Liberalism is not dead, our generation will make sure of it

Image credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Last month, The Spectator columnist Rod Liddle appeared in a BBC Newsnight segment entitled “It’s 2017 and liberalism is dead”. In this feature, Liddle argued that last year saw a paradigm shift in the way that democracy worked, in which ordinary people had risen up against what he saw as the shackles of oppression enforced by liberalist politics. The era of the liberal, socially progressive yet economically libertarian middle classes of Britain and America, Liddle argued, had come to an end. Liddle could not be further from the truth of the matter. 

Of course, the world is still recovering from the shocks to the system that were the elections of Donald Trump as US President and the EU referendum in which 52% of voters chose for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. However, Liddle appears to be completely ignoring the 48% of Remainers in the UK and even more unforgivably, the majority of voters in the 2016 US election. Despite Donald Trump’s incoherent and simply untruthful claims to have won the popular vote, the simple fact of the matter is that the Democrats won 2,864,974 votes more than Trump. Even more importantly, an evident trend which emerged across both the US election and the EU referendum, was that our generation, the millennials, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the liberal status quo; in the US, 55% of voters aged between 18 and 29 voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as opposed to the 37% which voted for Trump. In the EU referendum, the relative proportions of remain voters to leave voters in the millennial generation was even more marked with an astounding 72% of 18 to 24 year old voters choosing to remain in the EU.

The millennial generation is often characterised as being exceedingly socially progressive, and far more open and tolerant than the previous ones, although it must be noted that at least in terms of public perception, the voice of rebellion against a capitalist economic system appears to be far quieter than in those of other generations. This generation almost perfectly epitomises the socially progressive and liberal yet fiscally cautious political worldview of New Labour, reflecting the Blairite and Brownite governments under which many of us grew up. To ignore the millennials, the generation that is yet to take control of the world, appears to be profoundly foolish on Rod Liddle’s part.

One merely needs to observe the degree of social liberalism and progressivism of what appears to be an overwhelming majority of Cambridge students, the members of the millennial generation who are in a sufficiently privileged position to go on to become the rulers of the future world, to understand how deeply flawed Liddle’s claim is. Of course, the current predicament overtaking the Western world, from Trump’s election to the Brexit vote, can be naïvely interpreted as a major shift in the way that ordinary people interact with the political spheres. For example commentators such as philosopher Slavoj Žižek understand it as a socially conservative protest against the liberal left-wing, metropolitan elite ruling classes by the working classes. However, those who have been on the winning side of these so-called populist revolts, from Donald Trump to Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, could not be further from the working classes they claim to represent. This is a fact which has been undoubtedly recognised by a large proportion of the socially liberal millennials whose votes will influence future elections and referenda, and which, I believe, is going to profoundly influence the political decisions made in the future by our generation.

Thus, to call Liberalism “dead” could not be more wrong. Whilst the liberal project may have suffered a couple of setbacks in 2016, the liberal retaliation has most certainly begun; the Liberal Democrats are currently the fastest growing party in the UK, with over four thousand new members having joined in January. Not all hope is lost for a socially liberal future, and the time for liberals and progressives to rise up across the Western world and fight for their principles has arrived.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories

In this section

Across the site

Best of the Rest