A problem identified

A record 70 million voters tuned into the vice presidential debate Thursday, anxious to hear vice presidential nominees Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin discuss the merits of a $700 billion bank bailout, the future of Iraq, health care and education. Unfortunately, specters of identity politics woven into the dialogue overshadowed a key opportunity voters had to hear their deepest concerns addressed. âÄúDoggonit,âÄù with folksy fervor, Palin appealed to âÄúJoe six-pack and hockey moms across America.âÄù But appealing directly to âÄúJoe six-pack,âÄù calling his name and speaking his language is wholly different than appealing to him through substance. Our leaders do a great disservice to this country when vague, digestible solutions become tied to identity, religion, class and gender. Justice Louis Brandeis once said, âÄúIn a democracy, the most important office is the office of citizen.âÄù Tragically, trite talking points dominated a debate that demanded little of its audience beyond the ability to simply identify with the candidates. Biden played the same game, arguing that John McCain âÄúhas not been a maverick on âĦ the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table: Can we get momâÄôs MRI? Can we send Mary back to school next semester? How are we going to make it? Can we heat the house this winter?âÄù Connecting with voters through identity is typical shallow politics. Instead of asking these questions, Biden should have spent his time answering them. Regarding the nationâÄôs economic troubles, both candidates fell back on blaming âÄúgreed and corruption on Wall Street,âÄù painting those who signed mortgages they couldnâÄôt afford as victims. Individual fiscal imprudence among homeowners undeniably contributed to our economic situation, but candidates eager to identify with âÄúJoe six-packâÄù omit this fact. Spewing platitudes or appealing through identity is not the hallmark of a great leader. Great leaders take risks to tell the truth. It is our duty as citizens to wade beyond the myriad identities drawing us toward a particular candidate and to ensure votes are made for the most appropriate reason: the issues.