Dorian Davis is a former MTV HITS star and turned libertarian writer. He teaches Journalism at Marymount Manhattan College. Follow him on Twitter @DorianDavis
Bent on topping Clint Eastwood’s off-beat speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Democrats have tapped U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren to one-up Eastwood at their own convention in Charlotte Wednesday night with a nod to her fake Indian heritage: A performance of "Hiawatha."
Facing both an enthusiasm gap compared to the GOP and a lackluster line-up of convention speakers, DNC officials are counting on Warren’s routine to do what Eastwood’s did: generate some buzz. Eastwood’s bit, an off-the-cuff interview with an empty chair representing President Obama, has become a full-fledged Internet phenomenon.
A Twitter account called @InvisibleObama that sprang up minutes after Eastwood spoke garnered over 65,000 followers. Stephen Colbert interviewed Eastwood’s chair on his show. And it even spawned a new meme called “Eastwooding” – talking to empty chairs. Democrats hope to steal that thunder with Longfellow’s masterpiece.
Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz thinks that it has more viral potential than Eastwood’s speech and “bed intruder” combined: “You’ll be talking about Elizabeth Warren’s performance tomorrow. I guarantee it.”
According to convention CEO Steve Kerrigan, the DNC has spared no expense to make that happen. For “Hiawatha,” a 22-part epic poem about the Iroquois chief’s conversion to Christianity, Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena stage will be transformed into the rugged wilderness of upstate New York in the 1500s, complete with a faux mountain range. Warren will enter on a motorized canoe with a hidden, radio-controlled electric cart underneath it, decked out in traditional Indian garb, including a feather headdress and buckskin skirt. The lighting scheme will suggest onstage the rippling waters of Lake Superior.
“Eastwood just had a chair,” Kerrigan said, beaming at the set. “We’re thinking on a bigger scale here. President Obama’s stadium speech is one example of that. This is another.” GOP critics called Warren’s piece an affront to real Indians. Warren identified as Cherokee, without proper documentation, while teaching at both UPenn and Harvard. Detractors have called her “Fauxcahontas.” But Obama campaign spokesperson Stephanie Cutter thinks that Warren will give an authentic performance: “This woman has more experience pretending than I do,” Cutter said, fresh off an interview with ABC’s White House Correspondent Jake Tapper on the president’s economic record. “And I have to defend Obama.”
Scheduled to start at 9:30pm, Warren’s extravaganza is expected to run 3 hours and cost $18 million – half the convention’s budget. “It’s an ambitious show,” Schultz said, putting on a “Warrening” T-shirt to cover up her “HOPE” one. “But if more people tune in to the Democratic convention because of it, it’ll be worth it.”