Why such visceral reactions to a woman who served her country for 11 years as prime minister? For many, government is a drug to which they have become addicted. They need the drug to function. Margaret Thatcher tried to break that addiction and get her people to support themselves. Anyone who suggests it is possible even desirable to break the government “habit” becomes the target of the “addicts” and their enabling politicians, both in life and now in death.
Thomas may be misreading the source of British anger. I suspect a lot of it comes not from welfare constituencies but from the remnants of organized labor whose enemy the Iron Lady was. But I suppose Britons might also get angry at anyone who suggests that reliance on government for survival is morally equivalent to drug addiction. My point, however, is that Thomas routinely uses this rhetoric to describe American "addicts" to Democratic liberalism, which should leave him hard pressed to explain the phenomenon he'd already noted: the relative mildness of American partisanship. Where in the U.S. is the rage we should expect, yet Thomas apparently fails to see? Were Britons more addicted to the dole than Americans? Are they still? Or are Britons more open or uninhibited in their hatreds? It is the land of football hooligans, after all....
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On a tangental note, one of the dumbest American commentaries on Thatcher I've seen appears in the current New Yorker. The problem isn't what Hendrik Hertzberg says about Thatcher, but his attempt to blame her rise to power and the hatred expressed toward her in life and death on a lack of Bipolarchy in Britain.
Under Mrs. Thatcher, the Conservative Party did indeed win three successive elections, each of which yielded a parliamentary landslide. But she never truly won “the backing of the British people.” Her share of the popular vote—never more than forty-four per cent—was lower than the loser’s tally in five of the last seven American Presidential elections. Yet because the United Kingdom crams three major parties into a system suited for two—“first past the post,” winner-take-all in every constituency—and because two of those three parties were left of center, Mrs. Thatcher’s Tories were able to amass huge parliamentary majorities. And since a British Prime Minister’s power is largely unfettered, she rarely failed to get her uncompromising way even though most of her fellow-citizens were never in sympathy with her policies. No doubt this was a source of the uniquely venomous quality of the bitterness that she provoked in life and the ugly gloating that, in some quarters, welcomed her death.
Maybe they all should be hating some forgotten British Nader instead.
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Finally, here's some actual reporting from Britain on Thatcher's funeral.