Politics has become an exciting game. As our generation takes the reigns of political activism, we’re searching for our own identity, adopting a new leftism, unbound of the thinking of our parents. Whereas in the past voting was an extremely personal matter, Twitter is removing much of the secret ballot as a concept and opinions are expressed publicly online. Although we haven’t quite found what it is yet, we want something new. Not some privately educated guy in a suit, but someone with substance and sincerity. This fresh aura has manifested itself in not just one unconventional election victory, in the UK with Jeremy Corbyn, but also in our own Students’ Union President, Lynn Ruane.
Months before the British were wondering how a surprise candidate could win the leadership of a serious party, we in Trinity were leading the charge. Male, South Dublin, and upper middle-class were all terms associated with the position of SU President. But Ruane blew away every single one of these norms. Like Corbyn, she won with a landslide by advocating a different path.
Bold, forthright, with a sincerity and passion derived from life experience, she was certainly able to inspire students and get herself noticed. Listening to Ruane speak formally in lectures, as well as with cans in the Pav, there is no doubt she wants to effect true change.
This desire for “change” goes to the heart of the political consciousness this generation is trying to find.
This desire for “change” goes to the heart of the political consciousness this generation is trying to find. Policies are welcomed for being “new” rather than methodologically tested. It’s no secret that there’s a tendency for students to veer towards the left, and this is no less the case now. It is understandable: we are the recession generation, who have heard little but bad news and austerity from the day we started understanding what the news meant. Graduate jobs are scarce, and the ‘real’ world looks like an increasingly intimidating place. It is unsurprising, therefore, that left-wing ideas were the ones to fill this intellectual hole. Ruane was never ambiguous about her leftist ideals and stood up for her views in a way that invited respect. In retrospect, these two factors combined made her victory almost inevitable.
Sixty-six years old, unbound by formal attire, and with a long history of rebelling against a now deeply-unpopular strand of the Labour party, Corbyn, like Ruane, fit the bill at the right time. His supporters – mostly young – rally around him. However, my own guess is that it’s not detailed policy options which attract his core crusaders, but the ambiguous notion of a different way of doing politics and society. Opinions of Corbyn’s such as abolishing the armed forces are different, new. Ruane saw the value of this and uses it to her advantage here at home; other politicians will soon realise that people are searching for a novel way of doing things.
As our generation acquires its political consciousness, it will be fascinating to see how it develops. We traditionally veer to the right as we age, but it has been documented before that it is difficult to express right-of-centre views online. Who knows if this will hold true. But for the time being the momentum of the search for something new appears to only be increasing. Will Corbyn win the 2020 UK election? Will Ruane enter a successful career in political activism? These are fascinating times.