One for the Birds

Despite shrinking representation in the nation's Capitol, the greater Great Lakes region maintains substantial political influence in the United States.

Voters in the region decided the past two presidential elections. Swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin will again play a key role in the 2008 campaign. And those three states plus Pennsylvania are the "canary states" in the 2006 midterm battle, according to a report in Sunday's New York Times.

"If you see Democrats take charge in any one of those eight chambers, it's a sure sign that it's been a red-letter night for the Democrats," Tim Storey, a senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures, told the Times.

Still, the Great Lakes region must elevate its own political discourse if civic leaders aim to inspire the 2008 national debate. The region is facing urgent and long-term economic, social, and environmental challenges. And it will be increasingly difficult to address these pressing issues, and forge a truly meaningful national dialogue, with the region's body politic engaged in petty smear campaigns and focused myopically on distractions like gay marriage, tax cuts, and preserving the practices of an outdated industrial era.