Wonka "Pocahontas" #sincerely76315-066
Elizabeth Warren’s road to the White House started with a video channeling the Bill Clinton narrative: Hope Arkansas morphs into Norman Oklahoma but the mantra is the same - working hard and playing by the rules doesn’t get you ahead when the top 1% control more wealth than the bottom 90%. Clinton ran this movie in a wide-open Democrat presidential primary in 1992 against three senators and one governor - Tsongas (MA), Kerrey (NB), Harkin (IA) and Brown (CA) - and crushed the field on Super Tuesday never to look back.
So, Warren running the Bubba poverty populism of the early 90s made perfect sense in the roll-out. But just like Clinton, her past caught up with her.
For Clinton, it was an alleged 12-year affair with actress and model Gennifer Flowers; an affair which threatened to scuttle his presidential ambitions in the New Hampshire primary.
For Warren, it was a bit less close to home but no less self-inflicted: playing the Native American card in the 1980’s as a Harvard law school professor and on a Texas state bar application in 1986.
The difference between Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Warren in handling these minefields may tell you all you need to know about Elizabeth Warren and her ability to take the White House. Clinton shut down Gennifer Flowers in a 60 Minutes interview that brought Hillary Clinton to the national stage and consigned Gennifer Flowers to a Wikipedia footnote.
Elizabeth Warren’s solution was to double down on the Trump million-dollar Pocahontas challenge to take a DNA test then release a video proclaiming the test gave her the Native American blood she claimed to have coursing through her Cherokee veins. Her failure to understand that Native American ancestry back some six to 10 generations ago - nearly 200 years ago - does not a Cherokee make, was a political misjudgment.
Let me assure you there is no amount of Wampum on the planet to make Warren’s Native American heritage a political plus when the head of the Cherokee Nation publicly states that she is mis-appropriating his nation’s culture.
Memo to Warren: If you’re going to claim Native American ancestry, you should probably have more of a connection to the Cherokee Nation than New York born actor Frank DeKona - a first generation Italian - who played Chief Wild Eagle of the Hekani Tribe on the 1960s sitcom F-Troop. If I went back 200 years, I may have an ounce of Tsar Romanov blood coursing through my veins, but no one is inviting me to the Hermitage for a private tour of the Faberge Eggs because of it.
But here is where Warren and her campaign pivoted, and the pivot has kept her in the top tier of presidential wannabes: The Rise of Lizzy Wonka.
Since the Battle of Bull DNA Run, Warren has been pumping out position papers faster than OctoMom pumped out babies in the Summer of 2009.
As Slate noted last month: “What makes Warren stand out…is that among the major candidates — the half-dozen or so who routinely poll outside the margin of error — she’s offering the most detailed proposals on the widest swath of issues.”
Obama’s mantra was “Keep Hope Alive”; Trump’s” Make America Great Again.” Warren’s? “I’ve Got A Plan.”
And she seems to have a plan for almost everything: From an ultra-millionaire tax to forgiving student debt, from universal child care to transforming Big Tech into utility companies, from abolishing the electoral college to abolishing Big Ag. Fifteen full-blown policy papers, 70 town halls, thousands of questions answered on the campaign trail. And we are still over 200 days from Iowa.
Before she even entered the political arena, she had written eleven books staking her leadership claim to these issues beginning with the 1989, “As We Forgive Our Debtors” to the 2017 “This Fight Is Our Fight.” She was laying out her case for economic populism seven years before Mayor Pete entered South Bend High School.
Warren likes to say on the campaign trail that she is “getting wonky” when she gets into the weeds to address the intricacies of her policy positions. In so doing, she has made a correct political calculation - one that may eliminate her opponents on the campaign trail with as much efficiency as Willie Wonka dispatched Charlie’s adversaries in the Chocolate Factory (Ode to Violet Beuregarde: “Juice her before she explodes.”)
In this field, Warren’s personal story, while compelling, is not what will get her across the line. For Lizzy Wonka, it is not what’s in her veins that matters, it’s what’s in her head.