"Relieved but not happy seems to have been the reaction of many to the results of the recent 2022 French presidential elections"Danielle Jump For Varsity

Some people you love, some people you hate, some people are Emmanuel Macron running against Le Pen. Relieved but not happy seems to have been the reaction of many to the results of the recent 2022 French presidential elections, especially the young. Yet this phenomenon does not seem limited to France; one need look no further than Biden’s victory. Those who crave profound social-economic change between elections suddenly find themselves celebrating the re-election of the status quo, solely on the merit of it not being a worse, more extreme alternative. This pattern of electing candidates out of desperation calls to mind a night out in Cambridge - it could be worse, but not by much. And though no Opinion article could aspire to fix an institution as catastrophic as Lola’s, politically we might hope for more promising days.

“Mobilising young people is never a bad call”

Such promising days, at least in the opinion of some, don’t seem like such an abstract concept; in many elections we saw left-wing candidates who presented radical social agendas, were extremely present in the media, gained a vibrant and engaged momentum, and yet failed in the elections themselves. Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, and most recently Jean Luc Mélenchon - every young generation in the western world seems to have collected themselves their own Marxist Santa who got away. In Mélenchon’s case - his failure to proceed to the second round was decided on a pretty tight gap between him and Le Pen. Melenchon’s occasional tantrums, the voice-splitting between the numerous left-wing parties - many analyses can, and are, made regarding why he lost, but it is also important to linger on where he has won: the youth. While Macron attempts to reject his title as “President of the Rich”, Mélenchon might be embracing his own epithet of “President of the Young”, as a third of French citizens aged 18-24 chose him as their president in the first round, with Macron in second at only 24 percent.

This echoes the youth-oriented and -backed campaigns of Sanders and Corbyn; though all three are 70 and above, their movements attract and mobilise young people. A common trait, that both builds momentum but might ultimately cause their downfall as well. If young people are so enthusiastic about those alternatives, what gets lost in the translation to electoral results?

“We often post more than protest, share more than persuade and tweet more than vote”

Mobilising young people is never a bad call: they are energetic, idealistic and have a long-term interest in changing the way the system works. For many young people, especially in France, ‘the way the system works’ is far worse for them than for their elders. Even if the world in which we live is in many ways better than before, as work security degrades, the cost of living rises, and the pandemic and the climate crisis threaten our health and mental wellbeing both in the short and in the long run, for many life has become a perpetual, stressful race.

This exhaustion may be showing in the way in which we channel our political energy. Political expression and participation being so accessible online, we often post more than protest, share more than persuade and tweet more than vote. While voting is an integral part of the sequence of political events in the public sphere, we are often trapped in the digital one.

That does not mean that online explanation and promotion are detached from real fieldwork, but it does go hand-in-hand with both our generation’s loss of faith in the political system as well as the broken dialogue between us and generations who spend less time online. Online dialect demands that you constantly update yourself on new trends and modes of expression. That is how a politician who has a huge online momentum might collapse once tossed back into the reality of the electoral system.


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This problem is twofold. On the one hand, there are many important themes which our generation fails to take beyond the frontiers of the internet; on the other, we may also fail to hear the voices of those that come from different lived experiences and thus fail to demand from politicians an appropriate response. A recurring example of this is the failure of many teen-revered politicians to respond well to reproaches on antisemitism. Corbyn is no sun-soaked twenty-year-old, oblivious to the atrocities of antisemitism, but perhaps it was a crowd comprised of just such individuals who made him believe he could get away with his clumsy inaction. Though our generation sustains an unprecedented discourse regarding discrimination, antisemitism is perceived by some as a distant threat, and as a generation who associate discrimination with visuality and profiling, antisemitism does not fit into the classical popular perception of racism. For previous generations it is much fresher in the collective consciousness.

By failing to bridge the gap and pitch an alternative vision to society as a whole, people who believe in challenging the status quo often leave the stage vacant for the extreme right. When the extreme right addresses people’s everyday problems and the rage and frustration they feel, left wing movements seem incongruous and enclosed - where will the majority go? If our generation believes in creating a real alternative, and in doing it now, we should start by dissecting past failures of radical, left wing youth-supported leaders to avoid repeating the same mistakes.