The historically left-wing British Labour Party returned to its roots this week, electing Jeremy Corbyn to be their head. The Associated Press reported that Corbyn’s elections constituted one of the “biggest shake-ups in British politics in decades.” Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron handily led his party to continued control in May election. But the striking move to the left for the opposition could single the beginning of stark changes.
While the election of an opposition leader has no impact on the current government, the message is quite clear. The combination of an increasingly restless segment of youth and publicized political quagmires has led to distaste for centrist politics, social conservatism and the status quo.
While politics in both the United Kingdom and the United States has been moving towards a centrist position in the decades following the rise of neo-conservatism, both the left and right wings are surging. The unexpected rise of Jeremy Corbyn is a transatlantic reverberation of the same political phenomenon witnessed in America.
The AP said, “Corbyn won many over with passionate arguments for nationalizing industry, heavily taxing corporations and the rich, increasing spending and ending austerity.” While the U.K. has far less aversion to the term socialist, the election of a man who clearly states his intention of returning Britain to its pre-Thatcher roots is striking.
Corbyn’s sentiments are even further to the left than American Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has espoused the benefits of a democratic-socialist system, hoping to model policy changes after the successes seen in Scandinavia; with this economic view, Sanders has surged in polls, topping Hillary Clinton with “41 percent of …Democratic participants” in Iowa polls compared to Clinton’s 40 percent, according to Time.
The AP report said “senior leaders in the [Labour] party have warned that Corbyn's socialist ideas will alienate moderate voters and make Labour candidates unelectable.” This outlook fundamentally ignores the desires of the youth voting demographic. While older generations have been raised to find the notion of socialism or “far-left politics” disturbing and akin to harsh Moscow winters, the younger generation is, through access to information, coming to understand the reality of socialist policies. America, less so than the U.K., already implements many socialist policies – such as Social Security – while simply avoiding the label.
The political process, theoretically, should consist of liberal or conservative parties implementing their policies upon election. The tangible change from the previous party would either secure reelection, or victory for the opposition. Today, we elect “opposition” parties who provide for stalemate and generalized policy practices.
The harsh rhetoric of early campaigning meant to attract fringe voters, transitions into anodyne policy. While most candidates can recover from their early, harsh rhetoric, right-wing candidates who espouse socially fundamentalist views will not find support with younger voters.
Wildcard political figures like Donald Trump will say anything to appeal to a fringe demographic, truly liberal or conservative candidates, who seek to change the political course of a nation. But they do not grasp the reigns of personal power. Unlike the golden-haired paper tiger, there is tangible authenticity in the policies that they advocate for.
The youth have a respect for true political debate. The rise of truly left or liberal candidates in America and political leadership in Britain, are in part, due to youth aversion to social conservatism and the distraction it creates.
Liberal parties understand that the younger generations are the future and social policies cannot be thrown back 50 years. Social policies respecting the dignity of all people are not “far left” or progressive, as right wing candidates would have people believe. Instead, they are common sense views that serve to respect all people. The racist candidates of the 1950s and 1960s are akin to the homophobic candidates of today. It is clear that they are on the wrong side of history.
For a conservative candidate to have success with the younger demographic, socially conservative policies need to be eliminated. While those under 30 will listen or consider arguments for fiscal conservatism, bombarding the airwaves with bigoted views will rightfully lead to an ignominious reaction from new voters.
A significant portion of youth attraction to liberal candidates comes from an assurance that socially conservative policies will not follow them into office. A conservative candidate could secure the youth vote if they realized that socially conservative and fundamentalist views are archaic and often offensive and keep the youth from feeling comfortable with their election.
While some young voters will find fiscal conservatism and a small government appealing, the number who find social conservatism and all its anachronisms attractive are becoming extinct.
Christopher Sacco is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.