The far-right victories in Germany was powered by the votes of discontented youths, who abandoned the center-left as well as center right in droves. The Times of London reports:
In a worrying trend for the established parties, Alternative for Germany (AfD) was the top choice of voters aged between 18 and 44 in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, where the party won one in four votes to transform the political landscape.[..]
By far the biggest group of AfD voters were those who had never voted before, the analysis showed. They believed politicians were liars and that voting would make no difference; a common theme among the young male population of Saxony-Anhalt, which has the third-highest unemployment rate of all 16 German states.[..]
AfD was chosen by 26 per cent of votes aged 18 to 24 in Saxony-Anhalt, compared with 16 per cent for the CDU and 11 per cent for both the Greens and SPD. For those aged 25 to 44 it was a similar story, with 29 per cent choosing the AfD against 23 per cent for the CDU and 9 per cent for SPD. The only age group which stuck with Mrs Merkel’s party was the over-60s — 35 per cent voted CDU and 18 per cent AfD.
This should make all of Europe sit up and take notice: Europe has a lot of unemployed young people (France and Italy: 25% and 40% youth unemployment respectively). If they turn to the far-right to deal with their problems, the discontented youth population would provide a massive reservoir of energy for extremist parties.
We’re not there yet, or anything like it, but it’s worth remembering what lies down the end of this road: the (literal) foot soldiers of the fascist movements of the 20s and 30s were discontented youths convinced that a new, post-democratic politics, with a heavy emphasis on solidarity, was the wave of the future. Reading the statistics, we couldn’t help but think of Cabaret:
The AfD aren’t the Nazis, and they aren’t overrunning Germany—yet. But if the crumbling liberal center of European politics wants to stave off an increasingly menacing series of right-wing threats, it will need to do the hard work to find answers for Europe’s struggling youth, and convince them of what was until recently blithely assumed: that the future still belongs to liberalism.