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The Poetic Justice in Elizabeth Warren's Campaign Pitch

02/06/2012 07:19 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2012

There are delicious ironies in "How to Win Female Votes: What Obama Can Learn From Elizabeth Warren," a terrific piece just posted by Paul Starobin in The New Republic. Starobin reflects on Warren's message in her U.S. Senate campaign against Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, who took the late Ted Kennedy's in an upset two years ago.

Starobin reminds Obama of Warren's communitarian message (I'd call it "civic-republican," but no matter) that went viral in a video of her speaking in someone's home early in the campaign:
"There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But... you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate..."

Words you'll never hear from Fareed Zakaria!

One irony here is that Starobin is, of all things, a veteran Russia correspondent, Business Week's Moscow bureau chief in the first years of the last decade, and has written about Russia ever since. On Feb. 21, he'll be at Yale as a Poynter Journalism Fellow at Yale, talk about Russia in the eye of the global media at Calhoun College and for the Yale International Relations Association. Yet Starobin, Massachusetts born and bred and back in his home state at the moment, finds Warren's race too good to miss.

A second irony is that if Obama takes Starobin's advice, he'll be learning from the woman Republicans shunted aside as his first nominee to head her brainchild, a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Poetic justice, for sure.

But the richest irony is one I'm pleased to deliver in my capacity as conscience of The New Republic. Compare Warren's message with these words by the British social historian R.H. Tawney, published under the title "Puritanism and Capitalism," in 1926, in ... (drum roll...) The New Republic:

"Few tricks of the unsophisticated intellect are more curious than the naïve psychology of the business man, who ascribes his achievements to his own unaided efforts, in bland unconsciousness of a social order without whose continuous support and vigilant protection he would be as a lamb bleating in the desert....

"The demonstration that distress is a proof of demerit, though a singular commentary on the lives of Christian saints and sages, has always been popular with the prosperous. By the lusty plutocracy of the Restoration, roaring after its meat and not indisposed, if it could not find it elsewhere to seek it from God, it was welcomed with a shout of applause."

Words to remember -- especially now, and especially if you're scribbling in Washington.