Donald Trump has history with Elizabeth Warren but his new attacks may backfire – Donald Trump’s America

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Updated

February 11, 2019 10:42:19

Saturday was a landmark day for Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. After years of speculation over her political future, she finally entered the race for the presidency.

And, after years of being a target of President Donald Trump’s anger, a tweet was waiting after she finished her joyful moment in the spotlight.

It was no surprise that Mr Trump would revive his derogatory nickname, Pocahontas, for Ms Warren, who has claimed Native American ancestry.

(For those who don’t know, Pocahontas was the daughter of a prominent Native American chief in Virginia. She saved the life of British settler Captain John Smith when he was about to be executed in 1607 and went on to marry another British settler, John Rolfe.)

What raised eyebrows was Mr Trump’s use of the word “TRAIL”, in capitals.

While Mr Trump might have meant “campaign trail,” the word immediately brought to mind the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of tens of thousands of Native Americans from the American South to “Indian territory” in the Plains and farther west.

He wasn’t the first person on Twitter to make a reference to her claim of Native American.

West Wing actor Rob Lowe quickly deleted a tweet that said Elizabeth Warren could make a great Commander in “Chief”.

Warren under Trump’s fire for two reasons

Mr Trump’s treatment of Ms Warren has two parts.

One is his often-expressed disdain for women in politics, from his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to female journalists such as Cecilia Vega of ABC TV in America.

Where the decorum of previous eras might have spared women from full-on verbal attacks, Mr Trump has never hesitated to fire back at anyone, male or female, who challenges him.

In doing so, he is repeatedly defended by one of the highest-profile women in his administration — Kellyanne Conway, a counsellor to the president.

That tactic has helped her keep her White House job when dozens of others have been fired or left.

Of course, there’s a business link too

Beyond his misogyny, Mr Trump’s anger with Native Americans dates back a quarter century, for one key reason: business.

In 1993, Mr Trump filed a challenge to a federal law that allowed Native American tribes to run gambling establishments on their reservations, or to obtain the rights to property in order to develop casinos, in order to protect his New Jersey casinos

The law was meant to shore up the finances of struggling reservations, and had a quick effect. There are now 460 gaming establishments, from slot machine parlours to luxury resorts and spas, run by 240 federally recognised tribes — and there New Jersey tribes were applying to join them.

When Mr Trump filed the lawsuit, Atlantic City, New Jersey, was considered one of the prime gambling locations in the US, along with Las Vegas.

His Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino was one of Atlantic City’s glitziest, joined by the Trump Taj Mahal.

But as states and cities around the United States legalised gambling, the allure of Atlantic City has faded. The Trump Plaza ultimately shut down in 2014, and has stood vacant since.

She serves it back

There’s another factor in Mr Trump’s attacks, however. Ms Warren has attacked him, too, from the beginning of the 2016 political campaign.

In March, 2016, she posted a scathing Facebook post that began, “Let’s be honest — Donald Trump is a loser”.

Said Ms Warren: “Trump seems to know he’s a loser. His embarrassing insecurities are on parade: petty bullying, attacks on women, cheap racism and flagrant narcissism. But just because Trump is a loser everywhere else doesn’t mean he’ll lose this election. People have been underestimating his campaign for nearly a year — and it’s time to wake up.”

However, Ms Warren is widely viewed as having bungled the situation last fall when, egged on by Mr Trump, she took a commercially available DNA test to prove her ancestry.

Native American groups have said that these tests prove little and what is more important is family ties to a specific tribe, in Ms Warren’s case, the Cherokee Nation.

And she has endured criticism over her claim of Native American heritage from more than just Mr Trump.

It was an issue in her 2012 campaign for the US Senate seat in Massachusetts. At the time, Republican Scott Brown claimed that Ms Warren had fraudulently used her distant Native American ancestry to land faculty jobs at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.

He claimed she had “checked the box” on surveys asking candidates to list their ethnic backgrounds. At the time, the Washington Post found no evidence that she had done so.

But this month, it emerged that she hand wrote “American Indian” as her race on a registration card for the Texas bar, meaning the lawyers who are authorised to practise in the state.

Ms Warren apologised, in the latest of a regular stream of apologies for her.

A bumpy start to Warren’s campaign

The vitriol from Mr Trump, coupled with her missteps, has caused the launch of her candidacy to get off to a bumpy start.

There could be hope for Ms Warren, however. Throughout the 2016 and 2018 campaign seasons, Mr Trump regularly turned his wrath on Ms Pelosi.

She became the centrepiece not only of his rage with Democratic members of Congress, but also the target of numerous television ads for Republican candidates during the 2018 mid-term elections.

The upshot is that Democrats won the House, and Ms Pelosi is enjoying late-career authority as the most powerful woman in Washington, and leader of the opposition to Mr Trump.

This weekend, she was featured in a Saturday Night Live parody of Charlie’s Angels, depicting the female representatives who wore white suits to Mr Trump’s State of the Union, a nod to the suffragette movement.

It’s a little too early to know whether Ms Warren, like Ms Pelosi, can withstand the blows from Mr Trump and turn them into a political advantage.

Trump’s tactics could backfire

In an earlier era, American voters might immediately disqualify Ms Warren for her misstatements of her Native American ancestry.

But Mr Trump has displayed an almost joyful willingness to lie on a daily basis, testing how much weight Americans place on the truth. Politifact estimates that Mr Trump has partly or completely lied about 69 per cent of the time in the statements it has measured.

Likewise, while there has been significant discussion in recent years about race relations in the United States, the conversation has primarily been about African Americans and Latinos.

Unless they live in areas with significant Native American populations, such as the west and south-west, it’s likely many voters don’t follow Native American issues on a daily basis.

Now, Mr Trump’s tactics against Ms Warren could bring those topics to the fore. And, just as happened with Ms Pelosi, he could wind up creating another political heroine.

That might be the most fitting Native American tribute of all.

Micheline Maynard is an American author and journalist.

Topics:

donald-trump,

government-and-politics,

world-politics,

united-states

First posted

February 11, 2019 10:20:11





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