I see no good reason for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of the Democrat’s strongest contenders for 2020, to have engaged with Donald Trump over his repeated labeling of her as “Pocahontas” to cast doubt on her Native American heritage. But here we are.
On Monday, Warren released the results of a DNA test, conducted by a Stanford professor, which she said “strongly support” the claims she’s made about her heritage, a favorite subject of racist mockery on the right.
The report also said that while the “vast majority” of Warren’s ancestry is European, her Native American ancestry likely goes back six to 10 generations. Those findings were released along with a slick, nearly six-minute-long video package making the case—through interviews with multiple University of Texas-Austin Law School and Harvard Law professors—that she never relied on that heritage for professional advancement, as the White House has previously claimed.
In the video, members of Warren’s family, including several who say they’re registered Republicans, call Trump’s slur for Warren “a bunch of crap.” Other family members reflect on how hurtful those attacks have been.
It’s all very nice and quaint. And it all very much seems like a concerted effort to reclaim the narrative long before Warren potentially announces a presidential run.
But the timing is odd. For all of the horrendous stuff Trump has been in the news saying lately, calling Warren “Pocahontas” hasn’t been one of them. This new push from Warren means we can expect a broadsided response from the president. Even more than that, it’s disheartening to see Warren engage with such a bad faith smear at all. By making an effort to debunk Trump’s claims—which were fomenting in the internet’s right-wing fever swamps for years before he came on the scene—she lends them a dose of credibility, or at least contributes to the suggestion that they should matter at all.
Watch for the way people are already engaging with Warren’s DNA test as the week unfolds to see the futility of this gesture writ large.