Are Democrats about to lose the Senate seat held by the Kennedys since before I was born … again? According to the Boston Herald’s Joe Battenfeld, a number of Democrats in Massachusetts are aghast over Elizabeth Warren’s faceplant on her claims to Native American heritage, and now worry about whether her campaign has completely derailed:
Elizabeth Warren’s stumbling efforts to douse the firestorm surrounding her claims of being a Native American minority have raised concerns among local and national Democrats who are questioning her campaign’s competence.
“There’s nobody watching this that doesn’t think she’s in big trouble,” one well-known Massachusetts Democrat said.
Joe Trippi, a prominent national Democratic consultant, told the Herald that while Warren has time to recover, the campaign should have anticipated this issue would surface.
“The problem is they weren’t ready for something they should have been ahead of,” Trippi said.
Political analyst Larry Sabato is more blunt:
“This takes her biography into a bizarre dimension,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “It has derailed the effort to define Warren in a voter-friendly way.”
Sabato also said that Warren’s claim that she didn’t list herself as a minority to gain an employment advantage is not believable.
“This is what happens when candidates don’t tell the truth,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious she was using (the minority listing) for career advancement.”
That becomes even more apparent when one looks at the context of Warren’s placement at Harvard. Paul Bedard did some digging for the Washington Examiner and found that Warren was nearly alone on the Harvard Law faculty in terms of her alma mater’s status among law schools:
That “box checking,” as critics call it, likely played a role in her Harvard hiring especially when her background is compared to those of the other near-100 Harvard Law School professors and assistant professors, according to an analysis of law schools the professors attended. Most graduated from Harvard, and all from the nation’s top 10. Warren graduated from Rutgers University in Newark, ranked 82nd by Top-Law-Schools.com.
What’s more, only Rutgers has current law school professors who graduated from Rutgers. And in the analysis of the law school degrees of the roughly 350 Ivy League law school professors provided by a Warren critic, only one graduated from a lower-ranked law school than Warren, a Yale professor who attended the University of Nebraska Law School, ranked 89.
Harvard used that claim to brag about their own inclusiveness. Now they won’t even clarify if they’re still counting Warren as their lone Native American, Hillary Chabot reports for the Herald, which is having a field day with Warren’s identity crisis:
Harvard Law School lists one lone Native American faculty member on its latest diversity census report — but school officials and campaign aides for Elizabeth Warren refused to say yesterday whether it refers to the Democratic Senate candidate. …
The 2011 report indicates that “Race/Ethnicity designations are from self-report data,” meaning whoever is listed as a Native American told the school of their tribal lineage.
Robert C. Clark, a professor and former Harvard Law School dean, is listed as part Choctaw in a 1999 Harvard Magazine article. Clark has worked for the law school since 1989 but wasn’t named in a 1996 Harvard Crimson article when law school officials sought to defend their minority hires. Clark did not return requests for comment.
Former law school spokesman Mike Chmura said in the 1996 article that out of 71 professors, only one was Native American and that was Warren.
This embarrassment comes courtesy of the curious American identity fetish. It wouldn’t exist at all if we hadn’t set up perverse incentives to make baseless (or at least undocumented) claims about heritage in order to gain financial advantages. This fetish started as a means to assist the truly underprivileged overcome economic disadvantages imposed by government discrimination, but became yet another means to exploit employment and educational placement systems for unfair advantage.
Can anyone objectively looking at Elizabeth Warren’s life make a case that a 1/32nd Native American background, even if it’s true, disadvantaged her in any way at all? Of course not; not even Warren can make that case, which is why Warren now says she used that identity claim for social purposes rather than economic advantage. Harvard’s actions speak louder than those words, however.
In the short run, Warren should be thoroughly discredited as a political candidate. In the long run, it’s far past the time to reconsider the incentives placed on ethnic heritage claims in education and employment, and to put a stop to affirmative action. Instead, we should be focused on improving schools through competition so that we produce equitable outcomes up front rather than treat people differently later.