March 10, 2006


Howard's South Park pals: Young voters have flocked to the Prime Minister as the good times continue to roll (Caroline Overington, February 27, 2006, The Australian)

"The man who is not a socialist at 20 has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at 40 he has no head." - Aristide Briand

IT is 100 years since Aristide Briand's expulsion from the French Socialist Party prompted him to utter words that have become part of the received wisdom of politics.

Before John Howard, the notion that young people leaned to the left was largely unchallenged. The youth vote was the dominant force that propelled Gough Whitlam into power in the 1972 "It's Time" election and stayed with Labor throughout the Hawke and Keating years.

By 2004, however, when Howard won his fourth election, the ground had shifted dramatically. Less than a third of young people -- 32 per cent -- voted for Mark Latham, while 41 per cent went with Howard.

Even allowing for the 17 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds who voted for the Greens, the uncomfortable truth for the Opposition was that, for the first time since reliable age-specific polling began, less than half of young people were voting for candidates from the Left.

Howard's policies were hardly tailored to young people. He spoke for the middle class, caring more for business than for endangered marsupials. Young people would be expected to work for the dole, and Howard was stridently opposed to student unionism, indeed to all compulsory unionism, and to the republic. Under Howard's Government, HECS fees have doubled. Yet Howard has, over the past 10 years, been utterly transformed in the eyes of the young. To the horror of many baby boomers, Howard's new constituency, the "young fogies", adore him the way their parents loved to smoke dope. [...]

The rise of conservative youth under Howard mirrors a similar movement in the US, where blogger Andrew Sullivan coined the term "South Park Republicans" in 2001 to describe young iconoclasts who "see through the cant and the piety of the Left and cannot help giggling". The term comes from the anti-establishment television cartoon series South Park whose heroes are four, foul-mouthed fourth-graders who gleefully lampoon the sacred values of the Left.

In his US bestseller South Park Conservatives, Brian C. Anderson says the program is "the number-one example of the new anti-liberalism". He notes that the show's single black person is called Token. Anderson describes how the show lampoons the boomers, who championed individual happiness over familial responsibility and promoted no-fault divorce.

In Australia, recent studies have shown Australian young people reacting against the liberal-progressive values of their parents in much the same way. Clemenger BBDO's 2005 survey Tomorrow's Parents Today found that young people were significantly more conservative than their parents. They were more likely to volunteer, to give to charity and to go to church. They were also more likely to marry, and there is already evidence that they plan to have their children earlier.

According to Ian Manning of National Economics: "You do get the feeling that forgoing worldly ambition for the sake of having kids is gradually coming back into favour. In the past, people have said, 'Oh, I can't have a baby yet, I've got to pursue my career'. But maybe it's become socially acceptable to say, 'No, I'd rather have a family'."

The Democrats' 2005 youth poll, based on a survey that is distributed to secondary schools, TAFE, universities, youth, and church and community groups across Australia, found that 64 per cent of students viewed family as the most important issue in their lives, ahead of health, education and money. Compared with earlier polls, there was a substantial drop in the number who had tried marijuana (from 43 to 33 per cent in 10 years) and much less support for the decriminalisation of drugs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2006 10:05 PM

This article matches my experiences, I'm Australian and all my peers were dope smoking, pill-popping metal heads at Uni. Ten years later they all own their own businesses and are getting married. It's like chef says, 'There's a time and a place for everything, and it's called college'.

Even then there was a universal consensus amongst the student body that the commie activists were dorks. I remember we all learned about Chompsky in media studies, and he made utterly no impression on us.

Posted by: Amos at March 10, 2006 11:37 PM

People are idealogues in thier youth, and more practical when they are older and reality hits them in the face.

Posted by: Michael at March 11, 2006 3:39 AM

Those leftists are old fogies with gray ponytails who drive Volvos. They're like, lamers, dude.

Posted by: Stan Marsh at March 11, 2006 4:00 AM

I'm heartless.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 11, 2006 9:48 AM

Wonder if the hippie music festival episode has made it down to Australia yet?

Posted by: John at March 11, 2006 12:55 PM

Why is Australia so darned far away. Get busy on that teleportation stuff guys. My bones can't take 22 hours on a plane.

Posted by: erp at March 11, 2006 3:25 PM


Take an ocean cruise to Down Under.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 11, 2006 3:36 PM

Michael, that's a darn good idea. I need to check into that.

Posted by: erp at March 11, 2006 7:05 PM