Thursday Morning Open Thread: Heritage & Its Limits

Families tell each other stories to establish their place in the world — even if the story is “We’re just normal, we have no stories.” Because my own parents came from families that believed in putting the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’, they also cheerfully introduced us to the concept of the unreliable narrator about the time we were old enough to go off to school. And even so, the eventual unspooling would prove weirder than any fiction about Irish kingdoms and hidden murders (the real family skeleton would turn out to be a failed trans-Atlantic Romeo-and-Juliet story that didn’t emerge until after the deaths of both participants and their only offspring).

Obviously I’ve sympathized with Senator Warren’s “Pocahontas” problem; she trusted what her parents told her — what her parents, and their community, believed — but the rules about claiming Native American ancestry have pretty much been reversed over the last half-century. I still hope she’ll be my senator for a great many years to come, but it’s good that she’s done her best to clear the deck to campaign for other Democrats as we march towards 2018.

Per the Boston Globe:

Senator Elizabeth Warren made a surprise appearance at the National Congress of American Indians Wednesday, forcefully denouncing President Trump’s use of the name “Pocahontas” to deride her and defending her claims of Native American heritage more expansively than she has before.

The Massachusetts Democrat also made an impassioned pledge to advocate for issues of importance for Native Americans. The speech was a clear attempt to put to rest a sensitive issue that has been used by her enemies to attack her character and another signal of her potential 2020 presidential ambitions.

Warren did not apologize for her undocumented claims that her mother’s family had Cherokee blood — instead, reaffirming: “My mother’s family was part Native American. And my daddy’s parents were bitterly opposed to their relationship. So, in 1932, when Mother was 19 and Daddy had just turned 20, they eloped.”

“The story they lived will always be a part of me,” she said, as tears came to her eyes. “And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away.”

But she told the gathered tribal leaders from around the country that she drew a distinction between claiming native ancestry and claiming tribal membership. She repeatedly referred to Trump’s insensitivity, not only in calling her Pocahontas but in doing it last year during an event at the White House meant to honor Navajo code-talker veterans of World War II…

Warren — who has been criticized for not advocating more aggressively in the Senate for Native American issues, given her claims to ancestry — also appeared to assert greater common cause with Native Americans than she has in the past.

“For far too long, your story has been pushed aside, to be trotted out only in cartoons and commercials,” she said. “So I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities.”…

Rebecca Nagle, the Cherokee activist who wrote the ThinkProgress column, said on Wednesday that the speech was a “giant step in the right direction.”

“It’s a historic moment for Indian country for a senator to make a speech like that,” Nagle said. “That’s exactly what she needed to do.”…

Mr. Charles P. Pierce adds:

Here’s a partial transcript, via The Boston Globe:

… In the fairy tale, Pocahontas saves John Smith from execution at the hands of her father. Except that was probably made up too. In the fable, her baptism as “Rebecca” and her marriage to a Jamestown settler are held up to show the moral righteousness of colonization. In reality, the fable is used to bleach away the stain of genocide. As you know, Pocahontas’s real journey was far more remarkable — and far darker — than the myth admits.

But in her teens, Pocahontas was abducted, imprisoned, and held captive. Oral history of the Mattaponi tribe indicates that she was ripped away from her first husband and child and raped in captivity. Eventually she married another John — John Rolfe. Her marriage led to an uneasy harmony between Jamestown and the tribes, a period that some historians call the Peace of Pocahontas. But she was not around to enjoy it. John Rolfe paraded her around London to entertain the British and prop up financial investments in the Virginia Company. She never made it home. She was about 21 when she died, an ocean separating her from her people. Indigenous people have been telling the story of Pocahontas — the real Pocahontas — for four centuries. A story of heroism. And bravery. And pain. And, for almost as long, her story has been taken away by powerful people who twisted it to serve their own purposes.

In the Capitol, right there in the rotunda, there is John Gadsby Chapman’s a massive painting, The Baptism Of Pocahontas. It is a huge and beautiful lie that has been hanging there since 1840, all through the debates over treaties that never were worth the paper on which they were printed, all through the passage of military appropriations that paid for the genocide in the West. And now, Elizabeth Warren works in that same building and, on Wednesday, she tried in her own way to put paid to all of the lies and broken promises. She should not be alone.


And then there was this *other* Warren-related story, which didn’t get nearly so much ink…

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Proud to Be A Democrat


From Politico, “Democrats press GOP to scrutinize rise in white supremacy”:

Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee are asking panel Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) to examine racist fringe groups, including those that organized Saturday’s violent protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on the University of Virginia campus…

California Rep. Lou Correa, who sits on the Homeland panel, was the first Democrat to call for hearings.

“Yesterday’s horrific acts against innocent Americans were clear acts of terrorism,” he said. “Our country has a homegrown terrorism problem we refuse to address. That ends now. We must hold hearings and finally address that terrorism inflicted by white supremacy extremists is destroying our country.”

A spokesman for Homeland ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) confirmed to POLITICO that committee Democrats were organizing to increase pressure on the panel to schedule hearings on white supremacist terrorism.

Homeland Democrats have already called for such hearings twice this year to no avail. A spokesperson for McCaul did not respond to request for comment.

The issue is going beyond the committee. Top House Democrats will discuss the matter during a leadership call and Democratic caucus conference call scheduled for Tuesday, according to a senior Democratic source. House Judiciary Democrats likewise held a call and are coordinating efforts to ramp up pressure on Republicans to address the growing threat…

Open Thread: Greetings on the Fourth


Apart from / in addition to fireworks, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

Who Defines the “True Progressives”? (Part I)

Senator Warren, still my idol. Here’s some more excerpts from the MassLive interview:

Q: Who is we? I hear progressives, and politicians in general, talk a lot about the middle class, but not much about people who live in poverty. Why is that?

Warren: One of the things I talk about is the way I divide the world. It’s the top ten percent who do very, very well; and the remaining ninety percent. And I talk about the interests of the ninety percent together, and make the argument that the investments in education, in infrastructure, in a robust economy, and in research are the things that benefit the ninety percent.

Q: So the breakfast waitress, and the dual-income double-professor family?

Warren: That’s right. Who are busting their rear ends but still can’t pull it all together. So that’s really the idea behind it. America once worked to build a lot of opportunity. And they called it the middle class; they filtered things through the middle class. But the truth was, opportunity was there for the middle class, for the working class, for the working poor, and for the poor poor. And you watch from about 1935 to about 1980, income goes up for everyone.

Q: Are you talking about Reagan; the 1980 mark?

Warren: Yes, that’s the 1980 mark. And African Americans talk about this as well. From the time we first started measuring, there was a black-white wealth gap; a big one. But we were hooked on the idea of opportunity. When the Civil Rights movement picks up steam in the 1960s and 70s, the black-white wealth gap shrinks by 30 percent. Then the shift to a trickle-down economy causes the black-white wealth gap to triple. So that’s the point. We can make a set of investments that work for all of us.

Q: You know some African-American political analysts say the progressive movement is tone-deaf when it comes to race. They say economic opportunity is all well and good, but it’s not going to make racism go away.

Warren: I talk about this in the book; about the economics of race. Which is a different point. It’s there in the first part of the story; how we built a middle class, and it’s there in the second part with trickle-down economics. But I also talk about it in terms of the politics of race. And the discussions around the Republicans; the dog-whistles on race, and then Donald Trump’s deliberate efforts to try to stir up bigotry…

That’s really an essential point — the Democratic Party’s problem is not that civil rights and women’s rights are somehow a distraction from “real” economic issues. It’s that, in our two-party system, some people who don’t want to call themselves Republicans are trying to turn the Democratic Party into a platform to talk about their issues (ECONOMIC JUSTICE! SINGLE PAYER NOW!) rather than the messy, open-ended coalition of “special interest groups” (urban activists, local machine politicians, immigrant workers, civil rights and women’s rights supporters) we’ve been at our best and most successful.

In fact, this is another nasty revival from the original Gilded Age, when Finley Peter Dunne mocked the Goo-Goos determined to purge American politics of ‘corrupt’ urban professional politicians (with the help of voter registration!) and replace them with clean-minded properly-educated white ‘native-born’ men. Just as it was more than a century ago, it’s always the people of color, immigrants, women — and working-class — voters who are expected to sacrifice themselves for True Progressivism.

(To be continued)

Thursday Morning Open Thread: “Make This Fight Your Fight”

Some people are gonna be disappointed she didn’t call the other candidate in the 2016 Dem primaries out, but that’s not Sen. Warren’s style.

(I was originally gonna post Maddow’s latest interview with Sen. Warren, but FYWP isn’t cooperating.)

Apart from continuing to fight all the good fights, what’s on the agenda for the day?

And a reminder, because I’m allergy-addled and cranky, from Mr. Charles P. Pierce — “Why Trump Won”:

[O]ne of the more interesting sidelights of what certainly will be a deluge of post-mortems regarding the 2016 presidential campaign is the widely held notion that Hillary Rodham Clinton was gifted with a uniquely easy opponent. This idea is central to the narrative that holds that HRC’s campaign was a uniquely bad one, and she a uniquely bad candidate. She couldn’t even beat a reality-show star who doesn’t know North Korea from East Hampton. True, there were a number of things that HRC and her campaign did badly, but they did get three million more votes than did Trump, which counts for something…

Consider this: Whatever you may think of how he won the presidency, and we’ll get to that in a minute, Trump took on a Republican field composed of what was alleged to be the best that party had to offer, the deepest part of its allegedly deep bench, and he utterly destroyed it. Scott Walker, popular scourge of middle-school history teachers, never even made it to the starting gate. Rand Paul, brogressive libertarian heartthrob, was reduced to invisibility. Chris Christie was demolished as a national political figure. Marco Rubio—The Republican Savior, according to Time—is still wandering the political landscape looking, as Abraham Lincoln said of General Hooker after Chancellorsville, like a duck that’s been hit on the head. And, when he finally got around to it, he took the heart out of Tailgunner Ted Cruz in Indiana, alleging on the morning of the primary that Cruz’s father hobnobbed in New Orleans with Lee Harvey Oswald.

That Trump never paid a price in the eyes of his voters for that kind of meretricious goonery is the best evidence there is that, in 2016, anyway, he was in every sense a formidable political force. And, let it not be forgotten that he brought with him a Republican Senate, a Republican House, and massive gains out in the states as well.

Moreover, and I owe a hat tip to Scott Lemieux here, it’s likely in retrospect that Trump’s plan of action, while unconventional in the extreme and relentlessly eccentric, also was based in a kind of mad logic. There really was a big slice of the electorate, concentrated in states that were vital in the Electoral College, that was uniquely susceptible to Trump’s appeal. He and his people spotted it and campaigned accordingly.

The myth of Trump’s vulnerability has two sources, I think. The first is the apparently irresistible impulse in some quarters to score some sort of final victory over the Clinton family… The other is the reluctance of Republicans—and of the elite political classes at large—to accept the reality that Trump is merely a cruder manifestation of the political prion disease that has afflicted conservatism and the Republican Party since it first ate the monkeybrains 35 years ago. It was all leading to someone like Trump, and something like last year’s election.

So many people had been driven away from the voting booths — deliberately or not — and so many other people at both ends of the political spectrum had allowed themselves the luxury of believing that their votes were tickets to an entertaining spectacle… that all it took was a few million rubles’ worth of monkey-mischief and the deliberate collusion of the FBI to hand the Oval Office over the Donald Effing Trump. But none of the guilty parties, least of all in Our Major Media, are willing to accept their share of the blame; ergo, it must be That Woman’s fault. Mom should’ve made us not drink a mixture of bleach and ammonia, what a horrible failure she is for assuming that telling us it was poison & we’d regret it later would be enough to deter us!

That’s not how it works, fellas. You’re (putative) grownups now, and you have to take responsibility for your own failures. And, no, those of us with better sense are not gonna ‘get over it’ any time in the immediate future, nor make the mistake of trusting you further than we can see you.

Monday Morning Open Thread: Nevertheless, They Persisted

Another book I look forward to reading. From the Boston Globe:

Warren has produced a policy-focused (or, in her word, “nerdy”) book that is reflective of a politician whose future could depend on preserving Democratic alliances. Put another way, this is no Bernie Sanders-style screed.

In a rare interview at her home in Cambridge on Friday, Warren explained that she wanted to focus on how American government has stopped working for all but the very wealthiest citizens and corporations, and her worry that President Trump “is about to deliver the knockout blow” to the country’s floundering middle class.

Pressed on why she doesn’t use the opportunity of a well-timed book to offer a sharper critique of the Democratic Party, Warren’s answer is, essentially: Circular firing squads aren’t very productive.

“I never lose sight of the fact that Democrats have tried to do more for working people than Republicans,” she said. “Have Democrats failed? Yes. There have been places where we have not fought as hard as we should, but Republicans as a party have blocked every move that would have helped working families.”…

As Warren put it in the interview, corporate money invades Washington and “slithers through there like a snake.”

Warren was talking about campaign contributions and hired-gun lobbyists, but also about money that funds think tanks and other “experts for hire,” advertising, and even the courts that she argues also now “tilt in the direction of the rich and powerful.”

“And now, Donald Trump is in place and has assembled a team of billionaires and bankers that are pushing one blow after another to working families,” she said in the interview….

Her book ends with the Women’s March in Boston in January and thus stops before one of the most memorable recent skirmishes in her battle with Republicans — when Senate Republicans, led by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, voted to formally silence her during debate over the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.

The moment went viral and earned Warren a round of generally favorable national press coverage — not to mention a fresh flood of campaign contributions from her national network.

It also, apparently, has earned her an enduring cold-shoulder from McConnell…

Pissy little fella, ain’t he?

Patriot’s Day holiday or not, what’s on the agenda as we start another week?

Open Thread: Pay Attention to Senator Warren, People!