Our Opinion: Warren must resolve debate on heritage
Elizabeth Warren, the senior U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has attained membership in that small club of congressional figures who have garnered national recognition. To her admirers, she is a tireless champion for consumer rights, banking reform and socially liberal issues who has a plausible shot at winning the presidency. To her detractors, she is a convenient lightning rod who rivals House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as the liberal that conservatives most love to vilify in their fundraising mailouts.
Sen. Warren also comes with an Achilles' heel, which, thanks to President Donald Trump and his penchant for using denigrating epithets when referring to his opponents, is as well known as the senator, herself. This is the ongoing claim of Native American heritage that she allegedly used to further her academic career, even though colleagues and the institutions where she worked claim that her being listed as a "woman of color" had no influence on her advancement. In her successful 2012 race for the Senate, her opponent, incumbent Scott Brown, questioned the veracity of her claim, and the doubt surrounding it — along with "Pocahontas," the derogatory nickname now wielded by Mr. Trump — has stuck with her ever since. In Oklahoma, the state of Sen. Warren's birth and rearing, claiming to have native blood running through one's veins was and is common (the state's territorial name was "The Indian Nations").
Since the news of her background came out, rather than renounce her claim, she has taken the course of fully embracing it — championing native causes, speaking to native groups of their pride and deriding their treatment at the hands of the U.S. government.
We cannot know whether this advocacy is an awkward attempt to identify with others of her heritage, or whether it is simply a socially-conscious politician's desire to right historic wrongs on the part of disadvantaged people.
What we do know is that Sen. Warren has shown herself to be a fighter for social equality and for a capitalist system that floats all boats, not just yachts.
For these reasons, those who wish her ill will never allow the Native American question to recede; Sen. Warren's potential appeal as a national candidate constitutes too much of a threat. Therefore, we offer a simple suggestion that could not even have been contemplated when Warren first listed her heritage on an employment form.
The same technology that can match a perpetrator to a crime with virtually 100 percent certainty could settle the question of her heritage for all time.
There are now so many commercial DNA heritage-tracking labs in business that they advertise on television. The going rate for one of the most popular tests is $99. All the senator needs to do is spit into a tube, wait a few weeks and get her answer. No matter if the test came up negative or positive, it would constitute a plus for Warren and her political hopes.
Were she to test positive for Native American DNA, it would permanently resolve the issue — while possibly shutting down President Trump.
Should the test come up negative, it would be an opportunity for the senator to perform an act rarely seen among politicians: an admission of her error and a full-throated apology to Native American tribes and anyone else offended by her spurious claim. By facing the truth and taking responsibility for it, she would disarm her enemies and show potential voters that she was human and capable of mistakes, just like them. Handled properly, it could become a testimonial to her integrity and truthfulness at a time when that quality is in short supply among the nation's leadership.
So we call upon our senior senator to screw up her courage and take the spit test. If she already has but is keeping the results under wraps, we urge her to be forthcoming with them. She has nothing to lose but her Achilles' heel.
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