wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

The Post Most: Opinions

direct signup

Today’s Opinions poll

Should the United States fund the service program AmeriCorps? President Obama would increase its budget. Rep. Paul Ryan would eliminate federal funding for the program.

Submit
Next
Review your answers and share

Join a Discussion

Weekly schedule, past shows

Post Partisan
Posted at 03:08 PM ET, 05/24/2012

PostScript: George Will, Elizabeth Warren and identity politics

Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate in Massachusetts for the U.S. Senate, claimed at some points in her professional life to be a very small part Cherokee. The claim, apparently based on family lore, seems to be of dubious authenticity — or, at least, is not yet convincingly authenticated.

George F. Will writes in his column today that this matters a lot for the upcoming election, in which Warren challenges the Republican incumbent, Sen. Scott Brown. It makes Warren look hypocritical, Will argues — but worse, it is a revealing part and parcel of what he calls a lamentable liberal “identity politics,” in which a candidate’s character and experience are viewed with less importance than his or her ethnic background and other bona fides in the “diversity industry.” Will ascribes this to Warren’s background in elite academia (she was a Harvard professor), a place where one’s barely remembered nonwhite great-great-great-grandparent can be political capital -- something to brag about. Both her schools, Harvard and Penn, did, indeed, brag. It helped them seem more diverse.

Will says this is all germane in a candidate who is famously running as a Teller of Truth to Power. He says it’s important. Is he right?

PostScript shall now attempt to authoritatively find out, by wildly skimming the more than 3,000 reader comments provoked by the column to determine whether this slightly seamy, sorry narrative actually is changing anyone’s mind. The unmade-up mind is an elusive beast round these parts, but if we’re very quiet and don’t call them at dinnertime, they might talk to us. Shh. Back in a minute.

Okay. Yep, Will wins this round. People don’t like this.

MdLaw really, really didn’t want to change his or her mind about this issue. But had to:

As a Democrat, there are few things in life I hate more than having to admit George Will is right but every now and again that is the case. This is one of those cases. Warren’s wounds are self inflicted. It appears Warren rode the “vogue” wave of claiming Native American ancestry when it was popular but took it a bit too seriously and exploited it a bit too far. Now, of all things, I have to admit Will has a point. For that, I cannot forgive her.

Benson allows that, because it’s still unclear who was stretching the truth — was it Harvard? Warren? Both, a little? — and whether the deception allowed Warren to get a job, it’s easy enough to excuse the sin. But Benson says we shouldn’t because too many people acted ridiculously:

It probably seemed like a “victimless crime.” I think we all know better now, right? To allow Harvard and Penn to claim that they had a diverse faculty on the basis of Warren’s claim was ludicrous.

ProfEthan can forgive the past, but not the present:

So . . . she gamed the system at bit. That bothers me, but not too much. But she’s now been caught lying about what she did, claiming she never overtly claimed to be an Indian. That bothers me a lot.

We could go on here, but won't. Grudging, reluctant agreement from the blues speaks with particular eloquence: Ms. Warren has a problem.

By Rachel Manteuffel  |  03:08 PM ET, 05/24/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company