According to conservative political lore, a snowflake is a person with progressive ideas who will melt when confronted with a bit of heat and pressure.
The script according to the conservative parties around the world is the ‘snowflakes’ of 20 or 30 years ago gradually become more possessive of the increasing value of property and belongings they have accumulated since they have ‘settled down’. The theory is that they realise rather than wanting to punish the rich, they are now the rich themselves and vote accordingly. The conservatives have a problem. The ‘snowflakes’ of the last 20 or so years aren’t following the script as they age.
The Australian edition of The Guardian noted this recently:
According to data from the Australian Electoral Commission there are now four electorates where those under 40 make up more than 45% of the voters in the seat: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Griffith. Griffith is an inner-city seat in Brisbane. Both Brisbane and Griffith switched to the Greens, which means the Greens now hold three of the top four.
The Coalition lost 18 seats and government, with almost all the lost seats in the major cities. The one bright spot for the Coalition was that they lost no rural seats. Rural seats are older. The 10 electorates with the smallest proportion of people under 40 are all rural seats (with the National party holding five of them). These are the seats that will see the slowest impact from millennials.
It’s hard to draw any other conclusion than the generic employment insecurity and economic policies aimed at the young by conservatives over the past 30 or so years have created the political problems that the conservatives are suffering. The apparent lack of action on the world’s environmental crisis certainly hasn’t helped either.
As noted in an opinion piece recently in The Guardian
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan offered clear, coherent visions of society, even if their worship of free markets delivered economic insecurity and stagnating living standards. While today’s Tories and Trumpified Republicans remain committed to defending privileged interests, their driving ambition now seems to be deliberately provoking fury among the progressively minded, much to the delight of their supporters. It’s this tendency that led Donald Trump to denounce Mexicans as criminals and attempt to ban Muslims from entering the US; it’s the same tendency that drove the [UK] home secretary, Suella Braverman, to declare that her “dream” and “obsession” was to see a flight transporting asylum seekers to Rwanda. Cruelty is precisely the point.
A number of the policies instituted by Australian Governments of both sides also conform to this ideology, including offshore detention, scaling of government payments to ensure they do not reflect the true costs of living in the community, punitive restrictions on accessibility to services and even more punitive ‘compliance’ activities such as robodebt.
People who aren’t necessarily voting conservative as they age is not solely a problem for Australian conservatives either, with American and UK media outlets observing similar shifts in voting patterns. The recent US ‘mid-term’ elections are another example. The ‘red wave’ towards the Republican Party promised by many failed to eventuate, despite the President’s political party usually suffering significant losses at the election halfway through the term of office. The brouhaha around the election of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives this month demonstrates the no compromise mindset of the conservatives – regardless of how silly it makes them look.
While the millennial ‘snowflakes’ seem to be bucking the trend of favouring conservative parties as they age, the ALP shouldn’t necessarily be relaxed and comfortable with the result either, Griffith was Kevin Rudd’s seat.
It is not enough to promise action that will improve the living standards of millennials. They must fix these problems. If millennials come to believe that neither major party will make any real difference, then they will start to look elsewhere.
The teals took advantage of this at the last election, running on stronger action on climate change than either of the major parties. Some of the teals, like Sophie Scamps in Mackellar, also ran on affordable housing. The Greens ran hard on all three in the inner-city Brisbane electorates they had such great success with.
While they are nominally separate groups, have the Australian conservatives learnt from the recent election and the Liberal Party’s review of their performance? Probably not. It seems the ‘no’ campaign for the proposed Voice referendum is not even trying to convince the millennials of the worth of their argument. The ‘worth’ of the campaign is probably also an overstatement as Facebook has already banned some of the ‘no’ campaign’s advertising. The advertisements in question have been deemed false by an independent fact checking organisation contracted to Meta, Facebook’s owner.
Nature and the environment can teach us a lot of lessons. In areas around the world that have been permanently evacuated by humans, nature gradually reclaims the space, plants grow over buildings and animals roam in search food and shelter. There is a point where conservative practices won’t work anymore in a similar way to the need to invent and commercialise increasingly powerful insecticides, weedkillers and medicines to retain the status quo. In contrast a ‘snowflake’ is made of water which can be reformed by nature time and time again, given the right circumstances.
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