Which Presidential Candidates Are Stepping It Up to Halt Climate Change?
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You can advance many great arguments against making Iowa and New Hampshire the bellwethers of our political life: they are pale, unrepresentative, rural, and obsessed with a few issues (the price of corn has doubled in the last year due to the ethanol boom, which in turn is due to the Iowa caucus).
But one argument that their backers always make rings true as well: in an America so oversized that politics takes on an entirely abstract feeling, in these two states the presidential candidates actually engage with citizens. The New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucus offer the only punctures in the airless sphere that is high-level American political life -- the only chance for regular people to get inside for a moment.
What do I mean? Here's what I mean:
At noon last Saturday, a few of us were sitting around the Step It Up 2 offices along Elm St. in Manchester, N.H., eating a lunch we'd carried in from a nearby diner. We looked out the window, and there was Dennis Kucinich peering in at our signs and banners.
Lindsay Franklin grabbed the Flip camera and ran out on the sidewalk where she asked him if he'd come to one of the Step It Up events on Nov. 3 and give a talk. Sure, he said -- and with that we had our first commitment from a presidential candidate.
The second came 10 or 15 seconds later, when someone's cell phone buzzed. Ian Hough and Zo Tobi were two blocks down the street, listening to John McCain speak at a forum organized by Clean Air-Cool Planet.
When question time came, they stepped up to the mike and asked the senator if he'd come to a Step It Up rally, and he said yes, if he got an invitation. We didn't bother telling him he'd already received several hundred through the invite tool on our website -- ace organizer Roger Shamel simply got up from the audience and handed him a hard-copy invitation.
Not only that, but McCain said he might support a moratorium on new coal-fired power as long as we could show him possible alternatives.
Before the day was out, we'd also heard from John Edwards, who promised to join our big New Orleans rally, complete with brass band, second-line march, and a front-row view of the big trouble that can be caused by global warming and bad government.
In other words, we've got real momentum starting to pick up.
And the reason it's happening is that our invite tool lets everyone, as it were, live in New Hampshire for a little while. It offers a direct and powerful way to actually connect with presidential campaigns. We know from their schedulers that presidential candidates and members of Congress are sensing the groundswell for global-warming action thanks to all the messages showing up in their inboxes.
Now's the time to turn up the heat. We've got three weeks to make our point, and not long after that American politics will regrow its hard shell of commercials and stage-managed events. The 2008 election won't be decided till next November -- but our best chance to affect it comes this fall.
Bill McKibben is the author of 10 books, most recently Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont.