This is the message of supporters of the beleaguered Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Senate hopeful whose baseless claims of Native American heritage have hurt her political career almost as much as it helped her academic career.
“Warren’s claim to be ‘part Indian’ is correct in mythical terms,” Bernie Quigley rationalizes at The Hill. “Every old-school white Oklahoman is in this regard even if this [is] nominally not true. But it is not a lie to want to be Indian and to imagine your ancestors were. It is to be free of Europeanism.” The Fourth Estate fanboy writes that Warren “brings a fresh, classical Americanism from the heartland back to us in Boston,” which he adds is “lucky” to have her. “She adds stock and substance.”
The Harvard Law professor may add substance. But her devotees’ contorted embrace of the embarrassing ancestry yarn seems as readily explained by substances as any substance behind it. With proffered evidence of the Cherokee background of Warren’s great-great-great grandmother coming from the 21st century rather than the 19th, the already flimsy basis for the professor claiming minority status in an affirmative-action-obsessed academia now appears so obviously a careerist’s exploitation of identity politics. Just don’t tell that to the Warrenites, whose devotion to St. Elizabeth doesn’t allow for any inference of deception on her part.
When The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner dubbed Warren a “progressive super-hero” last year, he may have knocked a progressive deity down a notch.Her fanatical acolytes have routinely put the cart before the horse, all but confirming Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before President Obama had announced a nominee and launching several 2016 “Warren for President” sites before a vote had been cast in her senate race in Massachusetts. The New Republic’s Tiffany Stanley took notice in an article subtitled “Inside the cult of Elizabeth Warren.” She noted that “Warren commands a legion of loyalists apparently willing to rush, at a moment’s notice, to her defense,” an observation confirmed by Stanley’s subsequent experience of an inbox full of hate mail.
Intense adoration doesn’t generally make a successful politician, a profession requiring a thick skin. Nor does a career split between the DC bureaucracy and the Ivy League, two places where Warren’s hard-left outlook and hard-to-believe narrative went largely unchallenged. While the folksy Oklahoman transplant may have appeared the perfect candidate to her national admirers, the untested candidate that appears perfect usually proves the most imperfect of all. While her opponent has been thoroughly vetted in six terms in the Massachusetts General Court and through his improbable 2010 Senate special election victory, Elizabeth Warren has been thoroughly feted.
Journalists, opposition researchers, and voters had never combed through her background until now. In this crucial period when Bay State voters form first impressions of Warren, the dominant image projected daily is that of a dissembler who scammed her way up the academic ladder by manipulating the ugly labyrinth of unchecked racial boxes and published guides to minority job seekers. The scandal has been amplified by a neophyte’s mistaken belief that stonewalling would make the story disappear rather than stick around. One month into the controversy, Elizabeth Warren’s faux-heritage continues to motivate talk-radio callers to pick up the phone and inspire headline writers to make over-the-top puns on Indian words. The candidate surely can’t survive another month as a punch line.
But Warrenites believe in miracles, like a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale-faced Cherokee or a mansion-dweller leading a populist crusade. Their candidate is not so much a political figure as a religious one, evoking a revivalist’s response amongst the type of people who mock revivals. Some believe in faith healers raising cripples from wheelchairs; others believe that a graduate of America’s 82nd ranked law school gaining tenure at Harvard Law stems from merit—to each his own superstition.
The faith of The Hill’s Quigley hasn’t been shaken in the least. “I hope Elizabeth Warren doesn’t back down on this, because wanting to be Indian, like [Natty Bumppo’s] Hawkeye, makes us in a deeper sense fully American.”
But the white Mohican Natty Bumppo lived in James Fenimore Cooper’s imagination. Elizabeth Warren, whose followers dream of her in the White House and fantasize the Harvard Yard denizen a populist, lives in imaginations, too.
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