Margaret Thatcher, RIP

I have been out of town in a semi-secure, undisclosed location and have not had occasion to weigh in on the death of Margaret Thatcher.  I happened to be with some close friends of hers when the news came, so I’ve been kept abreast of the currents of opinion.  Much of the commentary, as was fitting for so great and dynamic a political leader, has been celebratory and reverential. Margaret Thatcher was the woman who reclaimed Britain for itself, who put an end to the squalid deprivations of post-war austerity, and who with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, helped face down the hideous evil of Soviet Communism. (On this latter, see John O’Sullivan’s magisterial The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World.) She understood, as few other contemporary leaders have understood, the fructifying symbiotic relationship between free markets and free men.

It’s something that is beyond the ken of many beneficiaries of the mighty cornucopia of capitalism. This melancholy fact was instantly brought home to me by the outpouring of sweaty hatred from the mephitic swamps of leftist animus. Over at NRO, Andrew Johnson aggregated a few early specimens: “Thatcher is dead, but unfortunately Thatcherism lives on. Let's bury it with her.” From George Galloway: “Tramp the dirt down.” Ted Rall: “Goodbye, Maggie, and good riddance. Along with Reagan, Thatcher destroyed the safety net and the social contract in the West.” Donna Brazile: “Okay, what did the #ironlady do to advance Great Britain and the world? Did she leave lasting footprints for women in politics?” Et very much cetera.

Such spiteful, squamous yammering was partly repellent, partly embarrassing. It was more than counterbalanced, however, but the cataract of grateful remembrance and insightful commentary from those who understood the dimensions of Thatcher’s benefactions. One of the best early commentaries was “Thatcher Was Right, the Left Was Wrong,” Kevin Williamson’s brief intervention, also at NRO. Kevin dilates particularly on Thatcher’s brilliant deployment of good humored intelligence in her many spirited clashes with her ideological opponents: “she seemed to be having so much fun,” Kevin noted.

That, I think, is what they never forgave her for. Thatcher laughed at them, mocked them, outwitted and out-debated them. That infuriated the Left: Conservatives aren’t supposed to mock, they are supposed to be mocked. They might be allowed to win a few elections, but they could never be allowed to win the argument, much less to scoff at liberals’ public pieties.

Thatcher won, in no small part because she was her own best case. Her confidence, prudence, good humor, and other virtues were those she sought to encourage in her fellow countrymen.

Exactly so. And Kevin is also right when he goes on to observe that there is a sense in which “we should be grateful to the odious likes of Ted Rall and Donna Brazile.”

As the treacly and insincere tributes from the likes of Barack Obama roll in, we should remember: They hated Margaret Thatcher. Hated her. Reviled her. Hated everything she stood for. Still do. So I do not really want to hear any tributes to her from the left side of the political aisle today. If you were not around at the time, it will be hard for you to appreciate the vulgarity and the cruelty of the attacks to which she was subjected. They hated her for the same reason they hated Reagan: She aimed to defeat socialism abroad and socialism at home, appreciating the structural continuity between domestic socialism and the idea’s full expression under the Soviets.

Indeed. And this is where the passing of Lady Thatcher intersects with contemporary political reality. She won the battle she fought against the totalitarian temptation, but it is a battle that is renewed in every generation. Experience has not  been a successful teacher where the folly of murderous utopia is concerned. We’ve seen the gulags, the poverty, the immiseration, but we continue to embrace the “spread-the-wealth-around” policies that lead there like a superhighway.

That is one reason the example of leaders like Reagan and Thatcher are so uplifting: they show us that victory, if inevitably temporary in this fallen, sublunary world, is nontheless possible. They remind us, as Kevin notes, that “Those who opposed her and reviled her were on the wrong side of the most important question of their age, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with tyrants, many of them as guilty as those who manned the gulag watchtowers. And even today, when they make their pilgrimages to sit at the feet of Castro or bury Chávez, when they put leftist terrorists on their payrolls, they know: They lost. What they do not know, because they are incapable of understanding the fact, is that they deserved to lose. We should not allow them to pretend that they were on the right side all along.”