Millennials are scared. It’s fairly placed – the environment is collapsing, the economy is unsupportive of stable employment or real estate purchase, wages have stagnated but the cost of living has increased, school fees are exorbitant, and that’s only the bare bones menu of youth based issues. Political representation is what a generation of new voters is seeking and craving to combat these anxieties. We look to see ourselves and familiarities in our elected assemblies. Traditionally, the youth vote swings to the left, however France is acting in contradiction to these historical trends. Young European voters have become increasingly disenfranchised with leftist policy of which they do not consider themselves to be beneficiaries and are beginning to lean right.
Reactionary to the 2008 – 2009 economic crisis and the 2015 – 2016 migrant spike, it’s the young politicians within the French National Rally since the 2017 rebrand that have attracted attention and youth votes. Jordan Bardella, an anti-immigration politician (and son of an Italian immigrant), is only 23 and on the campaign trail with Le Pen. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, niece of Marine Le Pen, is the youngest elected official ever at 29. Youth who buy into scapegoat rhetoric have flocked right where they feel their needs are being advocated for and represented. Currently, one third of young French voters identify as right of centre, countering global numbers of youth voters fuelled by disenfranchisement and “France for the French discourse. This comforts youth who feel that their safety is under attack, despite disregarding the reality that France accepts fewer migrants per capita than other Western European nation. Regardless, Le Pen has fear-mongered and rallied youth into agreeing with the fallacy that immigration and Islam are synonymous with job loss and youth are believing it as a consequence of their increasingly fragile world.
The right wing engages with appealing tactics for new tech-savvy voters. Political figures emerge online, speaking on topical issues with right-wing fervor. Muslims an Zionists are now to blame for unemployment, costs of living that are too high, a 26% unemployment rate, and terrorist attacks across France. Speaking to these themes and promoting the idea that France is a white, secular, Christian state that needs to be fought to protect, dominant pundit (it is debatable whether or not “pundit” is an accurate term for a political figure who is essentially a vlogger with a dedicated following) François Desouche averages triple the engagement than left-wing news sources. Génération Identitaire, another online platform, uses shock media to get attention in the war on perceived Muslim imperialism who uses their platform to promote France a secular liberal democracy. These modern outreach tactics are displaying an incredibly aptitude for adaption. The comparatively peaceful, if not explicitly racist, demonstrations posted on their platforms display a far cry from the stereotype of violent skinheads and neo-Nazis. This is beginning to change the perception by youth of the right-wing. When originally neo-Nazis and skinheads would march around in uniform inflicting physical violence, they now rely on pamphlets, fliers, and intimidation when in public. The dichotomy of racaille (dark skinned criminals) and Islamists who are allegedly ruining the national French identity are being posted, shared, retweeted, and broadcast by these groups on their platforms. The youth no longer see the right as this exclusively violent and hateful group. The renaissance of populism in France is relatively new and now the youth see themselves in the right, not hate and divisive sentiment.
The youngest generation of French voters did not live through Jean-Marie Le Pen and do not have firsthand experience with the political climate throughout the 20th century. The ideologies that concern older voters do not pique the interest of the young. Millennials are justified in their anxiety about the future and state of the world. The need for community, representation, and the promises of solutions to unemployment and housing has been received well by a fearful generation. However, the right has cast the physical representation of anxieties as migrants and Muslims, capitalizing on xenophobia and racism and utilizing fear to unify voters. Unemployment, cost of living, and violence are all very legitimate issues that require modern capabilities to combat them, however the divide between older and younger voters speaks to how France is prioritized individually. No longer does group thought reign supreme. The youth of France are pulled to the right to retain an identity of France as this secular white utopia that has the interests of its youth at heart that may not have ever even existed in the first place.
Complete Works Cited
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Posted 11th April 2017 & filed under Blog, Elections. “Why Are France’s Young Supporting the Far Right?” Intergenerational Foundation, 11 Apr. 2017, http://www.if.org.uk/2017/04/11/why-are-frances-young-supporting-the-far-right/.
Reungoat, Emmanuelle, and Colin Kinniburgh. “The Roots of the French Far Right’s Rise.” Dissent Magazine, 4 June 2019, http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-roots-of-the-french-far-rights-rise.
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