Stuck in the middle with you

I kind of think Evo Morales is awesome. Morales took office yesterday as Bolivia’s president, and as an ethnic Aymara Indian and former leader of the coca grower’s union, his presidency marks a shift leftward for the tiny country. Awesome. Morales’ promise to “depenalize” the growth of coca, a prime agricultural resource for Bolivian farmers, will likely undermine the Bush administration’s drug policies in the region. Also awesome. And Morales’ desire to get higher domestic returns on the fuel resources harvested by foreign corporations in Bolivia will most certainly undermine the Bush administration’s position in the region, which is the most awesome. Evo Morales is not just a voice for the people of Bolivia, but an active voice against the Bush administration. And that is awesome.

I’m also pretty into Canada too. Even though the new prime minister is a conservative, recent election campaigns in our innocuous northern neighbor have been so anti-Bush they’ve prompted Canadian columnist Rondi Adamson to declare that it’s “Open season on the U.S.” From gun violence to economic slowing, Canada’s default focus is the U.S. and the Bush administration. This also is awesome.

How funny that is for those of us with left leanings in the U.S. It takes an election in Bolivia or Canada to make us feel like we’re sticking it to the Bush administration. We’ve become so politically flaccid in our own country that we need a foreign election, in which we have no role, to make criticisms of George Bush and his corrupt administration seem viable. Why is it that we cannot celebrate their futility on our own soil? Why are we reduced to airing our dissatisfaction with bumper stickers and buttons instead of ballots and bricks? Because while Bolivia and Canada sticking it to the U.S. is markedly awesome, for those of living here, it affects next to nothing.

To begin with, despite all of Evo Morales’ awesome left leanings, and his anti-Bush stance, his election ultimately leaves me a little concerned. I’m troubled with the possibility that Morales, despite his good intentions, will fall into the absolutist mentality that can lead to radical human rights abuses. And while the harvesting of coca allows troubled Bolivian farmers to earn a living, coca is the primary ingredient in the manufacture of cocaine. Its harvesting feeds a bloody industry, which is a scourge not just within the various classes of U.S. drug users, but within the very regions its production is meant to help. This leaves one wondering what the real motivations are behind Morales’ decision to encourage coca growth, which in turn undermines the very desire to proclaim Evo Morales’s election as awesome.

And anti-U.S. election stances in Canada are great, and if they result in a government stacked with progressive thinkers, great. But realistically there’s not much more change to affect. For one thing, Canada is already a surprisingly progressive country. Voters and politicians, even conservative politicians, have taken consistently liberal stances on issues like health care, Iraq and marijuana. And, regardless of campaign sentiment, Canada will ultimately remain subjugated to the will of the U.S. and our financial positions.

We don’t need to comfort ourselves with the effects of radical rhetoric from the north or south, but with subtle domestic change. If U.S. liberals desire a shift away from the conservative paranoia of George Bush it’s not going to happen by jumping all the way to the left, to the rhetoric of Evo Morales or fiery Canucks. The pendulum of U.S. politics cannot safely swing that far left right now. If liberals hope to find a viable voice in U.S. politics we need to aim a little lower. We need a return to moderate politics before we can hope for radical ones.

I’m certain that George Bush, in all of his nightmarish glory, truly feels he’s doing what’s best for the United States. The administration has a clear (flawed) vision of what it means to be an “American” and what our global role should be. But six years of living underneath that vision and its dehumanizing agenda has left me, as nationalistic as I am, tired and politically oppressed. The demoralizing result of not just being politically active, but even politically concerned in the U.S. is being rendered inconsequential. It’s pointless to debate or engage in U.S. politics when you have no role, or representation.

To be actively left in the U.S. is an exercise in futility and as a result activists have become entrenched in the minutiae of specific agendas and personal politics. And this in turn accentuates the divisions within the already disparate group. Simplistically, this is how the right, with its unifying phobias and lies, continues to become more powerful: it unites under an umbrella of vague propaganda, while the left intellectualizes itself into irrelevance.

And therein lays my hopelessness. Certainly it’s viable to debate the finer or lesser qualities of Evo Morales, or Canadian anger, or queer identity, or veganism, but it’s hard to be focused and specific while the mainstream politicians are ruining the world around you. What I desire is agenda-free Washington politics, politics where decisions are weighed for each situation as it arises – politics where affecting policy and change serves a purpose, rather than a scheme. This is why we need moderation in U.S. politics. I would like to have inquiry into the motivations of Evo Morales without having them clouded by the awesome fact that they undermine the Bush administration. The U.S. needs to get back to zero – away from prodigious fear of George Bush.

And the left needs to concede to that. We’re not going to save the U.S. from itself with a Dennis Kucinich or a Ralph Nader, but with a John McCain or a Colin Powell, or better yet an Al Gore. And of course every politician has an agenda – it’s what drives them, it’s what informs their politics – but moderate politicians have a tendency towards moderate agendas; a desire for the status quo. And as pathetic as it may seem, nothing sounds better to me right now than a little status quo.