Democratic National Convention 2012: Blackface Runs Red

A column by Cole R. DeLaune about the Democratic National Convention.

Digesting the broadcast of this month's Democratic National Convention, one was reminded of an expertly polished minstrel show. With all of that medium's absurdity, an endlessly hyped rising star of the party ranks took to the dais in Charlotte attired in the greasepaint of "family lore" and delivered an appropriately farcical war cry to enthusiastic applause. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Elizabeth Warren's speech referenced neither her life as an occupational Caucasian woman, nor her manufactured indigenous persona; after all, in the days before her primetime network debut, she had refused yet again to engage with the Native community by declining a request to meet from Stephen Roe Lewis, Lt. Governor of Gila River; Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, a Crow and Montana state lawmaker; Harlyn Geronimo, grandson of the Apache warrior; and several others. Presumably, Warren refrained from attacking these delegates for acting at the behest of right-wing puppeteers in order to avoid further embarrassment, though her propensity for irrationality became well established during an episode in June when her campaign accused four liberally inclined Cherokee women seeking an audience of advancing a Republican conspiracy.

Railing against reliable villains, those faceless corporations of Wall Street, from her platform in the Time Warner Cable Arena, the professor revisited one of her favorite bromides, bellowing, "The Republican vision is clear — 'I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.' "Curious words, to say the least, from a public figure that has unregenerately rejected overtures from the journalistic outlets and peoples of Indian Country to engage in a meaningful discourse about the salient issues of the demographic. The one-percenter who grew up in materially comfortable environs of which many Natives today can but dream (a serviceable MG; a solidly upper- middle-class education in a high school that boasted one of the most affluent student populations among local public institutions; a two-story, three-bedroom home) remains attuned to the culture that has always comprised a fundamental aspect of her identity only to the extent of its novelty. Perusing last Sunday's sympathetic profile in The Boston Globe, it was clear that the professor can still only describe her relationship to the tall tales of her clan in the most abstruse, evasive, and ever shifting terms; nor did author Sally Jacobs offer any clarification regarding how such opaque recollections enabled Warren to add some aboriginal exoticism to the Harvard Law faculty, or how they have informed her decision to stonewall culturally centric news sites like the one you're presently reading. Rather than acquaint herself over the past four months with the matrix of woes, challenges, concerns, and riches that defines the contemporary indigenous tableau, the erstwhile "first Senator from Massachusetts with a Native background" has displayed negligible desire to venture beyond the comfort of her pre-packaged talking points.

The disinclination of progressive leadership to acknowledge the transgressions of their chosen heroine is understandable in the context of cynical political calculus: with millions of dollars from influential donors already couched in the best Dem Senate pick-up opportunity, the liberal establishment was inextricably tethered to Professor Warren by the time her penchant for uncontrollable dishonesty became apparent. A cursory cost-benefit analysis of the situation illustrates the extent of capitalistic incentives in the modern United States, even with respect to an ideological machine that has relentlessly demonized financial avarice. Contrasted against the staggering sums of cash in play, the exploitation and subordination of the country's forgotten minority warrants little attention on the left.

The disharmony between the rhetoric of the DNC and the programming choices of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Co. crescendos when one realizes that Warren fever operates simultaneous to a disregard for candidates who have managed to earnestly defend blue philosophies without appareling themselves as ethnic facsimiles. Hindu Samoan and Iraq War veteran Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii avoided wholesale dismissal by the powers that be in North Carolina, but her address garnered little commendation compared to the accolades showered on more prominent luminaries. Heidi Heitkamp, running to replace the retiring Kent Conrad in DC, recently added Diane Johnson, an experienced government legal authority, to her campaign as a policy advisor on Indian affairs. The former North Dakota Attorney General says she hopes to serve as the "voice" of Natives in Washington, but remains one of the most obscure Democratic nominees nationally despite shattering expectations to take the lead in both internal and external polling against opponent Rick Berg. Similarly, Cynthia Dill has wrestled with a functional repudiation by the Beltway glitterati, who appear to be aligning behind independent Angus King in a deliberate gamble, even though her brand of unapologetic liberalism mirrors that of a certain Cambridge demagogue. Like Warren's indigenous critics, the Maine lawyer appears to constitute an irritating distraction for the leftist apparatus, an expendable sacrifice on the altar of cynical electoral strategy. The chilling insight to be gleaned from the Democratic command's turn in spotlight is that progressivism is inherently adaptable to the trajectory of money.

Illinois Congressman Oscar DePriest, alarmed by the multitudes of blacks who yielded to the seductive promises of the New Deal in the 1940s and abandoned the historically abolitionist GOP, famously declared, "There is a melancholy fate for anyone who compromises with the devil." The battle in Massachusetts features not only a leading lady who has forsaken an assortment of cardinal leftist tenets, but also a mercenary party juggernaut disinterested in questions of ethical consistency. But such moral flexibility reveals an intriguing and heretofore ignored marvel of racial alchemy. With his smoky black hair, prosperously tawny skin tone, and lineage that paternally extends back to Mexico, Mitt Romney guarantees that 2012 will see the most diverse Presidential contest yet. And by November 7, according the esoteric reasoning of Elizabeth Warren and her supporters, we may have our first Hispanic executive-elect.

Educated at Dartmouth College and Columbia University, Cole DeLaune is a native of Oklahoma and Tennessee. He currently resides in Atlanta, and has contributed editorial content to Vogue and Elle, among other publications. He is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.