There’s zero doubt that Republicans all over the country dislike Senator Elizabeth Warren with a particular passion. And though they are loath to admit it, many probably fear her as a potential 2020 presidential candidate.
That is feeding strong interest in making Warren’s 2018 reelection a very difficult — if not disastrous — political experience for her. And at least one GOP challenger has emerged who is guaranteed to pull no punches: computer scientist and entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai.
The 53-year-old career gadfly and Trump fan, who has four degrees from MIT, has been running for the Senate since March. But he really burst onto the national political scene this week in an appearance on Fox Business, when the immigrant who left Mumbai for America at the age of 7 offered the quip (as described by the Washington Examiner) that will likely be the centerpiece of his campaign against Warren:
“Well, I think only a real Indian can defeat a fake Indian,” he said.
Warren has previously claimed to have Native American heritage, though reports say she could only be about 1/32 Native American.
“I sent her a DNA test kit for her birthday, and I was very sad that she returned it,” Ayyadurai added.
Ayyadurai is talking, of course, about the brouhaha the conservative Boston Herald set off in 2012 in a report that an academic directory back in the 1980s and 1990s had listed Warren as a minority member due to a Native American ancestry. While she doesn’t seem to have much (or any) Native American blood, she says she based the claim on family lore she heard growing up in Oklahoma. Since it ties together alleged mendacity and privilege-seeking with identity politics and political correctness, this story has been catnip to conservatives, as reflected in the president’s habit of referring to the senior senator from Massachusetts as “Pocahontas.” Ayyadurai, who calls Donald Trump “my hero,” will clearly play this one-note taunt for all its worth; if nothing else, it will help keep the meme alive if Warren considers running for president.
Without question, Ayyadurai is a legendarily persistent critic of his perceived enemies. He’s sued at least two media outlets — Gawker, with whom he reached a settlement in conjunction with the much bigger Hulk Hogan settlement, and Techdirt, against whom litigation is still underway — for libel in mocking his claim that he invented email as a New Jersey teenager in the 1970s. And his whole political mission seems to be based on a belief that liberal elites have created a pervasive caste system similar to that he experienced as a child in Mumbai.
As a profile of Ayyadurai in Boston Magazine explains, his Trump-like disdain for elites and for both political parties and his fearless pursuit of in-your-face obnoxious tactics have made him very popular in the fringier precincts of GOP politics:
Ayyadurai has quickly and improbably became the favored candidate of the ascendant conservative fringe. The same night he announced his intention to run, “new-right” provocateur Mike Cernovich feted him at a post–Conservative Political Action Conference bash outside of Washington, DC, attended by Pizzagate promoter Mike Flynn Jr., son of Donald Trump’s ousted national security adviser. Ayyadurai also picked up an early endorsement from former Red Sox pitcher and Breitbart News personality Curt Schilling, who is ideologically in the same camp as the alt-right and had been publicly pondering a Senate run himself.
None of this is to suggest that Ayyadurai is an immediate threat to Warren’s reelection. For one thing, other, more conventional, pro-Trump Republicans are in the race, such as state legislator Geoff Diehl, who co-chaired the president’s Massachusetts campaign last year. And despite a February WBUR poll that showed Warren as vulnerable, which excited Republicans enormously, there’s really no reason to doubt the Cook Political Report assessment of the race as “Solid Democratic.” Donald Trump, after all, lost the Bay State by nearly a million votes last year, and there’s no reason to think Warren has the sort of political weaknesses that made Martha Coakley an upset victim to Republican Scott Brown in a 2010 special Senate election in the state (Warren herself disposed of Brown by a fairly comfortable margin in 2012).
Still, Ayyadurai could be a serious annoyance for Warren, if no other reason than that his tactics will draw attention. This opener from the Boston Magazine piece shows how determined the candidate is to pursue the “fake Indian” theme to hell and back:
Just before dusk on a warm Tuesday in May, V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai parks his red, white, and blue school bus outside the Lexington Community Center and cues up a recording of the Florida State Seminoles’ war chant. A banner beaming “Shiva 4 Senate: Be the Light,” complete with a torch, is plastered on the side of his vehicle. Neatly dressed in a white shirt with French cuffs and a gold-colored tie, Ayyadurai presses play, flings open the doors, and—to an audience consisting of myself and his three assistants—pumps his fist to the music in the otherwise quiet lot.
It could be a very long election year in Massachusetts.