Warren is now tied with Bernie Sanders as the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination. So what would a Warren vs. Trump general election matchup look like? Today Politico Magazine’s Bill Scher suggested it might look like a nightmare for Warren. Specifically, Scher believes that despite some progress in dealing with her alleged Native American identity, Warren is still vulnerable to the “Pocahontas” attack from Trump:

Warren is enjoying a comeback because she has convinced many skittish progressives that she won’t let Trump disrupt her relentless focus on policy solutions. And she has convinced many Native American leaders that her policy proposals for indigenous communities are more important than what she has said in the past about her ancestry.

But because Warren’s comeback has relied on restoring her standing on the left, she has not done anything to address concerns potentially percolating among swing voters. A detailed white paper on Native American policy has no bearing on whether a moderate white suburbanite believes Warren is of good character. And since Warren has apologized for her past claims, she remains open to the charge she was dishonest when, during her academic career, she relied on nothing more than family lore to identify herself as Native American…

“I don’t think the Pocahontas thing sticks,” Chuck Warren said. “It’s a funny line to people at the rallies, [but] it doesn’t talk much about her character. It almost makes the point trivial.”

What would be devastating to Elizabeth Warren is if Trump were able to connect the underlying concerns about her personal integrity to the integrity of her agenda. She styles herself as a warrior for the people, fighting to fix a system “rigged” against them by elites. But if Trump can convince swing voters that Warren, as a member of the academic elite, rigged a system to benefit herself, he could turn what is now Warren’s main strength into a fatal weakness.

I get what Chuck Warren [no relation to the candidate] is saying about “Pocahontas.” I’m not sure Trump would have the message discipline (not really his strong point) to turn this into a more sustained attack on her personal integrity, but I’m also not sure it matters.

Progressives hear the jabs at candidate Warren as explicitly racial and blame Trump for bringing it up. But let’s face it, this sort of attack on someone’s awkward history on racial issues is exactly what the left thrives on these days. If Warren were somehow a conservative Republican you can bet your life the left would be hammering her over decades of cultural appropriation. But because she’s on their side, they set all of that aside and attack Trump as racist against Native Americans for bringing it up. If the left didn’t have two different standards on these issues they wouldn’t have any at all.

But I don’t think Trump’s people or many on the right who aren’t his fans hear the attacks as reflecting negatively on Native Americans as a group. This is about Warren, not anyone else. And this isn’t about whether or not Warren benefitted her career by making these claims. Warren’s dishonesty goes deeper than that. It seems that her actual identity as the whitest white woman in Oklahoma wasn’t interesting enough for her taste so she grabbed on to some family legends and styled herself a Cherokee. She literally wanted to be part of a more colorful tribe.

That’s where I think the “Pocahontas” line hits a lot of people who aren’t tuned in to every nuance of politics. Warren is not unlike Rachel Dolezal who decided at some point that she was black, first by wishing it were so and then by telling people it was so. That’s a level of deception that marks someone as fundamentally untrustworthy. It’s not that Warren lied about her identity to advance herself financially, which would at least be understandable in some sense, it’s that she lied about her identity to advance herself socially. That strikes many Americans as a very peculiar thing to do.

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