What happens when democracy fails to deliver? What happens when people give up on democracy?

What happens when a majority or militant minority decide that the constitutional rights of free speech, free elections, peaceful assembly and petition are inadequate and take to the streets to force democracy to submit to their demands?

Our world may be about to find out.

Chile is the most stable and prosperous country in Latin America.

Yet when its capital, Santiago, recently raised subway fares by 5%, thousands poured into the streets. Rioting, looting, arson followed. The Metro system was utterly trashed. Police were assaulted. People died. The rioting spread to six other cities. Troops were called out.

President Sebastian Pinera repealed the fare hike and declared a national emergency, stating, “Chile is at war against a powerful, implacable enemy who does not respect anything or anyone and is willing to use violence and crime without any limits.”

How does a democracy that has spawned within itself a powerful and implacable enemy deal with it?

Last week, tens of thousands of Lebanese of all faiths and political associations rioted in Beirut and Tripoli to demand the overthrow of the regime and the ouster of its president, speaker of parliament and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. All must go, the masses demand.

In Barcelona, Friday, half a million people surged into the streets in protest after the sentencing in Madrid of the secessionists who sought to bring about the independence of Catalonia from Spain in 2017.

In all of China, few enjoy the freedoms of the 7 million in Hong Kong. Yet, for five months, these fortunate and free Chinese, to protest a proposal that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China, stormed into the streets to defy the regime and denounce the conditions under which they live.

These protests have been marked by riots, vandalism, arson and clashes with police. “Hong Kong streets descended into chaos following an unauthorized pro-democracy rally Sunday,” writes the Associated Press. Protesters “set up roadblocks and torched businesses, and police responded with tear gas and a water cannon. Protesters tossed firebombs and took their anger out on shops with mainland Chinese ties.”

What are the Hong Kong residents denouncing and demanding?

They are protesting both present and future limitations on their freedom. The appearance of American flags in the protests suggests that what they seek is what the agitators behind the Boston Tea Party and the boys and men at Concord Bridge sought — independence, liberty and a severing of the ties to the mother country.

Yet, because the Communist regime of Xi Jinping could not survive such an amputation, the liberation of Hong Kong is not in the cards. The end to these months of protest will likely be frustration, futility and failure.

Perhaps it is that realization that explains the vehemence and violence. But the rage is also what kills the support they initially received.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”

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