North Americans don't seem to care much about democracy. Canadians don't, and our good neighbours the Americans don't. We enjoy considerable freedoms along with our electoral systems of government, but our systems are hardly democratic, and it doesn't seem to bother us. If it did, we would never tolerate them.
Observation of the American system suggests a plutocracy, not a democracy. A recent study entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, by Martins Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, which analyzes what influences the U.S. federal government, confirmed this. The study states, "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."
The rich have excessive influence in our governments as well, if not to the same extent as with our southern neighbour, and even our method of choosing leaders is undemocratic. Our federal government, for example, is run by a political party that over 60 per cent of voters did not want running the country. This condition of governments being run by parties who have the support of only a minority of the people is also endemic among the provinces. A people who truly cared for democracy would never put up with this mockery of democratic process.
This lack of concern about the lack of democracy is depressing. It is therefore refreshing to observe the passionate interest in democratic process currently being displayed by the citizens of Hong Kong. A decree by China that candidates for chief executive must be endorsed by a special nominating body in Beijing before before they are allowed to run for office has brought massive numbers of Hong Kong citizens into the streets. The protesters, led not surprisingly by students, demand fully democratic elections.
This pro-democracy movement, known as the "umbrella revolution," is gathering international support, with solidarity demonstrations popping up in Australia, Canada and the U.S. Yes, even in Canada and the U.S. Perhaps if Hong Kong residents ever escape the autocratic clutches of Beijing, and that may take a very long time, they will ultimately become as jaded about democracy as we are, but in the meantime their enthusiasm warms the heart of this old democrat.