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Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory

Photo by AFGE | CC BY 2.0

Photo by AFGE | CC BY 2.0

Throughout the efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, Senator Elizabeth Warren, as she did during the Democratic Primaries in her refusal to endorse Bernie Sanders, stayed on the fence to avoid any political risk. Despite portraying herself as one of the most progressive politicians in the country, Senator Warren has been displaying the same penchant for political expediency, and same political cowardice that has incited resentment from millions of voters toward the Democratic Party establishment.

Warren has previously claimed to be Cherokee, though she has never provided evidence to support her claims, and has perpetuated racist stereotypes to defend herself. “Quoting an aunt of hers, Warren said one of her relatives supposedly “had high cheekbones, like all of the Indians do,”” wrote Simon Moya Smith, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and culture editor at Indian Country Today, for CNN. Smith added that Warren failed to defend Native Americans during the presidential election in response to Donald Trump’s use of the pejorative racist term “Pocahontas.”

When the opportunity called for Warren to stand up for Native Americans, joining in the fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, Warren was nowhere to be found. But as soon as the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not grant the final easement for the pipeline’s construction, instead initiating an environmental impact study to explore alternate routes, Senator Elizabeth Warren immediately swooped in to exploit the Dakota Access Pipeline for political points now the political risk in doing so has been substantially mitigated, and to provide herself with plausible deniability that this was her stance all along.

 

“I don’t know how anyone could watch the news and not be horrified by what’s happening at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota,” wrote Senator Elizabeth Warren in a Facebook post on December 4. But Senator Warren kept her horror and outrage to herself until she could reap the maximum benefits from it.

“For months, the Standing Rock Sioux and thousands of others have opposed a pipeline that many believe risks contaminating the tribe’s water supply,” Warren said, without acknowledging that for months, Senator Warren failed to support the Standing Rock Sioux and thousands of others to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Warren added, “the Standing Rock Sioux are not animals to be corralled – they are human beings. Good, passionate human beings who have stood together in the middle of a North Dakota blizzard this past week, and stood together for many weeks before, to fight for what they believe in. They should be treated with respect and basic human decency.” Where was Senator Warren when the Standing Rock Sioux and the water protectors were being treated with disrespect and abused by police? Her silence when those injustices were occurring are contrary to the progressive image Warren has built for herself in the Senate.

Then in the post, Warren jumps back onto the politically safe fence. “The construction workers and laborers at Standing Rock are also human beings – and they weren’t the ones to decide where to build this pipeline. They are good, hard-working people who are just trying to do their jobs. They also should be treated with respect and basic human decency.” This statement infers that the pipeline’s construction workers faced threats from the water protectors, which is grossly untrue, as a buffer of abusive North Dakota police kept the water protectors away from the construction. Though Warren cites evidence of water protectors being disrespected and abused, she cites no evidence the pipeline workers faced any abuse at all, because they didn’t. Rather, what Warren is doing allows her to maintain good standing with the bulk of her progressive base and appease the interests and influences of wealthy Democratic Party donors.

Warren demonstrated during the Democratic Primaries that she thrives on being in the middle, the most politically safe, professionally polished position for a politician. Her rallying cries against the establishment, and against injustices only come at opportune moments when there are political rewards to gain from speaking out. But in the primaries, she avoided endorsing either candidate, only to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton immediately after the primaries ended to reap the benefits of supporting the winner.

Once again, Warren is siding with the winner after a victor has emerged, though she keeps her stance open with rhetoric in support of the pipeline workers, as the pipeline’s construction will still be completed, and its re-route is not set in stone as the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision could still be overturned when Donald Trump becomes President.

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Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Buffalo News, the Hill, Alternet, and several other publications . Follow him on twitter: @MSainat1

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