What do voters want? This should be the first and foremost question to occupy any democratic party or politician who wants to win elections, gain power and run a government. Anyone who doesn't think like that doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. But, ultimately, this is the problem with most pan-democrats.
Hong Kong voters are just like voters everywhere else. When it comes to choosing a leader, they don't want a troublemaker. They want someone who looks smart and has mass appeal - someone they can like and trust. Such a candidate should have principles and purpose, some ideas about where and how she wants to take Hong Kong to a better place than where it is now. If the pan-dems could come up with such a leader, I'd vote for him or her in a second.
But the system is rigged, they say. Fine, come up with a system that is not rigged. At its inception, the design of a democratic system does not need to be a "consensus" exercise. Some of the world's most successful democracies had their systems imposed on them; others evolved over time. A system that is supposedly forged by mass participation is not necessarily more democratic, efficient or legitimate, as Occupy Central organisers think. Voters want a system that works. Not everyone has to take part designing it.
Most people don't care about the Basic Law or international democratic standards, the nomination committee or the central government's power to appoint the chief executive.
But the pan-dems are fighting for a principle called "democracy", not power. I don't know how many times I have heard pan-dems say Beijing had nothing to fear because judging by previous election results, a pro-establishment candidate is likely to win in a free and fair chief executive race.
For God's sake, can those pan-dems ever run a government? Do they even want to run it if power is handed to them? They seem happier forever fighting a democratic struggle than leading Hong Kong.
I don't know whether that is nobility or defeatism but it is the root cause of their obstructionism and political irresponsibility.
Is it too much to ask the pan-democrats to cultivate a leader and candidate who dares to try winning and leading? That would be real political courage.