Thatcher vs. Reagan, Tories vs. Republicans

Speaking of Margaret Thatcher, it’s safe to say that I’m hardly her biggest fan. But not her biggest critic either. She was on the right side of the Cold War; she was on the right side of de-nationalization; and she was on the right side of keeping out of the euro. But regardless of whether you love her or hate her, I think Michael Tomasky makes an astute point comparing her political legacy to Ronald Reagan’s:

The other difference between Thatcher and Reagan is that the Tories haven’t gone mad and made Thatcher look like a milquetoast moderate. In this sense her legacy has been more durable than Reagan’s. She re-centered British politics to a place where it’s more or less stayed, while today’s American right has completely left Reagan in the dust.

He’s right: today’s Conservative Party would be reasonably recognizable to Thatcher. She could run for the party leadership tomorrow and have a good chance of winning it. But today’s Republican Party wouldn’t elect Reagan dogcatcher, let alone president. Despite the endless hagiography of Reagan from conservatives, the plain truth is that if he were reincarnated today, Ted Cruz would denounce him as a socialist and the tea party would disown him.

For Britain’s conservatives, Margaret Thatcher was a corrective. Once the corrective had been applied, their policies more-or-less stabilized. But for American conservatives, Ronald Reagan was just a start. They’ve kept moving farther right ever since.

Why is this? Discuss.


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