It turns out that Margaret Thatcher is as divisive in death as she was in life. News of the former British prime minister's death has prompted tributes from around the world, as well as criticisms of a formidable legacy that includes introducing free-market reforms to Britain, taking a tough line against the Soviet Union and communism in general, and going to war to reclaim the Falkland Islands from Argentina.
American commentators were quick to define her legacy in ideological terms, a reflection of her enduring impact — along with that of her close ally, Ronald Reagan — on Western politics. Indeed, the response to her death only underscores how intensely the conservative revolution of the early 1980s continues to be debated, on issues ranging from health care to taxes.
Conservatives highlighted Thatcher's commitment to weakening Britain's trade unions and privatizing government-controlled industries, an effort that resulted in a broad economic revival after years of inflation and crippling union strikes. Thatcher "helped bury socialism as a doctrine of governance," writes George Will at The Washington Post:
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Conservatives also hailed Thatcher's strong anti-communist position, saying it showed the benefits of an aggressive, morally righteous foreign policy. Thatcher, Reagan, and Pope John Paul II "won the Cold War, and, it isn't too much to say, saved the West," writes William Kristol at The Weekly Standard:
Liberals, on the other hand, criticized Thatcher's single-minded focus on communism, saying it resulted in an inflexible foreign policy that partnered the West with dubious bedfellows. As David Corn at Mother Jones writes:
Liberals also used Thatcher's legacy as a foil to show how far right American conservatives have allegedly drifted. "While Thatcher stands as a role model for modern conservatism here in the United States, her policies likely wouldn't hold up under the scrutiny of a modern-day GOP," says Annie-Rose Strasser at Think Progress, noting Thatcher's support for socialized medicine, her comfort with raising taxes, her belief in climate change, and her enactment of tough gun laws.
And liberals charged that Thatcher's economic reforms were not without their destructive effects. Her war against the unions led to the gutting of some working-class communities, while deregulation paved the way for the financial troubles of later years. According to Dylan Matthews at The Washington Post:
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