Donald Trump has long deployed the name “Pocahontas” to diminish Elizabeth Warren as an affirmative-action grifter who exaggerated her Native American heritage to climb to the top of her profession. For the white-grievance set, it’s a powerful piece of rhetoric, designed to mock Warren and her fellows who think they know better. Predictably, the elites routinely side with Warren in this juvenile war of words. Civility!
But let us put aside niceties for a moment and state the obvious: the questions over Warren’s Native American heritage are legitimate, of her own making, and have the potential to torpedo her presidential aspirations in 2020. Many Democrats, and some in the press, have dismissed the debate over Warren’s ancestry as somehow out-of-bounds, akin to Trump’s ridiculous quest to find Barack Obama’s “missing” birth certificate. Warren’s case is not the same at all.
The Obama birther charade was a fabrication rooted in nothing but mouth-breathing racism. But the Warren story can be traced back more than 30 years. Beginning in 1986, she listed herself as a minority in a national directory of law professors for nearly a decade while teaching at the University of Texas and University of Pennsylvania. She once contributed to a Native American cookbook as “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee.” She told Harvard Law School that she was Native American, and was identified that way in Harvard records without objection. It’s illogical to suggest that these claims were the reason she was able to climb to the pinnacle of American public life, but they do come off as a little weird, worthy of further inspection and kitchen-table conversation. And the whole story is perfect chum for Trump.