Are the Kids Alt Right?
What liberal progressives get wrong about politics
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One of the most misleading narratives in politics today is that young people are turning left, old people are turning right and, so, the future belongs to the left.
It’s a narrative which, throughout the last decade, has routinely been recycled by the new elite to explain things they don’t like —Brexit, Trump, populism, conservatism.
In the aftermath of the 2016 shocks, former Times columnist David Aaronovitch spoke for many disgruntled liberals when he confidently proclaimed older Brexit voters would soon die and hence politics would soon return to ‘normal’.
Today, many others similarly point to how just 6% of Britain’s 18-24-year-olds plan to vote for the Conservative or Reform parties at the next general election, which are increasingly dependent on the old to survive.
This tendency to see politics as a conveyor belt where old people with conservative views are steadily being replaced by young people with liberal views has become a coping mechanism for the likes of Aaronovitch, who still struggle to make sense of why millions of people are rebelling against the liberal consensus.
But, as a new Radio 4 documentary to which I contributed makes clear, this very seductive narrative for liberals is also very, very misleading.
Well, firstly, these commentators bothered to look beyond the shores of Britain they’d soon discover that, more often than not, the narrative does not hold up.
Across much of Europe, as Professor James Tilley points out in the documentary, the young Zoomers from Generation-Z, who were born in the late 1990s or early 2000s, are often turning toward, not away, from national populists who want to slash immigration, strengthen borders, prioritise the nation, and oppose woke ideology.
In France, for example, where the young have always been just as likely to vote for national populism as the old, at the most recent presidential election in 2022 the under-35s were more likely than than the over-35s to vote for Marine Le Pen.
In fact, Le Pen won 44% of the under-35s and a majority of 25-34 year olds, compared to just 30% of the over-70s. And this trend of rising youth support for national populism is only becoming more visible over time.
Like other populists in Europe, Le Pen has actively targeted the young and their concerns about new issues like climate change by talking about the need to build a ‘nationalist ecology’, maintain energy independence, and prioritise French goods.
Tapping into the new rights-based zeitgest, she’s also appealed to Zoomer women by calling to defend women’s hard-won rights from the spread of Islam in Europe, refugees from Muslim nations, and the sexual harassment of women by migrants, saying after the mass sexual assaults in Cologne:
“I am revolted today by the unacceptable silence and therefore tacit consent of the French Left in the face of these fundamental attacks on the rights of women. I am scared that the migrant crisis signals the beginning of the end of women’s rights.”
And this is not just happening in France …