High profile US senator Elizabeth Warren, (D), has released a DNA test that suggested she had a distant Native American ancestor.

It's a subject on which she has clashed with US President Donald Trump who disparaged her with the nickname "Pocahontas".

Does the move help her with a potential 2020 presidential bid? Pundits weigh in.



Jennifer Rubin comment

Senator Elizabeth Warren shouldn't be underestimated as a political strategist or written off as an ideological twin of Senator Bernie Sanders.

She has done three smart things in the early preseason of the 2020 Democratic presidential race.

Firstly, she rolled out what is - remarkably - still the only comprehensive, Democratic anti-corruption platform.

There is plenty in the multipronged plan for her base to like (e.g. limiting business lobbying), but also for those who hardly consider themselves to be progressives.

"It's time to ban elected officials and senior agency officials from owning or trading any company stocks while in office. They can put their savings in conflict-free investments like mutual funds or they can pick a different line of work," she argued, for example. Why not?

She wants to "strengthen the code of conduct for all federal judges - no stock trading, no payments from corporations for attending events, no honoraria for giving speeches, no lavish getaways and fancy hunting trips funded by billionaires." Does anyone think that is a bad idea?

Secondly, she has demonstrated a level of seriousness about state organising that we have yet to see from other potential Democratic opponents.

The Washington Post's Matt Viser reported: "Her effort, which goes far beyond the fundraising and endorsement speeches in which prospective presidential candidates typically engage, has encompassed work in all 50 states and close coordination with more than 150 campaigns. The result is a wide-ranging network that includes those running for state treasurer in Nevada, state legislature in Iowa and congressional offices across the country."

Other candidates can do the same, but her focus and preparedness are impressive. In a race in which 20 Democrats could conceivably enter, it won't be enough to deliver a killer stump speech.

And then there was her counter-punch today against President Donald Trump, who has been deriding her claim to have Native American ancestry.

Instead of simply complaining that he is being rude or disrespectful, Warren one-upped him. The Post reports: "Warren called Trump's months-long bluff by releasing a DNA test that suggested she did have a distant Native American ancestor." She put out a video, and then tweeted out a challenge:

"Remember saying on 7/5 that you'd give $1M to a charity of my choice if my DNA showed Native American ancestry? I remember - and here's the verdict. Please send the [cheque] to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Centre."

She also demanded that he be transparent as well - about his taxes:

"I took this test and released the results for anyone who cares to see because I've got nothing to hide. What are YOU hiding, @realDonaldTrump? Release your tax returns - or the Democratic-led House will do it for you soon enough. Tick-tock, Mr President."

Trump and his surrogates tried to brush off the issue (after they had dwelled on it for months), but Warren made her point.

Trump talks a good game but doesn't keep his word. He's a cheapskate, to boot. Does this make any difference?

Well, if Democrats want to win as much as they say, then they'll be looking for someone who they think can throw a punch or two. One can see former Vice-President Joe Biden doing that (and he has been increasingly aggressive in taking on Trump), but others are going to have to demonstrate some toughness and good humour.

Warren is doing exactly what you'd expect someone planning a presidential run would do. Her 2020 opponents will need to match her on substance, organisation and anti-Trump jabs.


Eugene Scott analysis

Democratic senator and potential 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts released a genetic analysis, with an accompanying video, aimed at proving her Native American heritage and rebutting a frequent attack from President Donald Trump that she lied about her ancestry.

The critique of Warren has been a frequent one since 2012, when the Boston Herald reported that Harvard Law School had listed Warren's Native American ancestry in touting its diversity. Warren said she did not know the school was doing that.

Her critics seized on the idea that Warren touted her heritage to take advantage of the professional opportunities set aside for people of colour.

As recently as July, Trump told his supporters at a Montana rally that he would donate US$1 million to charity if Warren would take a DNA test to prove her Native American heritage. For years, he has been deriding her as "Pocahontas," which some in the Native American community have interpreted as a racial slur.

Trump's disparagement of Warren is not only a response to her continual criticism of him and a recognition that his base is already inclined to dislike a liberal firebrand.

It also comes from Trump's awareness that Warren will likely vie to be his Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential election. A recent CNN poll shows her ranking fourth in its first survey of the 2020 Democratic presidential field.

Making a statement that she won't back down from Trump was probably top of mind for Warren in today's rollout, which is being interpreted as clear evidence that she is ready to run.

There were a few key targets for her highly produced video, featuring her former bosses, a genetics doctor and her "Fox News-watching" relatives in Oklahoma.

Early estimates about the list of potential 2020 Democratic candidates suggests that it might be one of the biggest fields in recent history. And while Warren enjoys name recognition and certainly some popularity with many on the left, much of the attention about the future of the Democratic Party is directed at the base, which is largely made up of people of colour.

Given the perception by some liberal people of colour that the Democratic Party takes voters of colour for granted while focusing on winning back white working-class votes, the idea that Warren could have used stories about her past ancestry to take advantage of opportunities reserved for people of colour would be met with significant criticism and perhaps doubt that Warren truly could connect with Americans of colour - especially when compared to other prospective 2020 candidates such as Senator Cory Booker and Senator Kamala Harris.

This is perhaps why, in addition to proving that she was not being dishonest, Warren is attempting to tackle the issue head-on by providing evidence that she did not use family folklore to get a job as a Harvard professor.

The Washington Post reported last week about how 2018 has been a breakout political year for Native American women, with "far more than ever running" for office.

This level of political engagement, combined with concerns from some of the country's various Native American communities that Trump's focus on the opioid epidemic, the loss of jobs in many rural areas and other issues popular with his base has often left Native American communities out of the conversation, suggests that the concerns of Native Americans will not be ignored heading into the next presidential election.

This is perhaps why Warren spoke to a Native American group earlier this year, arguing that it is not she who is disrespecting America's indigenous community, but the President himself.

The move does carry some risk of backfiring with Native Americans and other minority groups. Some on the left have criticised Warren's move as potentially setting a new standard for what presidential candidates may have to prove about ethnicity or race.

Just months after Trump told his supporters that he would give US$1 million to Warren's favourite charity "if you take the test and it shows you're an Indian," he has denied making the claim.

To be accurate, Warren never claimed she was "an Indian". She claimed to have Native American ancestry. The genetic analysis she released found "strong evidence" that Warren's DNA had a Native American ancestor six to 10 generations ago.

But it seems like a stretch to think Trump and his supporters will care about the details behind Warren's ancestry.

It's not likely to settle the issue for many of them. The liberal lawmaker embraces a worldview that is arguably the diametrical opposite of Trumpism, though she did make a point in the video to highlight her Republican relatives and roots in Oklahoma, solid Trump country.


Paul Waldman comment

Elizabeth Warren is all but certain to run for president in 2020, and if she winds up becoming the Democratic nominee, this day could be one of the key early moments of that campaign.

Today brings two interesting developments regarding Warren's probable campaign.

The first a Washington Post article detailing the impressive operation Warren has already built to lay the groundwork for a 2020 run by distributing money, advice, and moral support to Democratic candidates all over the country.

Warren plainly wants discussion of her potential presidential campaign to increase in volume, especially if she can position herself as the chief anti-Trump spokesperson of the Democratic Party.

Which brings us to the other major Warren development of the day. Warren has long said that the story her family told about itself was in part about its Native American ancestry on her mother's side; such stories are hardly uncommon for people from Oklahoma.

Because of that, President Donald Trump refers to her as "Pocahontas," something he persists in doing no matter how many people tell him it's racist and offensive to Native Americans.

At a rally in July, Trump imagined facing Warren in a debate, then said he would bring a DNA test and toss it to her. "I will give you a million dollars to your favourite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you're an Indian," he said.

Just as Barack Obama ultimately produced his birth certificate to debunk Trump's "birther" lie, Warren did indeed take a DNA test to prove that she has some Native heritage. She released a video not only explaining the DNA results, but including interviews with her brothers (Republicans, by the way) and other relatives talking about their family and condemning Trump.

Warren tweeted: "My family (including Fox News-watchers) sat together and talked about what they think of @realDonaldTrump's attacks on our heritage. And yes, a famous geneticist analysed my DNA and concluded that it contains Native American ancestry."

Warren also informed Trump that he can fulfill his promise by donating US$1 million to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Centre. You don't have to guess whether he'll follow through, because this morning he was asked about his promise. "I didn't say that," he lied. "Nah, you'd better read it again."

What he will do, however, is keep calling Warren "Pocahontas".

He doesn't do it because it's based in some set of facts. He does it because he's a racist, and he wants to activate racism in others. It was racist when all we knew was her family lore, it's racist when we have DNA evidence, and it would have been racist whether she had Indian ancestry or not.

To understand this in full, we have to look one layer deeper to a lie that has been told about Warren, that she used her Native ancestry to gain some kind of undeserved advantage in her career through affirmative action programmes.

For instance, last year at a White House event honouring Native American "code talkers," Trump went on a cringe-inducing riff about Warren ("You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her 'Pocahontas'"). It was as though he was asked to honour the Tuskegee Airmen and said, "You know, looking at you I'm reminded of a little guy named Sambo."

When Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked afterward about Trump's appalling performance, she said, "I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career."

Here are the facts. Warren grew up being told that her family on her mother's side was part Native American. Though at various times in her career as a law professor she was listed in faculty directories as a minority, she never lied about it and she never used it to get any job.

The Boston Globe conducted a comprehensive investigation and found that Warren's ancestry played no part in her professional advancement (she was an academic star who could have been hired at pretty much any law school she wanted).

But this false idea is one of the key reasons, perhaps the key reason, why Trump uses the racist attack against her.

There isn't enough free-floating animus against Native people to be politically potent; it has to be brought together with other strains of racial resentment in order to really have an impact.

What is much more widespread among Trump supporters is the idea that racial minorities are given special advantages that allow them to vault past more deserving white people, making every aspect of their lives a cushy ride in a government-provided limousine while virtuous whites struggle to make it on nothing but their own merit.

This funhouse-mirror picture of America is built on a broad denial of reality propped up by a whole series of more specific lies; to take just one example, large numbers of white people apparently believe that black people get to go to any college they want without paying tuition.

But the fact that it's untrue doesn't mean it isn't extremely powerful.

The white working class voters who are such an important part of Trump's base are extremely receptive to the idea that not only does their race confer no privilege upon them, but their struggles are happening precisely because racial minorities (and immigrants, and women) are being given unfair advantages at their expense. This idea is drummed constantly into the heads of regular viewers of Fox News or listeners to conservative talk radio.

That racial grievance is what Trump is trying to activate with the "Pocahontas" insult.

He's trying to take that poisonous resentment that has been so assiduously cultivated on the right for so long and just slap it on to Warren. The details aren't important and the truth isn't important; what matters is that when a Trump voter sees Warren, all that bile comes bubbling up to the surface. You don't need to construct a logical argument around it, all you need is to make the association.

We have no idea whether it's going to work, or how effective Warren's strategy to deal with it will be. But what we do know, with a 100 per cent certainty, is that no matter who the Democratic nominee is in 2020, Donald Trump will run a campaign based on fear and hatred.

That's who he is and how he works. Warren may have the intelligence and charisma to overcome that kind of attack, just as Barack Obama did. One thing's for sure: She obviously knows it's coming.