Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On the offensive: Republicans mock Elizabeth Warren with war whoops and tomahawk chops

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As you may know, there is a bit of a controversy in Massachusetts over Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's claim to Native American (Cherokee) ancestry (and whether she ever benefitted from such minority status), with Republican incumbent Scott Brown, falling back in the polls, turning it into a major campaign issue (because he doesn't have much else to say, and because this is the sort of thing Republicans do when they're desperate, or that they just do generally):

Brown, a Republican, has attacked Warren, a Democrat, over her purported ancestry in their first debate and in a tough new commercial he released Monday. Brown has argued Warren is not in fact Indian -- "as you can see, she's not," he said during the debate -- and has suggested she claimed minority status to advance her career. Warren, who has no documentation of her roots, has argued she did not benefit from her ethnic background, and has pointed to family stories to substantiate her heritage.

Personally, I see no reason to disbelieve Warren -- she's obviously not counting on the small Native American vote to put her over the top, and it's not like being a small part Cherokee is the sort of thing to swing the independent vote.

Of much greater concern is how Brown has responded, and gone on the attack. The "she doesn't look Indian" attack is deeply ignorant and remarkably stupid. As Josh Marshall points out: "Now that sounds like a great gotcha line. Unless, you know really anything about the modern Cherokee Nation. In colloquial terms at least, most Cherokees, certainly many, 'look white.'" And so "this 'she don't look Indian" line Brown is now basing his campaign on is ignorant to the point of offensive."

And over the weekend it got even uglier:

At least two Republican staffers, including a member of Scott Brown's US Senate office, apparently mocked Elizabeth Warren's claims to Native American ancestry by making tomahawk chops and war whoops outside one of Brown's campaign events in Dorchester, according to a video filmed by the state Democratic Party.

In the video, filmed by a Democratic tracker on Saturday outside a Brown event at the Eire Pub, the staffers can be heard whooping and seen making the tomahawk motions amid a crowd of boisterous supporters of both candidates.

Now, okay, this wasn't Brown himself, and apparently one one of his staffers was doing it, and yesterday he said that "that's not something I condone," but he remained on the attack nonetheless.

This may not be his "macaca" moment, but it was deeply offensive, as is his line of attack generally, and it's just the sort of disgraceful act of insensitivity that has come to characterize his campaign.



Check out Charlie Pierce's characteristically astute take (via BBWW):

There's only one reason to pound the issue about Elizabeth Warren's ancestry and that is to race-bait, to gin up the lizard-brained anger at "quotas" and "affirmative action." Brown already tippy-toed down that line last week in the debate, when he explained that he can tell an Injun jes' by lookin' at one. You talk about her like she gamed the system and you're not merely casting aspersions on her career, but you're giving a nudge-nudge, wink-wink to all the usual suspects out there who know somebody who knew somebody who was related to somebody who knew somebody who didn't get the job they should have had. This is also what they do. This is also what they've always done. This is also why you hired people because this is what they do.

Race-baiting by Republicans? For them, it's called getting out the vote.

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  • Brown claims that it is only about Warren getting advantages in college and such. But if that's the case, he has a strange way of saying it. I don't so much care about the campaign. I have a problem with this kind of insensitivity to native people because of, you know, our history of killing them and stealing from them.

    This all does seem very much like the swift boat campaign against Kerry. Do Republicans not believe in anything? (Don't answer that.) In that case, they were willing to slime an American war hero for the sake of political advantage. I suppose it should not surprise me that they would go after a group that has been so wronged by this country.

    Fun fact: Ayn Rand said it was right to steal land from the Native Americans because they hadn't developed "modern capitalism." Does anyone really need to know anymore than that about the Goddess of Selfishness?

    By Anonymous Frankly Curious, at 12:57 PM  

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