Oct 17, 2018, 4:26 PM ET

Elizabeth Warren's big reveal on Native ancestry leaves Democrats with little to smile about: ANALYSIS


There is standing up to President Trump, and then there is just playing his game.

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On only a few occasions during this administration have Democrats successfully done either, and those hoping to take Trump on in 2020 will have carefully consider and navigate both.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's supporters say her the political video she released this week along with the results of a DNA test suggesting she has Native American ancestry show she is capable and willing to confront the president's personal insults -- calling her "Pocahontas" for years in reference to controversy over her heritage.

"Senator Warren is showing Democrats how to fight back against Donald Trump, beat him at his own game, and get past silly distractions so we can focus on issues that impact working people's lives every day,” Adam Green, the co-founder of The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement to ABC News this week.

But some Democrats worry the senator only created a huge distraction from the issues and the midterm election, which is just three weeks away.

“Now we are talking about Warren’s DNA, instead of health care,” one senior Democratic adviser told ABC News. He worried about sounding too confrontational about a senator he likes and may still back in the 2020 primary.

Other top Democratic advisers working with senators on Capitol Hill and in campaigns around the country who did not want to be named dismissed the issue too and sounded exasperated, saying they are squarely focused on the election this November where Democrats are hoping to win majority in either chamber of Congress.

Green, who has worked closely in the past with Warren, defended the timing, saying Warren has "zero desire to be talking about her DNA.”

“She knows the sooner that silly distractions are dispensed with, the more we can all focus on the real issues that impact working people every day. That helps Democrats and hurts Trump,” he added.

PHOTO: Senator Elizabeth Warren addresses a town hall meeting in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Oct. 13, 2018.Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images
Senator Elizabeth Warren addresses a town hall meeting in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Oct. 13, 2018.

Warren called the president’s bluff by taking the DNA test, but at what cost? The results suggested "strong evidence" of Native ancestry 6-10 generations back, but that only seemed to give Trump fodder. He has attacked her relentlessly as a "total fraud," among other insults and more racial slurs.

Did addressing the issue at this crucial time and prolonging the fight help other Democrats, the party or just her? And actually, did it really help her at all?

Others piled on to Trump's criticisms, generating a raft of unfavorable headlines. And while she did receive support from some Native leaders -- such as New Mexico congressional candidate Deb Haaland, who will likely be the first female Native American in Congress ever who tweeted her support -- others in the Native American community opposed her move.

Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. wrote Monday that “a DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America…. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.”

Warren specifically said in her video that she is not making any claim to tribal membership, but the optics weren't great.

There’s also a certain level of discomfort for Democrats with how her story relates to the larger debate about affirmative action and identity. Democrats have touted the importance of diverse backgrounds in classrooms and boardrooms and argued that standardized tests unfairly favored white applicants.

While there has been no evidence that Warren received preferential hiring treatment due to claims about her ethnicity (law schools later listed in her biography her partial Native heritage) the drama could be too off-putting for Democratic voters with many options in 2020.

The 5-minute, highly-produced, campaign-style video the senator released with her DNA results, which included conversations with her family and former colleagues, appeared to be the latest in a list of calculated moves leading up to a formal announcement of a presidential run.

That's on top of releasing 10 years of her tax returns online, rapidly hiring staff, adding policy papers and networking across the country.

Maybe taking the early fight to the president will look strong and intriguing to early primary voters, but the coy non-announcement announcement could easily have rubbed some people the wrong way.

News - Elizabeth Warren's big reveal on Native ancestry leaves Democrats with little to smile about: ANALYSIS

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  • Bothsidesnow

    Warren clearly marked the box and did so for 10 years at two Universities. She plagerized her recipes in TWO cookbook entries and signed herself - Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee. Warren is exactly what POC mean when they speak of white privilege and cultural appropriation for gain. Disgusting.

  • JohnFLob

    Guess Elizabeth and her spouse never had duplicate door keys. They have always had to shareakey.

  • fastone

    Some advise that Warren could have used...."Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”― Mark Twain . I have no idea why some people, obviously including Warren, take Trumps troll bait and only another fool would believe Trump would honor his word and pay up on bet....SMH!!

  • Tess

    "Green, who has worked closely in the past with Warren, defended the timing, saying Warren has 'zero desire to be talking about her DNA.'"

    If she has 'zero desire' to talk about her DNA, why did she spend the time and money having a highly produced, campaign-style video released that focuses on her DNA results?

  • Cynthia

    I never cared whether she had native American blood in her or not. I figured her family passed down a story... so what. We all have stories that have been passed down, some grow into legends and some remain as an asterisk in our lives. Her politics is what matters and I wish she wouldn't have fed into Trump. Any one who has witnessed Trump over the past several years knows that any feedback - ANY- will only be used against you. Don't waste time defending yourself, rather go on the attack. He has plenty to be attacked about. I don't know how these politicians don't see this. You have to play his game..... you have to shove his game right down his throat.

  • lavendula38

    Lets clear some things up. In order to be a recognized member of the Cherokee Nation you need to be able to trace your lineage to The Dawes Commission Rolls. I'm not going to explain that, you can google the Dawes Commission. I am in fact a registered Shawnee on the Cherokee Rolls, as are my children. My grandfather and his mother are both on the Dawes Commission Rolls. It DID NOT cost money to be enrolled. At that point in time you had to have the courage to say you were Native American in a country that hated 'Indians'. Everyday someone tells me they are Native American. When I ask if they have their Blue Card or their White Card they are bewildered. I'm sure there are many people who desire to be Native American based on some romantic notion. The fact of the matter is our POTUS hates minorities including Native Americans, google his track record with us. I could care less who claims to be Native American. The simple fact is, you can't prove ancestry unless you are on the rolls, or for wannabees taking a DNA test. Please take the time to educate yourself. I don't object to being called Pocahontas or for the Irish in me a Mucker. But if someone called me a Trump...I might have to scalp them!

  • Sir Real

    Obama took the bait with his birth certificate, too, so Democrats should learn to stop feeding the Trump troll.
    Only 27 percent of Republicans believe that Obama was born in the U.S., which shows that you cannot fix stupid.

  • Onetaxpayer

    Big noise, means nothing.

  • Jonny

    She is an idiot.

  • Ptah

    Democrats just do not seem to get it. Trump Supporters don't care about, facts, data, or Truth for that matter. They want to be told that they have every right to to think that they are better than anyone who doesn't look, think, and act, just like them. they want to be told that their circumstances aren't because they made poor choices in life, but because some undeserving, foreigner, or ethnic minority, took the money, job, or lifestyle, that is rightfully theirs. Honesty, Morality, nor Integrity, matter so long as they get to say they won. The fact that they are being lied to and used by Trump and his facilitators doesn't even occur to them so long as he points out someone that they can look down on in order to feel better about themselves. Democrats need to stop bothering to try to convince these people of anything. They are a lost cause. Democrats need to concentrate on getting their base and the Independents out to vote in the Midterms. That is the only way things are going to get better.

  • Wanbleeman

    She is human and that's all that matters. if you know the history of the blood quadon you will understand what how messed up this is. Educate yourselves, but remember that we all are related as humans. Be proud of who you are and don't allow those who hate us divide us. There are very few full bloods of any racial group in America today. If you are a Christian, remember that we all come from one set of parents. "ALL MY RELATIONS". We should be one and care for each other as family. Please educate your selves about the terrible history to estince the Native Americans and other minority groups by our government during the 19th and 20th Centuries. The thing is being native is different things to many people. It is more than a membership in a tribe or culture. It is also a matter of being who you are and accepting that being human is a very comflect entity. For many it is almost impossible to prove your connections. So please don't blame Ms. Warrion for being proud of part of who she is. Don't get caught up in the small matters that keeps us from seeing the whole picture. Having some indian or other blood is part of who we are and honoring family traditions is not a bad thing, as for me, I am a heinz 57 breed and I am proud of it, I choose to follow my native part of me, as I am proud of my black and other mixed parts of me. Your heart and the spirit beings will let you know who and what you are. Thou I am not a member of an tribe, I honor and respect my roots. The key word here is, Love who you are and never let some man dictate who you are. Never abuse or use your roots or lack there are and work with the people. Respect every one.

  • Furrmin The Cat

    My mom's family is Cherokee. But none of them are part of the so called official tribe. They asked to be included but did not want to pay the fee. I am not aware of the particulars but that is what my aunt told me. The women of the tribe keep the census from year to year. My aunt kept it for her family and it proves that her ancestors were part of the tribe. But they are not included on the rolls and really don't seem to care that they aren't. The problem the tribe has is that they are trying to keep the membership special. They do not want to recognize the simple fact that DNA tells the truth even if the tribal rolls do not. Warren has Cherokee blood. If it was African blood the whites would immediately agree that she is a minority.

    She is part Cherokee but is not a member of the tribe. So what? Most people with Cherokee blood are not members of the tribe. Membership is not important. What is important is how one lives their life. if you follow the teachings of the Tsalagi then you are one of us.

    The native Americans had a way of thinking that does not really parallel western thought. They were careful with what they said. Some tribe's word for the "whites" was "man who acts angry". it was important for them to not say "Angry man" but instead to be 100% honest with the description. They believed that words had weight and had to be used properly to avoid the destruction of the meaning. To call oneself "Cherokee" was not really to say you had Cherokee blood. Just as to call yourself Tsalagi does not mean you are claiming anything. It means you ascribe to reaching a higher plane of existence.

  • Bone to Pick

    Deplorange should pay his debt. She is right, he is wrong. He should honor his word (like that is going to happen) and make the charitable contribution.

  • Robert Earnest

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    Very disappointed in Warren. Releasing this DNA nonsense just before the midterms and letting Trump again control the headlines. Trump is not very bright but he is devious and no one plays this deflection game better. He would love to have everyone talking about Pocahontas and Kavanaugh instead of the massive govt debt and rising interest rates which will threaten one of the greatest bull markets in history.

    Not a bright move, Senator Warren. You couldn't wait a month?

  • ohpaleasegivemeabreak

    The haters all over the internet says that the DNA was faked and it was useless anyway and she lies about everything and even if she did have that much NA blood it was not enough to satisfy them. And a whole lot more hateful irrational crap. And you totally appear to be subscribing to that book of hate.

  • Bill Toone

    Warren was nuts to even bring it up.
    It is a tiny percentage. I agree with her views mostly.
    But this makes her look foolish.