Of course it’s come to this.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, dogged by questions about her family ancestry, has been forced (by President Donald Trump) to take a DNA test, a test that reveals she very likely has Native American ancestry, six to 10 generations back.
Case closed! Well, not really.
Remember when President Barack Obama, dogged by questions about whether he was an American citizen, was forced (by citizen Donald Trump) to release his long-form birth certificate? And how after that Trump still clung to the birther lie, for years?
Expect the same with Warren.
He has already said, “who cares,” when told about Warren’s DNA results. Which suggest that Trump’s race-baiting “Pocahontas” riff was never about an actual DNA test. Like the birther lie, the point of the Pocahontas riff, is likely white identity politics, a strategy that Trump has used to great effect — the goal is to get voters to think about their race and their status.
When conservatives defend Trump against claims that his Pocahontas riff is racist, they say, the real point of the nickname is to highlight that Warren claimed minority status to get jobs at elite institutions. In other words, she used affirmative action to get a job she didn’t deserve. And affirmative action, of course, has long been a hobby horse of conservatives.
The idea has been that somehow, white people (particularly men) are being edged out of jobs they deserve by undeserving minorities because of affirmative action, and hence affirmative action should end.
That’s the point of the Pocahontas nickname. Like the birther claims, it’s shorthand for something else. And it fits neatly into Trump’s political strategy, which depends on his white voters, thinking that their whiteness makes them victims.
Data suggest that Trump voters were more likely to be concerned that reverse racism has affected their lives and concerned about a loss of status.
Politically, Warren hasn’t suffered much from Trump’s claims. She is on track to win Senate re-election. And she is seen as a front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. The release of the DNA test underscores what we’ve always known — she is likely to run for the White House.
And, if, when, she runs, Trump will likely continue to use the race-baiting nickname — regardless of her test result — because for his voters it works.