Good leaders give us hope throughout their political careers; great ones can do it throughout their lives. Only a special few can also do it with their passing. One of them, Margaret Thatcher, did just that as she departed this life today.
Those of us who admired her from five times zone away (or more) are in the midst of a crisis of confidence that she would remember from her own personal history in post-World War II Britain. You can hear it in the conversations, read it in the private emails (well, if you had access to them), or see them in blog posts or comments across the rightosphere: there is a sense that America is different, never to return to its older, prouder history, destined to a permanent decline along the glide path much of Western Europe has taken over the last 50-60 years.
In her passing, and by leaving us at this moment, Margaret Thatcher reminds us of her 11 years in power – and more to the point, she reminds us again that decline, social democracy, and political squalor are not inevitable, never set in stone, and always ready for a good smack from a decent handbag.
By any indicator, Great Britain in 1979 was far, far worse than we are now. Yet she grabbed the United Kingdom by the scruff of the neck, reversed its economic decline and made it a global power again.
For me, however, what made Thatcher someone to take seriously was the Falklands War. As a nine-year-old geek who thought he knew everything, and full of social studies textbook verbiage about decolonization, I was convinced that Argentina’s seizure of the Falklands was yet another stage in the inevitable decline of Europe and European colonies. It was a shock to see Britain stand up for her countrymen on those far away bits of rock, but she did it – and in the process defended the self-determination of the Falklands, restored British honor, and even scored a bank-shot for democracy in Argentina (the battlefield defeat doomed the Argentine military junta).
More than anyone else, Margaret Thatcher’s life and tenure were proof that the future is far from certain, that the left has no monopoly on progress or power, and that no state of weakness is irreversible.
In passing, Thatcher has reminded us of her past – and thus given us on this side of the Atlantic hope for our future.
Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal