Tags: democracy | hong kong | china | iran

Democracy's on the Ropes, But It's Still the World's Best Hope!

Democracy's on the Ropes, But It's Still the World's Best Hope!
Protesters take part in a demonstration in Times Square shopping mall on September 12, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Pro-democracy protesters have continued demonstrations across Hong Kong despite the withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill as demonstrators call for the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam to immediately meet the rest of their demands. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

By Thursday, 12 September 2019 12:41 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Something very interesting is happening in Hong Kong. The young students there who have been demonstrating for greater democracy and freedom have taken up waving American flags and singing the U.S. National Anthem as they confront police. This peaceful action harks back to a similar scene in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square some 30 years ago when young demonstrators there erected a replica of the U.S. Statue of Liberty to represent their same hope for more freedom.

We know how Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 ended: the Chinese army swept in and killed hundreds if not thousands of young people. The brutal attack crushed China’s fledgling democracy movement and left the Chinese Communist Party firmly in control. Today the Chinese army is massed just outside of Hong Kong and threatens to swarm in to snuff out the growing rebellion.

It is telling that when young people half-a-world away think of freedom, it’s America — and American values of freedom — that come to mind first. Maybe we have become too used to seeing the American flag burned by angry mobs amid chants of “Death to America” to fully appreciate the great power of the American ideal to oppressed people everywhere. Even in terrorist-sponsoring Iran, where radical Islamist ayatollahs hold absolute power, the mass of young people aspire to freedom and democracy. Given the chance they would throw off their Islamist masters and embrace a freer society.

Here, closer to home in our own hemisphere, America stands as a beacon of hope for millions of oppressed and impoverished people in Latin America. Unlike places like China and Iran, where barriers are erected to keep people locked in and put down, we must maintain barriers to keep people from flooding in, not out. It’s safe to say that if our borders were totally open as some on America’s far left urge, our country would be overwhelmed with refugees seeking out their own American dream. The lifeboat that is America would be swamped!

So why then does it seem that democracy is fraying in so many free counties even as it is the ideal of people in oppressed societies? Why, for instance, is democracy in England reeling under the strain of Brexit, with the world’s oldest Parliament tied in unbreakable knots over a solution to this self-inflicted crisis? Why do great nations like Italy make a constant mockery of democracy by sliding from one government to another every year or two? And right here in the U.S., why is our own government also seemingly locked in an endless impasse over critical issues like shoring up Medicare and Social Security, and dealing with our broken immigration system?

Maybe the problem we older democracies face is that we suffer from too much democracy. We’ve have become too apt to sway with the tides of popular opinion, with every special interest group pressing for the advantage of its own entitlement or the redress of its special grievance. Our Congress is paralyzed by the fear its members feel when confronting any tough issue. They especially fear the threat of primary election opponents who will wield the ballot box to punish any perceived deviation from party orthodoxy, whether on the left or the right.

There’s no easy way out from the impasses and shortcomings of democracy. It’s likely that the British Parliament will struggle for years with the aftermath of Brexit. It’s likely that Italy will cycle through another dozen governments in as many years. Yet those democracies are not the ones that will hold high the torch of freedom for the rest of the world. That role falls to America. But if democracy stumbles and fumbles here, it may completely fail in its more fragile forms and locales.

If America’s government can’t get its own act together and press the advantage of democracy over its weaknesses, how will the world follow a flailing leader? If our democracy falters over fundamental issues of stability and prosperity, if we fail again and again to take on and solve tough yet solvable issues, how long can we expect young idealists on the streets of Hong Kong or Tehran to hold us up as their shining example?

Commenting on the inherent challenges in any system of open and free government, Winston Churchill observed “democracy is a very bad form of government, except all the others are so much worse.” It’s up to America to prove him right and prove all those who oppose democracy wrong!

This column was originally published in the Long Island Herald Community Newspapers.

Former Senator D’Amato served a distinguished 18-year career in the U.S. Senate, where he chaired the Senate Banking Committee and was a member of the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees. While in the Senate, Mr. D’Amato also Chaired of the U.S. Commission on Cooperation and Security in Europe (CSCE), and served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The former Senator is considered an expert in the legislative and political process, who maintains close relationships with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. He is regularly called upon for his advice and counsel, and is recognized for his incisive analysis of national and international political affairs. The former Senator will share insights gained from his years in Washington “with a clear-eyed view of the political forces that shape the world we live in today.” To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Something very interesting is happening in Hong Kong. The young students there who have been demonstrating for greater democracy and freedom have taken up waving American flags and singing the U.S. National Anthem as they confront police.
democracy, hong kong, china, iran
Thursday, 12 September 2019 12:41 PM
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