Hypocrisy, Irony, or Empathy

I read an interesting article over at Media Matters: Like rain on your wedding day, by Jamison Foser. The point of the article was to discuss the fairness of attacks on John Edwards in recent weeks for being a wealthy man, living a wealthy man’s lifestyle, at the same time he’s advocating for the poor.

Glenn Beck claimed on his May 9 show to be outraged that a rich man would talk about poverty

BECK: … The thing is, John, I actually agree with you. I think there are two Americas. There’s one America for the spoiled, hypocritical, shady, opportunistic fake tan politicians who will do or say anything to get elected while getting a $400 haircut and the America that comprises of the rest of us. I’m just saying.

So, is it hypocritical for a wealthy person to care about poverty? Mr. Foster:

It is no more an example of “hypocrisy” for a rich man to want to help the poor and middle class than it is “ironic” to experience rain on your wedding day. That just isn’t what the word means.

An example of hypocrisy would be a politician who claims to care about the poor and middle class while pursuing policies that line the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of the rest of the nation. A “compassionate conservative,” for example. That’s hypocrisy.

A rich man who says he cares about poverty and pursues policies designed to fight it? That isn’t hypocrisy, that’s empathy.

Living the lifestyle of a wealthy person MAY put that person out of touch with the life of the poor; but what’s better… an out of touch wealthy person who advocates for the poor, or an out of touch wealthy person who ignores the problem?

Calling a politician in Washington wealthy is kind of like calling a tire rubber. How many poor politicians are there in Washington? Is there some block of destitute congressmen that I’m not aware of? You go poking through the receipts of politicians in Washington and I’m confident an expensive haircut will be pretty low (comparatively) on the scandal meter.

As a Democrat, I’ll take a rich guy who’ll try to do something for the poor over a Republican rich guy who won’t. It’s really that simple.

So the real question is: has Mr. Edwards backed up his talk with action? With this question in mind I did a little research (and when I say “a little,” I mean a little – I’m not paid for this you know). According to Project Vote Smart, (as a U.S. Senator) John Edwards voted along with the interests of groups advocating for the poor and hungry about 90 percent of the time (judging by a quick look with my Mark-I eyeball). That’s what we laymen refer to as “putting your money where your mouth is.”

What’s more, conservatives often accuse Democrats of engaging in class warfare. But by accusing John Edwards of being “rich,” in such a way as to insinuate this disqualifies him to speak for the poor, aren’t they themselves guilty of perpetuating “class warfare?” THAT sounds like hypocrisy.

Give the gift of words.