Who knew that the Massachusetts race for the United States Senate – and maybe for Democratic control of the entire Senate – would come down to race? When I wrote about this last May I thought this was a one-off remark and since it didn’t move the polls, I figured the whole thing would die. A lot of people who are part Cherokee didn’t register for many reasons including fear of being targeted if they were open about Native American ancestry.
But now Scott Brown has made Elizabeth Warren’s race the centerpiece of his campaign. He has decided that the path to re-election is to question Warren’s family heritage. He has not produced any proof that her having “checked the box” made any difference in her tenure at Harvard Law School. On the other hand, Warren has produced people, including Republican Charles Fried, to say either they didn’t know or if they did it made no difference. Where’s the beef, Senator Brown?
After her initial fumbles at a response, Warren has settled on a great answer and produced a good response advertisement. But this is not the end for Scott Brown. This is the opening of this mornings Boston Globe story
In a tough new ad and in his attacks at last week’s debate, Senator Scott Brown has stoked questions about Elizabeth Warren’s professed Native American ancestry. But the difficulty of seizing on the controversy without crossing into uncomfortable racial territory became apparent Tuesday with the release of a video showing Republican staff members, including an aide in Brown’s Senate office, performing tomahawk chops and war whoops outside one of his campaign events.
Brown said such behavior is “not something I condone,” but declined to apologize.
“The apologies that need to be made and the offensiveness here is the fact that Professor Warren took advantage of a claim, to be somebody, a Native American, and used that for an advantage, a tactical advantage,” Brown said.
Does he really think this is going to get him re-elected?
Race is a difficult construct and, no, Elizabeth Warren’s family never registered to be members of a tribe. On the other hand, one cannot simply look at someone’s physical characteristics and say she is obviously no a person of color as Brown did when he opened the last debate. Melissa Harris-Perry talked about this the other night on the Rachel Maddow Show.
But I actually think that what we need in part is a conversation about what race is. Race is a social construct, not a biological reality. So, you know, when we think about blackness, which is the one most can put their finger on, yes, most Americans think they can tell a black person when they see one based on hair texture or how broad your nose is, or how brown your skin is. But in fact, there`s no clear distinct line that makes one black or outside of black or inside of indigenous identity or outside of it.
It’s not our blood that makes us those things. It’s our social constructs. —MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry on Scott Brown’s peculiar racial attack on Elizabeth Warren
Go ahead and stick a fork in the image — or, more accurately, the illusion — of Scott Brown as the affable everyman, the consummate good guy who folds laundry before pointing his pickup toward the docks to shoot the breeze with his fishermen friends.
It took him less than 30 seconds at last week’s debate to try and claw the eyes out of his opponent by questioning her character, honor, and truthfulness. He summoned the press corps he generally disdains to his office the following morning to distort Elizabeth Warren’s work on an asbestos case. He released his first negative ad on statewide TV Monday. His daily schedule on Tuesday included the line that he was “available to the media to address today’s revelation that Professor Warren worked on behalf of LTV Steel Company.”
And then, of course, there are his idiotic underlings filmed making tomahawk chops and reciting ridiculous Indian chants at a Dorchester rally. Nice.
It brings new meaning to being a Scott Brown Republican.
Boston is atwitter with half-cocked pundits wondering whether Brown is taking too big a risk by going too negative too soon. Here’s what they’ve got wrong: It may not be a strategy. It’s probably just who he is. When things went well, when he glided into the Senate on the wings of a short campaign and a hapless opponent, Scott Brown was as charming as they come.
I’ll say again what I’ve written before: Campaigns are long for a reason. In this case, Brown isn’t wearing well with time. So much of it comes down to whether Warren can rise to the moment, whether she can lift herself above an increasingly ugly fray.
The Mayor with Warren
There are a lot of serious issues to talk about and Scott Brown picks Elizabeth Warren’s heritage? Give me a break. Let me end with a quote from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston, who threw his valuable political support to Ms. Warren last week, said in an interview on Monday, “When candidates go negative, it means they have nothing to talk about.”
He continued: “Education, public safety, jobs, housing — my God, he won’t talk about any of it. He voted against a jobs extension bill three times.”
Photograph Elise Amendola/Associated Press