In a sign of the times, the Democratic candidates fielded questions from YouTube Nation live last night on CNN. The event was entertaining and thought provoking and two candidates stood out with basic elements of a reasoned 21st century agenda - both wrapped around energy innovation - that could help reverse the decades of decline in the Rust Belt.
Interestingly, the candidates both hailed from Great Lakes states and their specific responses referenced above were prompted by questioners located in Great Lakes states.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio became perhaps the first candidate to use the term 'sustainability' in the 2008 campaign. In response to a question about climate change - posed by Greg in Minneapolis - Rep. Kucinich said America needs to move away from reliance on coal and oil and move more aggressively toward wind, solar, and other alternatives.
"That's the basis of my Works Green Administration," the congressman said, "Where we take a new approach to organize the entire country around sustainability and conservation."
New York Senator Hillary Clinton struck a similiar theme with one of the more provocative comments delivered during the event. In response to a question about the possibility of expanding nuclear power to combat climate change - posed by Shawn in Ann Arbor, Michigan - Senator Clinton said alternative energy sources, fuel efficiency for cars, and energy efficiency for buildings all are important strategies for America's energy agenda.
But the bottomline, she said, is that the nation needs to get back to basics.
"It's time we start acting like Americans again," Sen. Clinton said. "We can solve these problems if we focus on innovation and technology."
"This issue of energy and global warming has the promise of creating millions of new jobs in America. So it can be a win-win if we do it right," she added.
Overall, the Democratic candidates failed to articulate a comprehensive agenda to reinvigorate the greater Great Lakes region. There was far too few ideas about revitalizing urban areas, investing in mass transit, reestablishing the national commitment to higher education, or restoring the globally unique environmental assets of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
What's at stake is key swing states like Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. And the Republican candidates confront You Tube Nation on September 17, 2007.