Understanding the nature of ‘hypocrisy’

Republicans have been pushing the line that there’s something wrong with Elizabeth Warren’s personal wealth and her championing the interests of consumers and working families. Politico took the bait.

Elizabeth Warren may have embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement and the “99 percent” crowd, but public records reveal the liberal firebrand belongs to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

Her financial well-being will likely hand conservatives a new line of attack against the consumer advocate and Democratic Senate hopeful in Massachusetts who has fired up the left and was labeled by one columnist as “the first candidate of the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

“I don’t begrudge her own personal wealth. I begrudge her hypocrisy of trying to play the demagogue against those who have achieved and who have created wealth,” said Rick Manning of the conservative group Americans for Limited Government.

Added National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh: “Her poll-tested campaign rhetoric simply doesn’t match reality as voters learn more about who Elizabeth Warren really is.”

I have no idea why anyone would find this even remotely compelling.

Warren has, apparently, acquired a fair amount of wealth, after having been raised by a family of modest means, and putting herself through law school. She is now one of the nation’s leading, and most articulate, voices in representing the interests of the middle class.

The right sees this as “hypocrisy” — Warren is wealthy, but she’s championing those who aren’t wealthy. Maybe Warren could use some of her money to buy dictionaries for her critics so they can look up what “hypocrisy” actually means.

Let me put this as plainly as I know how: when rich people support economic policies that bolster working families, that’s admirable, but it’s not hypocrisy. FDR was wealthy, but he fought for the interests of those without. Ted Kennedy fit the same model. Some recent polling suggests most of America’s most wealthy individuals believe their own taxes should be raised for the greater good.

One can agree or disagree on the merits of those beliefs, and conservatives are free to argue that fighting for the middle class is a bad idea, but when those with considerable personal resources look at the status quo — a growing class gap, wealth concentrated at the top, rising poverty — and want a more progressive approach, that’s evidence of sanity, not hypocrisy.