The Massachusetts Senate election for the seat held by Senator Scott Brown is becoming more vitriolic and contested every week. The debate held on September 20 between Senator Brown and challenger Elizabeth Warren involved core issues of the campaign, including the environment, bipartisanship, and the economy, among many others. An unexpected issue, however, was race. Within the first ten minutes of the debate, Senator Brown attacked Mrs. Warren on her disputed Native American heritage.
Brown stated, “When she applied to Penn and Harvard, she checked the box claiming she was Native American, and, you know, clearly she’s not.”
The issue came up earlier in the election cycle, in June, when Senator Brown brought up her claims of Native American heritage when he was far ahead in the polls. However, Mrs. Warren gave a widely respected address at September’s DNC that gave her a statistically significant lead in the polls.
Senator Brown’s campaign has released an advertisement attacking Mrs. Warren’s heritage. The advertisement compiles TV news segments saying “Warren admitted to identifying herself as Native American to her employers… something now genealogists have said they have zero evidence of.” Mr. Brown’s stamp of approval comes at the beginning of the advertisement.
She states, “As a kid, I never asked my mom for documentation about our Native American heritage; what kid would? But I knew my father’s family didn’t like that she was part-Cherokee and part-Delaware… The people who hired me have all said they didn’t even know about it… Scott Brown can keep attacking my family, but I’m going to keep fighting for yours.”
Mrs. Warren approved the message in the heart of her short monologue.
Mr. Brown appeals to the “good old boy” network and the existing anti-woman precedent set by the Massachusetts electorate. The Commonwealth has elected only two women to statewide office, State Auditor Suzanne Bump and Martha Coakley. Mrs. Coakley ran as an esteemed Attorney General that had recovered millions of dollars from Goldman Sachs after the subprime crisis, gained repayment of $610.625 million from irresponsible Big Dig contractors, and worked with Apple to make iTunes handicap accessible. Mr. Brown was a three-term state senator known by many as an expert in Veteran’s Affairs. In an election to replace Ted Kennedy, a Democratic Senator since 1962, in a state where no Republican Senator had been elected since 1972, Mrs. Coakley lost 52% to 47%.
Senator Brown’s voting record is clear; he has hundreds of “No” votes on ideas that many Massachusetts citizens support. He has voted against middle class tax cuts, against the campaign finance DISCLOSE Act, against the Paycheck Fairness Act for women twice, against extending low student loan interest rates, against establishing a minimum 30% tax rate for high-income earners, and against prohibiting detention of U.S. citizens without trial. He has voted against a payroll tax cut, the American Jobs Act, and health benefits for 9/11 first responders. Brown has also voted to reduce food stamp funding, extend the PATRIOT Act, and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Mr. Brown may be bipartisan relative to his Republican peers in the Senate, but this comes during a period of unmatched political polarization. Compromise from a Republican official leads to primary election challenges by extreme conservatives, unless he or she is from a traditionally Democratic state—like Brown and Senators Snowe and Collins from Maine. This has happened to Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware, Senator Richard Lugar in Indiana, Senators Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch in Utah, and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst in Texas, just to name a few. Christine O’Donnell, who defeated Rep. Castle, lost to Democrat Chris Coons, and Richard Mourdock, who defeated Senator Lugar, looks positioned to lose to Democrat Joe Donnelly in Republican-dominated Indiana.
Mr. Brown has a clear stance on the issues facing the United States. He stands with the Republican Party on health care, the military, education, energy, taxes, fair pay, and campaign finance; he votes with his party in 70% of all votes.
Mrs. Warren chaired the oversight committee for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), also known as the bank bailout. Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air interviewed Warren in a program titled “What Does $700 Billion Buy Taxpayers?” She is a middle-class bankruptcy expert, a co-author of books on the costs increasing the debt burden of American families, and co-authored the journal study “Illness and Injury as Contributors to Bankruptcy”. The study discovered that the cost of a medical emergency caused almost 50% of family bankruptcies; 75% of those families had health insurance. Warren also pushed for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as part of the financial regulations passed in 2010. Republicans blocked her nomination to head the agency, but she served as its acting director for a year. The CFPB’s core mission is “to give consumers the information they need to understand the terms of their agreements with financial companies.”
Elizabeth Warren’s family heritage is not the crux of her experience and does not indicate her qualification to be a United States Senator. Mrs. Warren has been a defender of the American family for decades, she was the only tenured professor at Harvard Law School educated at a public law school, and her economic work for the government has focused entirely on helping a great majority of Americans. Three September polls give Warren a lead of five or more points among likely voters, and the RealClearPolitics polling average gives her a lead of about two points.
Elizabeth Warren fights for the economic security of the average American. I’m voting for her because she defends college students not corporations; you should too.
Zac Bears is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.