When you are your own worst enemy

This may sound like a political issue but it is really a marketing issue.

Many of us have read George Lakoff’s research on framing, metaphor and persuasive communication.  Elizabeth Warren apparently has not.

Our president has been taunting Warren for years about her claim of Native American ancestry, and this week she fell right into his trap and publicized the results of a DNA test that showed her to be, apparently, 1/1,064th Native American. 

  • Lakoff cautions that in political debate, one should never accept the opponent’s framing of an issue. Warren has done exactly that and has made a non-issue (a childish taunt) into an issue.

  • 1/1,064th Native American blood sure doesn’t sound like much

  • She has upset many on the left, and the Cherokee Nation, who argue that the results of a DNA test don’t mean you can truly claim to be Native American or to understand the Native American experience.

  • In a moment in history when Democrats should be focusing on our similarities and the things that unite us, Warren is shifting the conversation to things that divide us, like race, religion, and ethnicity – territory where Donald Trump thrives.

Warren follows in the inglorious tradition of rhetorically challenged Democrats like John Kerry, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton. It is a party with an undying belief that if you just give people the facts, they will come to the correct and rational conclusion – that being “right” means you don’t have to worry about being persuasive.

(Even Obama fell into this trap. Although he was a brilliant communicator of his personal story and his vision for the country, he struggled to create a narrative around his administration’s accomplishments.)

The result -- the majority of Americans agree with Democrats’ policies and yet the party is powerless across all branches of the federal government and in most states. If you want to see a Democrat win back in the White House in 2020, Elizabeth Warren’s actions this week should give you pause.