Saturday, April 22, 2017

Elizabeth Warren and that Pocahontas Thing

One thing Donald Trump proved adroit at doing was to capture in a single word or phrase the most damaging image of an opponent. It's a playground bully tactic, but in American politics it proved effective. 

“Pocahontas is not happy, she’s not happy. She’s the worst. You know, Pocahontas  I’m doing such a disservice to Pocahontas, it’s so unfair to Pocahontas  but this Elizabeth Warren, I call her ‘goofy,’ Elizabeth Warren, she’s one of the worst senators in the entire United States Senate.”
--Donald Trump

So Jeb Bush was not thoughtful; he was "low energy Bush."
Marco Rubio was not an energetic young man coming on, he was "little Marco."
And so on.
More than 1/32 Black

He seized on Elizabeth Warren's claim to have Cherokee Indian heritage--she may be 1/32 Cherokee--and he pounded her with it, making her look ridiculous, if not dishonest.  Scott Brown first raised the issue running against her for Senate, saying she had used the Native American card to gain admission to Harvard Law. He had "checked off the box" saying she was American Indian to get an advantage in gaining admission.  This played to several Republican narratives:  1. It is unfair to white Americans that Blacks and Native Americans can get in line for Harvard before them. This is an advantage liberals gave away, damaging Whites in the process. 2. It was a lie. Just look at her blue eyes and blonde hair: How could she be Indian?  
Of course, Elizabeth Warren never checked off that box, and she was admitted to Harvard for being brilliant, not for being Cherokee. And whatever the reasons she got in, she sure made the most of it once she got there. You don't get appointed to the Harvard faculty because you are 1/32 Cherokee.
Not Pocahontas

The fact is, Warren opened herself up to this by ever saying anything about her heritage.  But now that she has, what can she do about it?
Those aren't contact lenses

The first thing she must do is to think about why this has had such traction and durability.  
To look at her, to listen to her, you see a woman who is a professor of law at Harvard, and you think, she has all the advantages--for her to talk about her life on the hard side, the daughter of a struggling single mother, her life story as a disadvantaged girl may be the truth, but it flies in the face of what we see when we look at her. 
Lot of the massah's genes in the offspring

Examples of people trying to claim a harder life than they led are sadly common.  Brian Williams, the news anchor claimed to have come under fire covering the war in the Middle East, when in fact he had not. The fact is, just being in Iraq should have been enough.  Hillary Clinton once claimed her airplane had come under fire, when in fact, it had not. The fact is she flew all over the world to some of the worst hot spots--she didn't need to gild the lily.  Senator Richard Blumenthal claimed he had served "in Vietnam" when in fact, he never left the United States during that war.  For some reason, public figures want to be heroes and if their own stories aren't heroic, they are tempted to embellish, which is to say, lie.
Politician looking ridiculous

Trump, who used his father's connections to get an exemption from the draft--claiming he had disabling heel spurs--has never fallen into this trap. He is a fat, pampered White rich kid, and he never tries to claim to be anything other than that.  He does claim he has done a lot of good for people who grew up in tough circumstances by providing jobs in his various enterprises.  He wears dark suits and really spiffy ties, and does not try to dress down by wearing plaid shirts and blue jeans. He does not try to be one of the hillbilly set. He tacitly says: I'm very rich. I make no apologies for who I am or where I came from.
That comes across as honest.
And this from a man who has no concern for the truth.
Hybrid Beauty

So what can Elizabeth Warren say?
Well, first she has to address the issue.
I would hope she'd laugh it off and shrug it off, but address it.
"Well, I may be only 1/32nd part Cherokee, but I'd rather be part Pocahontas than part segregationist.  President Trump forbid Blacks from living in his buildings; He's New York's answer to the Ku Klux Klan. I'd call him the Grand Dragon. The Grand Dragon with heel spurs."

Or something like that. 

She might also add: "You know one thing about Pocahantas: She may have saved John Smith's life, but she wasn't fool enough to marry him.  She did marry another Englishman. A rich guy who dressed her up and promised her the world, and once he had her "civilized" he brought her back to England, took her away from her American home. She never made it back alive. There may be a lesson for today's women in that.  When men start promising you the world, you better look at the risks. Promises are easy. It's real life that will bring you down, if you're too gullible."

PS:  There is a special connection between New Hampshire and John Smith, and through that to Pocahontas. (Perhaps we need a Pocahontas Society.) After being rescued by Pocahontas, John Smith explored New England, giving it that name on the maps he published--he named the Charles River and Cape Ann.  He likely got as far north as the Isles of Shoals. A monument to Smith was built on Star Island (the Isles of Shoals) a granite pillar which weathered badly and was partly rebuilt by the New Hampshire Historical Society. 

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