[NOTE: Funeral update follows]
In the postwar era Britain was ruled by shifting elites from the right and left. Both conservatives and socialists took their turn in power while presiding over the demise of a once great power. Just as in the U.S. where it seems there was little difference in the great scheme of things between Republicans or Democrats as either take their turn managing decline.
Margaret Thatcher broke the rules that said "it's your turn but don't rock the boat." She broke the mold of what a "go along to get along" politician was suppose to be and do in office. She stood up and said "enough." She cast aside old school ties on the right and big labor paralysis on the left.
Thatcher understood that it was about time the Middle Class, the folks who obey the rules but don't get rich by gaming the system, got a little respect.
Thatcher vs. the establishment, both left and right has been the theme of a number of worthy commentaries this past week. David Ignatius writing for the Washington Post grasped the theme as well as any:
[I]t was Thatcher who opened the door for modern Britain. She wielded the wrecking ball that demolished old ideas and barriers, on the right and left. When people speak of Barack Obama or anyone else as a potentially transforming political leader, I ask myself: Does this person have the raw toughness and hunger for change of a Maggie Thatcher? Almost always, the answer is no.Even The Economist, hardly a right wing propaganda organ could not help but be effusive in their praise:
As prime minister from 1979 to 1990, Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain and left an ideological legacy to rival that of Marx, Mao, Gandhi or Reagan.In the next paragraphs the author's cite an historic reference every American should know by heart but sadly most do not:
SEVERAL prime ministers have occupied 10 Downing Street for as long as, or even longer than, Margaret Thatcher. Some have won as many elections—Tony Blair, for one. But Mrs Thatcher (later Lady Thatcher), Britain’s sole woman prime minister, remains the only occupant of Number 10 to have become an “-ism” in her lifetime. She left behind a brand of politics and a set of convictions which still resonate, from Warsaw to Santiago to Washington, DC.
What were those convictions? In Mrs Thatcher’s case, the quickest way to her political make-up was usually through her handbag. As she prepared to make her first leader’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in 1975, a speechwriter tried to gee her up by quoting Abraham Lincoln:The Economist goes on to tell the story of betrayal by her own party, "the pygmies" as they are known, who caused her to resign. They thought that by tearing Thatcher from power they would rise. Instead they condemned their party to years of decline.
“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.”
When he had finished, Mrs Thatcher fished into her handbag to extract a piece of ageing newsprint with the same lines on it. “It goes wherever I go,” she told him.
Americans are used to thinking of Thatcher and Reagan as a team. But the story of Margaret Thatcher also has a prequel in the success and penultimate fall from power of Winston Churchill. Remember that Churchill was turned out of power in the election immediately following Victory in Europe in World War II. Thatcher never faced electoral defeat but was finally brought down by the establishment she loathed.
Consider how ironic that twist of fate is with the words of Walter Russel Mead who, in comparing Thatcher and Churchill, writes:
That is what Churchill and Thatcher had in common: They were outsiders who stepped into a crisis the establishment couldn’t solve on its own.And once both Churchill and Thatcher solved the problem, they were disposed of by the left-right establishment axis which carried on dividing up the spoils.
The lesson for today is that great leaders of vision, purpose and ability are few and far between. Value their abilities over their faults and cherish the benefits that flow for all and not just a few. Stand up for politicians who defend the rights of the people over the privileges of the elites!