When Hillary Clinton decided to run for the New York State Senate she said something so transparently pandering that I, along with many New Yorkers, immediately judged her character.
“I’ve always been a Yankees fan.”
Born in Chicago, a big baseball town, Clinton must have been a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan or maybe she was no fan at all, but her love for the pinstripes wasn’t founded on anything except rooting for votes.
From there, the mask she forged became so protective and sticky that, when the 2016 election rolled around, neither she nor we knew who the real Hillary Clinton was. We did know, all too well, who Donald Trump was — a huckster, a braggart, a narcissist. But at least he was being who he was (Trump can’t help himself). When the ballots were cast, enough Americans voted for what they knew (a despicable real face) rather than for what they didn’t (a pandering mask), and, electorally, Trump won.
I used to admire Elizabeth Warren.
When she spoke about economics and the need for Wall Street reform, she was engaging because she not only knew her subject in a complete, nuanced way, but her delivery was quietly confident. This was a professor teaching a master class and doing it with energy and poise and humor.
But then Elizabeth Warren got a taste for success in the public eye and instead of remaining true to what got her to the Senate, and what I believe was true to herself, she started forging her own mask, a mask that looked very similar to Hillary’s.
It’s no coincidence that her strident, fist-waving diatribes began when she started campaigning on Hillary’s behalf. Gone was the professorial gravity with the sly, engaging smile. The new Elizabeth Warren no longer spoke to, but at. All you need to do is compare clips of pre-2015 Warren and post-2015 Warren. The more recent iteration seems as disingenuous as the mainstream Democratic Party with its super-delegates and internal corruption (yes, I’m still a Bernie fan).
Now some of Warren’s past is coming back to bite her.
Her claim that at least a single drop of Native American blood is in her veins may be true, and it may not be true, but the way she’s used this claim in the last few days have further allied her with Hillary Clinton who, despite considering herself political royalty and next in line for the White House crown, lost. Once the economics professional, this DNA-test rollout shows Warren as a political amateur. Her move to counter Trump’s racist-riddled criticisms and prove her Native American claims was destined to fail; our president likes nothing more than to engage in fights that will never involve fists. Trump promised a million for DNA evidence, Warren called him on the bet, offered the test results, and Trump, genius at deflection, said “Who cares?”
I’m sure Elizabeth Warren (and her strategists) expected this reaction.
What Warren didn’t expect was the Democratic backlash and, worse, the slew of Native American reactions and editorials that have slammed her for adopting something that’s probably not hers to adopt and exploiting it, not for the good of the Native American community but for votes.
“I’m part Native American.”
“I’ve always been a Yankees fan.”
These lines are just that, lines. Created. Rehearsed. Delivered with earnestness the way actors deliver gut-wrenching lines only to laugh once the director calls "Cut."
When Hillary Clinton delivered her line, she was already a seasoned political insider. She should have known better than to say something so transparently false to New Yorkers. When Elizabeth Warren delivered her line, she was a relatively young academic, not a politician, and I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt — she had heard about her ancestors from family lore, she was rounding out her job application to Harvard Law, and she wasn’t in the American public’s eye. But Elizabeth Warren has been a senator for six years and she should have predicted the reactions, should have thought twice before thrusting the Native American news story back into the headlines.
Transparency is what every politician with integrity should practice. Transparency is the standard by which we should all operate. Elizabeth Warren used to hold Wall Street to this standard, and she was heroic in her stand, in her condemnations, in her tenacity. But she’s lost her way.
What’s transparent now is that for Elizabeth Warren, potential candidate for the presidency, getting the vote is more important than any issue, any truth. Forget her Native American blood. It’s her political blood that should give us pause, blood tainted by Hillary Clinton. If the shark-infested waters of the last election are any indication of what will happen in 2012, where Trump, now president, will be freer and more frenzied to bite whomever and however he wishes, the Democrats better get smart.
Adam Berlin is the author of "Both Members of the Club" (winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize), "The Number of Missing,” "Belmondo Style" (winner of The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award), and “Headlock." He teaches writing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and co-edits "J Journal: New Writing on Justice" (AdamBerlin.com). For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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