Quotes of the day

posted at 10:41 pm on April 8, 2013 by Allahpundit

Mrs. Thatcher’s predecessor as prime minister, the amiable but forgotten Sunny Jim Callaghan, once confided to a friend of mine that he thought Britain’s decline was irreversible and that the government’s job was to manage it as gracefully as possible. By 1979, even this modest aim seemed beyond the capabilities of the British establishment, and the nation turned to a woman who was one of the few even in a supposedly “conservative” party not to subscribe to the Callaghan thesis. She reversed the decline, at home and overseas. The Falklands War, inconsequential in and of itself, had a huge global significance: After Vietnam, the fall of the Shah, Cuban troops in Africa, and Soviet annexation of real estate from Cambodia to Grenada, the British routing of the Argentine junta stunned everyone from the politburo in Moscow to their nickel ’n’ dime clients in the presidential palaces, all of whom had figured the “free world” no longer had any fight in it…

That’s to say, she understood that the biggest threat to any viable future for Britain was a unionized public sector that had awarded itself a lifestyle it wasn’t willing to earn. So she picked a fight with it, and made sure she won. In the pre-Thatcher era, union leaders were household names, mainly because they were responsible for everything your household lacked. Britain’s system of government was summed up in the unlovely phrase “beer and sandwiches at Number Ten” — which meant union grandees showing up at Downing Street to discuss what it would take to persuade them not to go on strike, and being plied with the aforementioned refreshments by a prime minister reduced to the proprietor of a seedy pub, with the Cabinet as his barmaids.

In 1990, when Mrs. Thatcher was evicted from office by her ingrate party’s act of matricide, the difference she’d made was such that in all the political panel discussions on TV that evening no producer thought to invite any union leaders. No one knew their names anymore.

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And she seemed to be having so much fun. 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…

As we celebrate the remarkable life of Margaret Thatcher, it is fitting that we remember the most important aspect of it: She won, and she deserved to win. 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.

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She had the smooth, cold surface of a porcelain figurine, but her decisiveness made her the most formidable woman in 20th-century politics and England’s most formidable woman since its greatest sovereign, Elizabeth I. The Argentine junta learned of her decisiveness when it seized the Falklands. The British, too, learned. A Tory MP said, “She cannot see an institution without hitting it with her handbag.”…

Before Thatcher, Britain’s economic problems often were ascribed to national character and hence were thought immune to remediation. Thatcher thought national character was part of the problem, but that national character is malleable, given bracing economic medicine. Marx’s ghost, hovering over his grave in London’s Highgate Cemetery, must have marveled at this Tory variant of economic determinism…

Like de Gaulle, she was a charismatic conservative nationalist who was properly resistant to what she called the European federalists’ attempts to “suppress nationhood and concentrate power at the center of a European conglomerate.” She left the British this ongoing challenge: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed at a European level.” As long as her brave heart beat, she knew there are no final victories.

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Feminism has long been associated with talk: combative rhetoric about equal rights, academic analysis of whether men and women are the same or whether women are actually better, that moldy debate over whether it’s possible for women to “have it all,” both career and family. Many a feminist like Germaine Greer or Betty Friedan, and more recently Sheryl Sandberg and Anne Marie Slaughter, has made her mark through writing about gender issues—sometimes to considerable cultural effect, but still more talk. Connotatively, a “feminist” has a chip on her shoulder the size of a two-by-four, never shuts up about “empowerment,” is eternally on the look out for sexist slights, and never considers the possibility that other people might deny her a job or dismiss her opinions because she is personally insufferable. The movement has often obsessed with language, leaving a legacy of awkward “him/her” constructions or faddish but equally sexist Bibles whose God is a “she.” Given the humorless blah-blah-blah the term feminist evokes, it’s little wonder that many young women today avoid the label.

Margaret Thatcher was a real feminist. Not for what she said but for what she did. She did not pursue justice for her gender; women’s rights per se was clearly a low priority for her. She was out for herself and for what she believed in. If we had more feminists like Thatcher, we’d have vastly more women in Parliament and the U.S. Senate, as well as more trees and fewer tedious television talk shows. More “feminists” like Thatcher, the first woman to lead a major Western democracy, and young women would be clamoring to be called one, too.

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She was, in that sense, a liberator. She didn’t constantly (or even ever) argue for women’s equality; she just lived it. She didn’t just usher in greater economic freedom; she unwittingly brought with it cultural transformation – because there is nothing more culturally disruptive than individualism and capitalism. Her 1940s values never re-took: the Brits engaged in spending and borrowing binges long after she had left the scene, and what last vestiges of prudery were left in the dust.

Perhaps in future years, her legacy might be better seen as a last, sane defense of the nation-state as the least worst political unit in human civilization. Her deep suspicion of the European project was rooted in memories of the Blitz, but it was also prescient and wise. Without her, it is doubtful the British would have kept their currency and their independence. They would have German financiers going over the budget in Whitehall by now, as they are in Greece and Portugal and Cyprus. She did not therefore only resuscitate economic freedom in Britain, she kept Britain itself free as an independent nation. Neither achievement was inevitable; in fact, each was a function of a single woman’s will-power. To have achieved both makes her easily the greatest 20th century prime minister after Churchill.

He saved Britain from darkness; she finally saw the lights come back on. And like Churchill, it’s hard to imagine any other figure quite having the character, the will-power and the grit to have pulled it off.

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As the Russian newspaper Pravda explained a few years ago, Margaret Thatcher was first called an “Iron Lady,” by the Soviet defense ministry newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, or Red Star, in 1976. Within days, Mrs. Thatcher joked about the slur…

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Via the Daily Caller.


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