Politics

Elizabeth Warren goes native

Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren was a racial minority when she sought a tenured professorship at Harvard Law. Once the Edgar Winter-white Warren obtained her sinecure, she ceased listing herself as a minority. The nouveau riche have a penchant for forgetting where they come from. 

Warren’s campaign to replace Scott Brown in the United States Senate suffers from an identity crisis. One would expect as much from a Harvard Yard populist, a candidate who boasts that she “grew up on the ragged edge of the middle class” but quietly lives in a $1.7 million mansion. The controversy over whether she is or isn’t 1/32nd Cherokee undercuts the most appealing part of her narrative: that she pulled herself up by her moccasin straps.

Harvard Law School lists nearly one hundred professors and assistant professors of law in its employ. More than half of them received law degrees from Harvard Law. Yale Law matriculated another two dozen of them. It’s a small, monolithic world, and one that undoubtedly became more diverse with Elizabeth Warren’s tenure. It just wasn’t the diversity Harvard had bargained for.

Outside of a few specialists who obtained doctorates in fields outside of law, every professor and assistant professor at the elite school has a degree from a top-ten law school. In fact, so exclusive is Harvard Law that just five of its assistant or full professors obtained degrees from schools in the bottom-half of that top ten. The exception is Elizabeth Warren, Rutgers Law class of ’76, who insists that Harvard hired her on her scholarly and teaching abilities.

How much peyote does one have to smoke to believe that?

Harvard Law is incestuously selective, so it makes sense that their hire from the nation’s 82nd ranked law school had an “in” with Harvard’s in-crowd. On top of her dubious ancestral claims, Warren married the school’s Carl F. Schipper, Jr. Professor of Law, Bruce Mann. Even when the cliquey Cantabrigians reach outside of their cloistered world, it’s clannish and corrupt.

Warren is nepotism and ethnic favoritism rolled into one. But that’s Massachusetts politics.

It’s fitting that she seeks to occupy what’s still called “the Kennedy seat.” Prior to Scott Brown wresting that Senate seat away from Massachusetts Democrats, the Kennedy family had controlled it for almost six decades (with John Kennedy’s college roommate and the chairman of his presidential library serving as placeholder senators before and after Ted Kennedy’s tenure).

Consider the 1962 campaign in which thirty-year-old Ted Kennedy first won the Senate seat that Elizabeth Warren now seeks. Kennedy defeated the nephew of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for the Democratic nomination. Then in the general election the brother of the president vanquished a Republican whose father, great-grandfather, and great-great-great-great-grandfather had held the same contested Senate seat, and an independent candidate whose grandfather had served as the chief justice of United States Supreme Court.

Where politics is especially tribal, last names and ethnicity matter—a lot. Just ask the Senator that Warren campaigns to serve alongside in the Massachusetts delegation.

When the Boston Globe revealed in 2003 that John Kerry’s roots did not extend anywhere near County Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts insisted that he had “been clear as a bell” regarding his heritage and had “always been absolutely straight up front about it.”

Like, for instance, when his campaign distributed emerald green “Up Kerry” t-shirts at the 1982 state Democratic convention, recalling Irish independence leader Eamon de Valera’s “Up de Valera” slogan and stoking ethnic passions in America’s most Irish state. Or when Kerry forgot to correct the Boston Globe’s repeated references to him as an Irish-American. “For those of us who are fortunate to share an Irish ancestry,” Kerry explained to the Senate the day after 1986’s St. Patrick’s Day, “we take great pride in the contributions that Irish-Americans, from the time of the Revolutionary War to the present, have made to building a strong and vibrant nation.”

Will they next tell us that Michael Dukakis really wasn’t the “son of Greek immigrants”?

Welcome to Massachusetts, where all politics is ethnic. The Eastbound Okie Elizabeth Warren has truly gone native.

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