Senator Elizabeth Warren is one of the most indispensable voices in American politics today. She should not run for president in 2020.
Why not? Reasons enough, my friends.
Reason No. 1: While she is a highly effective member of the U.S. Senate (if such a thing can be measured), Warren’s experience as an executive lies somewhere between negligible and non-existent.
Reason No. 2: As a genuine populist hero of the left, Senator Warren is structurally incapable of appealing to a broad cross-section of the American public, as presidents are generally expected to do.
Reason No. 3: Outside the liberal enclaves that comprise her natural constituency, Warren tends to come across as a wild-eyed wackadoodle whose entire public persona consists of two or three basic—and borderline radical—talking points from which she rarely, if ever, deviates.
And most importantly, reason No. 4: The “Pocahontas” thing.
In isolation, none of these would-be drawbacks would be enough to disqualify Warren from seeking and/or attaining high office. Certainly, they didn’t stop the 44 individuals who have thus far succeeded in doing both.
However, the same cannot be said when all of the above occur simultaneously in a single person, and in the senior senator from Massachusetts, that’s exactly what they do.
Put simply, Elizabeth Warren will never be elected president, and the American left might as well accept this fact now. Trust me: It will be a lot more painful on the night of November 3, 2020.
Admittedly, if you take Senator Warren at her word, she will not be a candidate in the first place. In one interview after another, Warren has asserted, in no uncertain terms, that she is interested only in getting re-elected to the Senate this fall, and has given no serious thought to what she might do with herself thereafter.
Of course, no one believes a word of this—nor, to be fair, should Warren be expected to say anything different until her current race is behind her. As ever, actions speak louder than denials, and the clearest indication to date that Warren is, indeed, gunning for the White House occurred on Valentine’s Day, when she addressed the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C., where she passionately reasserted her conviction that she herself descends from Native American stock.
Why would a mere senator—one who will barely face an opponent this November—feel the need to defend her identity in this manner? No doubt there were several motivations—pride and family honor chief among them—but the most self-evident to any politically-minded observer must be the fact that President Trump has for months attempted to smear and discredit Warren by repeatedly referring to her as “Pocahontas.”
The basis of this nickname—as a majority of the public probably still doesn’t understand—is the curious gulf between Warren’s certainty about her Native American heritage and the lack of concrete genealogical evidence to support it—a discrepancy that was exasperated last weekend when Warren declined to submit to a DNA test that would presumably resolve the issue once and for all. Asked by Chuck Todd for an explanation, Warren responded, “Look, I know who I am.”
What she means—as Massachusetts learned in 2012, when she was first elected senator—is that she spent the entirety of her Oklahoma childhood hearing stories from her parents about their family’s Cherokee roots—stories that turned out to be mostly (if not entirely) false, but which Warren took at face value, because why on Earth shouldn’t she?
Years later, still believing this, Warren listed herself as a “minority” in the Association of American Law Schools directory, while Harvard Law School singled her out as an example of ethnic diversity among its faculty. (At most, Warren is 1/32 Cherokee.) On the other hand, Warren did not mention her supposed Native blood on her college applications, nor is there any evidence that her would-be minority status resulted in preferential treatment at any point in her academic or professional career.
Taking all of these little contradictions together, does “Look, I know who I am” strike you as an answer that will withstand an 18-month presidential campaign against Donald Trump? I’d certainly appreciate a clarification or two, and I’ve been in her fan club since Day 1.
What we have here—albeit in embryonic form—is Hillary’s Emails 2.0. That is, an ostensibly meaningless issue that is blown utterly and inexplicably out of proportion—by Republicans and the media alike—and which slowly but surely immolates the candidacy of the person in question, resulting in four years of President Donald Trump.
Like Hillary Clinton’s email problem, Elizabeth Warren’s “Pocahontas” problem will persist and metastasize as Election Day grows ever-closer, overshadowing every other consideration and rendering her ultimately unelectable. If Clinton proved an easy target for Russia-based fake news, just imagine what those hackers will do with Warren.
And as with Clinton, the criticisms will not be entirely wrong. Remember: When Hillary was ground down by accusations that she had used a private e-mail server for official government business, the point wasn’t that she’d violated some obscure federal rule. The point was that Hillary couldn’t bring herself to admit she’d done something wrong until it was too late, thereby reinforcing her public perception as a duplicitous, untrustworthy crook.
Elizabeth Warren—someone who, by and large, has cultivated a reputation for frankness and candor on most subjects—can scarcely afford to be seen as evasive and deceitful about her own past. By dilly-dallying around the truth of her genealogy—by not clearly saying, “I honestly believed something about myself that might not actually be true”—she risks falling into precisely that trap. If she can’t sell herself to the American public, how on Earth can she sell them higher taxes or single-payer healthcare?
Liberals can argue all they want that “Pocahontas”-gate is a BS issue that is too silly and insignificant to become a determining factor in the primaries and/or general election in 2020. That, as a candidate, Warren will rise or fall on the strength of her ideas in contrast to President Trump’s. That, no matter what her contested family history says her about character, she couldn’t possibly be seen as a greater evil than Trump in the morals department.
That’s what we believed about Hillary in 2016, and look how well that went.