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Blood and guts: Elizabeth Warren at a crossroads.

Editorial Staff

For those that don't recognise the name, Elizabeth Warren is a US Senator representing the state of Massachusetts but she was born in Oklahoma. Warren is a member of the Democratic Party and has been dubbed "a progressive." She claims historical links to the Cherokee Indian tribal group and says she is part Cherokee. That's in doubt.

Some say she made the claim to secure racial preference at a time that Harvard University was trying to establish itself as a fair employer. No one paid much attention until she upset PoTUS Trump who, with his incredible lack of filters and ability to spear his target in the most hurtful places turned on her and referred to her as "Pocahontas," with every intention of demeaning her. That was the catalyst for an explosion of interest.

The question has now turned in to a treasure hunt, almost worthy of a book plot. Is she/isn't she Cherokee? has become absorbing for some of the political rings that run around Washington. It is the story that won't go away and keeps popping up on a slow news day.

A journalist who didn't make the grade of making sure his name was remembered is reported to have said he intends to "sneak" a sample of Warren's DNA if she refuses to take a test that would establish, or disprove, her claim. Far more interesting is a Cherokee woman called Twilli Barnes who has a blog called "Polly's Grandaughter." Mrs Barnes says "We have done extensive research on her ancestry and on the stories she has told trying to back up her claim. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest she actually had a Cherokee or American Indian ancestor." And Mrs Barnes has, indeed, been digging around looking for information to support or reject Warren's claim.

Warren, Barnes says, claims Indian ancestry through her mother's line and therefore Barnes has followed that path back beyond 1838.

The USA's history of racism has helped Barnes. She has found that Warren was listed in official records as "white." Indeed, Barnes shows, Warren self-selected that even though ticking more than one box was allowed. It was, according to the Washington Post, in 1986 that she "first listed herself as a minority in the Association of American Law Schools Directory of Faculty in 1986, the year before she joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She continued to list herself as a minority until 1995, the year she accepted a tenured position at Harvard Law School."

Most importantly, Barnes says, Warren "is not enrolled with the tribe." If that is so, that would be an enormous oversight on Warren's part.

The research, although it would not satisfy academia's demands, is highly persuasive and certainly should put Warren on notice that there is more than political slapping going on. And there is a lot of slapping: Fox News' commentator Carson Tucker, who tries to be inflammatory, described Warren's claims as "identity theft." V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai (a different kind of Indian) who hopes to challenge Warren for her Senate seat said she should take a DNA test and settle the matter once and for all. Another American political commentator, Tomi Lahren, also known for stirring things up, said of Warren's criticism of Trump, saying he was exploiting Native Americans with his Pocahontas comment, "that's exactly what she did."

But Warren is standing by her claim. Or at least, she's not discussing it. Neither she, nor her staff, have commented on why, in 1995, her entry in a law directory suddenly ceased mention of her reported minority status. She even said, at one point, that she doesn't know why Harvard listed her as minority. And she's flip-flopped about whose blood she claims: it's been Cherokee but it's also been a rather more nebulous claim relating to geography rather than a specific tribe.

Bus she did, once, break her silence. "Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, fending off questions about whether she used her Native American heritage to advance her career, said today she enrolled herself as a minority in law school directories for nearly a decade because she hoped to meet other people with tribal roots. ... I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group something that might happen with people who are like I am. Nothing like that ever happened, that was clearly not the use for it and so I stopped checking it off.”

Now the time has come for her re-election campaign and she is under fire from all sides. The Democrats can't afford a scandal (and someone who has lived a lie since the 1980s is pretty scandalous) and the Republicans are having fits of giggles although putting an Asian Indian against her is a joke gone too far, some might say. Americans keep going on about "the optics" (in England, an "optic" is a device that holds a bottle of spirits upside down over a bar and delivers a measured quantity into a glass on demand) and the optics of an Asian challenging "Red Indian" roots is not going to play well in social media which is, largely, left-ish dominated.

One suspects that Warren thinks she can tough it out, but that would be a mistake because it's the core distraction that will undermine her entire campaign and ensure that she does not gain any control over the news agenda.

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