If you're trying to keep up with the themes that underpin the GOP attacks on Elizabeth Warren, well, good luck to you. Way back when, her affiliation with Harvard got her branded an elitist. More recently, her support for the Occupy Wall Street movement branded her a dyed-in-the-wool socialist and middle-class rabblerouser. But now, her opponents are back pursuing the elitist angle, trying to drive a wedge between her and the Occupying 99 percent by pointing out that she's too good at capitalism to represent the poor. Some of these people yammered this critique to Politico, and their words were scribbled down like so:
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.
Lots of people -- like Steve Benen, Greg Sargent, and Paul Krugman (who is also very well-off, and yet no one perceives him as a latter day robber baron) -- have pointed out that this is not what hypocrisy means. Warren would be a hypocrite if she pandered to the 99 percent while advocating policies that harmed their economic interests. But she doesn't do that. The policies she advocates involve creating a fairer environment for consumers who participate in the capitalist system. Her bread-and-butter issues involve things like making mortgage agreements more transparent, ridding credit card contracts of their "tricks and traps," and responding more forcefully to the fraud and abuse that's found throughout the banking industry. (Ordinary people would likely be all the more successful at accruing and maintaining wealth if Warren had her way, actually.)
It's not hypocritical for a rich person to seek to end income inequality. What I think Rick Manning is trying to say is that Warren is, in his estimation, a traitor to the moneyed class, and he'd rather that she shut up and went away.
This is actually a pretty stupid political attack, when you think about it! Is the idea here to continually point out Warren's wealth so that the working and middle class voters in Massachusetts flock instead to the camp of Scott Brown, who is also wealthy and more reliably votes in the interests of the wealthy? It sort of doesn't make sense. The short version of this criticism is: "We who oppose Elizabeth Warren want to point out that she's a lot like us, except she seems to want working people to do well!" If you're a voter, you're left waiting for a punchline that never comes.
But one should recognize this line of attack for what it is. It's not targeted at voters. It's targeted at political reporters and their tendency to kick up a newscycle blathergasm without quite thinking things through. (Things like the definition of the word "hypocrisy.")
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