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No more Pocahontas. Now, can Warren overcome the ‘blah blah blah’ gene with voters?

Senator Elizabeth Warren addresses a town hall meeting in Roxbury last week.JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images

Maybe Donald Trump won’t have “Pocahontas” to kick around anymore, now that Elizabeth Warren took a DNA test to prove she had a Native American ancestor who dates back six to 10 generations.

But that still leaves the president and other critics with the gene that represents Senator Warren’s biggest hurdle to a White House run — the “blah blah blah” gene.

As if we needed any reminder after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, the sexism and misogyny that are embedded in our culture — and especially in this administration — were bluntly revealed in an e-mail written by John Kelly, Trump’s current chief of staff, following an exchange with Warren that dates back to February 2017:


“Absolutely, the most insulting conversation I’ve ever had with anyone,” Kelly, then serving as the secretary of Homeland Security, wrote to Kevin Carroll, who was then his senior counselor at the department, according to a recent Buzzfeed report. “What an impolite arrogant woman. She immediately began insulting our people, accusing them of not following the court order, insulting and abusive behavior towards those covered by the pause [in the administration-ordered travel ban], blah blah blah.”

To that, Carroll responded that it was “too bad” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell “couldn’t order her to be quiet again!” That was a reference to an incident in which McConnell prevented Warren from speaking out on the Senate floor against Jeff Sessions, after his nomination for attorney general.

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” said McConnell.

Warren still uses that phrase to raise money and rile up supporters. After the report on Kelly’s insulting e-mail, she also responded with a series of fiery tweets, calling out Kelly’s remarks for the sexism they represent. “There are some men who can only hear ‘blah blah blah’ whenever a woman’s talking,” she said.


She’s right about what many men hear when a woman speaks. But of course, some women only hear that too. Just ask those who voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton.

Warren is tough. She doesn’t back down. As McConnell griped, she persists. And unlike Trump, she has released 10 years’ worth of her tax returns and made her personnel files available to the Globe, to show ethnicity was not a factor in her professional success.

Now, with the DNA test, which was first reported by the Globe’s Annie Linsky, Warren has taken another extraordinary step to confront Trump’s mockery of her. The analysis of her DNA was done by Carlos D. Bustamante, a Stanford University professor and expert to the field. While he concluded that “the vast majority” of Warren’s ancestry is European, “the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor.”

For reasonable people, that should be enough to back her contention that according to “family lore” she has some Native American heritage.

At a recent rally, Trump said he hoped Warren would run for president because it would allow him to find out “whether or not she has Indian blood.”

Of course, his taunts were never really about the truth of her ethnicity. They were about belittling her, about painting her as loony and crazy. Trump uses similar insulting tactics against men. But he does it with special fervor against women. He knows that running against the “blah blah blah” gene is a useful political weapon with voters of all political persuasions.


With the DNA test, Warren may be able to blunt the “Pocahontas” attacks. But she still has to convince voters — including Democratic primary voters — that a country that elected an impolite, arrogant man is ready to elect an impolite, arrogant woman.

Correction: An earlier version of this column quoted data that has since been corrected by the Globe.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.