Was it right for Elizabeth Warren to identify as a minority? Will voters care?
Warren has said she could not recall ever listing native American background when applying for college or a job, the Boston Herald reported Saturday. The paper said Warren also commented that she didn't have a problem with Harvard Law School citing her background as part of its faculty diversity, but that she didn’t know until recently that the school had counted her as a minority.
The Brown campaign has been seeking to define Warren as a liberal ideologue, with views more in sync with "Occupy Wall Street" than with mainstream voters. This issue could play into that narrative, if it appears that Warren sought to use a liberal orthodoxy (affirmative action) to promote her own career.
And, regardless of the political stakes, the to-and-fro in recent days points to an interesting question of defining identity.
"The discovery of a great-great-great-grandmother does raise the question of when it becomes unseemly, if not outright deceptive, for someone to claim minority status – especially in a profession where ethnic preferences in hiring and promotions are routinely observed," blogger Vincent Carroll wrote Tuesday for the Denver Post.
He said Warren may land on the spectrum somewhere in between two Colorado figures who became nationally known. One is former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who passed himself off as native American with, in Mr. Carroll's words, "no credible basis." The other is former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, "who was three-eighths Northern Cheyenne, [and] proudly touted his Indian ancestry during his tenure in Congress."