Politics-Margaret-Thatc-006.jpg

Two Parallels Between Margaret Thatcher and Michele Bachmann

Parallel One:  Michele Bachmann has put herself forward this year for the same reason Margaret Thatcher stepped forward almost four decades ago:  none of the men on the scene was quite up to it.

As Lady Thatcher explains in her autobiography, The Path to Power, as the 1975 contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party approached, she fully expected her colleague, Sir Keith Joseph, to run.  Then Sir Keith gave a controversial speech.  Lady Thatcher describes what happened next:

The following afternoon I was working in my room in the House, briefing myself on the Finance Bill, when the telephone rang.  It was Keith [Joseph] to check I was there because he had something he wanted to come along and tell me.  As soon as he entered, I could see it was serious.  He told me:  ’I am sorry, I just can’t run.  Ever since I made that speech the press have been outside the house.  They have been merciless.  Helen [his wife] can’t take it and I have decided that I just can’t stand.’

There was no mistaking his mood.  His mind was quite made up.  I was on the edge of despair.  We just could not abandon the Party and the country to Ted’s brand of politics.  I heard myself saying: ‘Look, Keith, if you’re not going to stand, I will, because someone who represents our viewpoint has to stand.’

pres-debate-bachman-romney-600_s640x427.jpgAs Sir Keith Joseph, so Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who, after spending six weeks on the road to decide if his heart was in the race, decided that it wasn’t; Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who chose not to run because of his family’s objections; Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who argues that he is unprepared for the presidency; Cong. Paul Ryan, who insists he has his hands full reforming the budget; and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, who argues that he has the wrong last name.  Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota is in the race, of course, and campaigning as hard as anyone can, but getting–let’s face it–nowhere in the polls.

Michele Bachmann has stepped forward, to quote Lady Thatcher once again, “because someone who represents our viewpoint has to stand.”

Parallel Two:  Michele Bachmann’s first task is the same as that Margaret Thatcher faced:  to deny the leadership of her party to a flip-flopping managerial progressive of no discernible convictions.

“We just could not abandon the Party and the country,” to quote Lady Thatcher yet again, “to Ted’s brand of politics.”  “Ted” was Edward Heath, leader of the Conservative Party since 1965 and prime minister from 1970 to 1974.  At varying points in his career, Heath had presented himself as a moderate, as a free-market conservative, and then as a moderate all over again.  As prime minister he proposed certain limited free market reforms.  When in 1972 trade unions object, Heath performed the still-famous (in British politics, anyway) “U-turn,” backing down in spectacular fashion.  Thatcher believed Britain would be unable to address its problems without a vigorous, principled Conservative Party, and that to achieve such an entity Heath had to be toppled from the Party leadership and marginalized.  She proceeded to do just that.

mike-murphy.jpgMichele Bachmann’s Ted Heath?  Mitt Romney, of course.  Once pro-choice, now pro-life.  Once in favor of dramatically expanding the role of government in health care, enacting, as governor of Massachusetts, RomneyCare, now, seeking the support of the Tea Party, claiming he would do all he could to oppose ObamaCare.  Once only too eager to dissociate himself from the record of Ronald Reagan—during a 1994 debate with Sen. Edward Kennedy, Romney insisted, “I was an Independent during Reagan-Bush.  I don’t want to go back to Reagan-Bush”—Romney now peppers his speeches with reverential references to the Gipper.

Michele Bachmann believes the United States needs a Republican Party of principle and conviction—and that no such GOP can take shape under Romney’s leadership.

Two striking parallels between two striking women—and neither parallel, I believe even my friend and comrade Mike Murphy will, if grudgingly, find himself granting—is really all that far-fetched.

  1. The Mugwump

    Bachmann fills an important function as the moral voice of social conservatism. I think she’s a natural for the number two slot. I want to see a fire breathing conservative with executive experience at the top of the ticket. Rick Perry, please.

  2. StickerShock

     The Romney = Ted Heath parallel is excellent.

    As for Bachman stepping up now becaue “none of the men on the scene was quite up to it,” I’m not so sure.  I believe Bachman has set her eyes on a presidential run for a long time & would be in it regardless of who else had entered.  I’m not sure Thatcher had that ambition until she felt circumstances thrust her into it.  I seem to remember comments Thatcher had made about the impossibility of a woman PM, but I may be wrong.

    Bachman, like Thatcher, will not be afraid to keep pushing for a vigorous and principled conservative focus in her party. 

  3. Herkybird

    Claire Berlinski, upon being asked to comment as a biographer of Margaret Thatcher about any similarity between Sarah Palin and Lady Thatcher, responded by observing that Thatcher had spend 20 years mastering the intricacies of government before putting herself forward for the role of Party Leader and therefore, there was no similarity between the two. I think the same holds true for two-term Congresswoman Michele Bachman and Lady Thatcher. By the way, if I remember correctly, the interviewer to whom she made this observation was one Peter Robinson

  4. SteveS

    What, if the parallel is not legit…let’s submit! To Romney that is… I want someone who may have “set their eyes on a presidential run for a long time” It used to be a cliche in an old movie or the like for a parent to dreamily proclaim, “He or she (as is now) could grow up to be President”. Never let it be said ” He or she could grow up to be community organizer some day”. I always enjoy hearing and seeing her. She may not be as polished as is necessary in this overdone media world we find ourselves but I believe she is authentic, which to me is worth more than all the community organizing ability that can be learned. You can’t learn authenticity has we see every time Romney speaks. Peter, in all deference to your friend Mike Murphy, he has been involved in a few election failures if I’m correct and I dislike experts telling me the voter who is unelectable. I won’t waste my vote when the time comes and will support whom ever can beat BHO but please let the thing play itself out. After all Boston won the World Series!

  5. Scott R

     There’s a difference between Britain in the late seventies and the US today: We have dozens of powerful, articulate leaders (governors, congressmen, senators) making the conservative case, not to mention a conservative media structure doing likewise. The center of gravity in the Republican party and its intellectual backers already is right, and so we, unlike Britain, aren’t in desperate need of a conservative firebrand to drag the party rightward.

    Something else to think about: Under what type of administration is a Paul Ryan plan or moving to privatize Social Security more likely to become law (and then last, unlike, hopefully, Obamacare) – a firebreathing conservative administration, or one which is perceived as more moderate and pragmatic by the center? (Consider that the greatest piece of domestic legislation to become law in the last few decades was welfare reform under Clinton. Does a President Bachmann pull that off?)

     We’d all love to see President Perfect, but as conservatives we know that perfection is elusive. We need to be very careful we don’t whiff with a big homerun swing, when a solid line drive gets us a win. (And we gotta win.)

  6. Stu In Tokyo

    For the sake of the entire world I hope you are correct Peter, and I hope that Bachman is the next Thatcher, that would really be great, but I have to ask, what is it with so many people wanting to draw parallels between great historical figures and the current crop of candidates? Why does Mr. X have to be the next Regan, or Mrs. X have to be the next Thatcher?

    I remember Regan and Thatcher, but I’m young enough to admit I was not really paying much attention, but when Regan was lining up for the job interview to be the Republican presidential nominee, who was Regan supposed to be the next…..? Was he supposed to be the next Ike, or Goldwater, no wait, Goldwater got creamed…. How about Lady Thatcher, who was she supposed to be next …..Golda Meir?

    I’m just curious, I’m not attacking this kind of thinking, I’m just wondering is all.

    Domo!

  7. StickerShock

    “I want someone who may have “set their eyes on a presidential run for a long time”

    I don’t have any problem with her ambition….just wanted to point out it’s where she veers off from Thatcher.

  8. Boots on the Table

    Let us start with this premise. “We have never had a great President who did not ruffle the feathers of or irritate major portions of their own party.” Other than Washington, is their another great President who was expected to be a great President? I am unable to think of one. However, there are two items that stand out with all the great Presidents. All of them stepped forward to lead their country in a time of need. Whether they wanted the office “for 20 years” or not. (Arguably the greatest, Washington, did not want the office at all) and, second, all of them had one thing in common. They all stood on principles that they held. These principles did not waver, they did not check the polls to see what they should or should not do. They all looked to their principles and led the Nation from there. We need to stop with the Perry, Ryan, Daniels, boohoo BS. They aren’t running. Pick the candidate who runs on their principles, not the principles picked up in a poll. A President who bases their life on principles will make the correct decision when the time comes. History says they will.

  9. Claire Berlinski
    C
    StickerShock: “I want someone who may have “set their eyes on a presidential run for a long time”

    I don’t have any problem with her ambition….just wanted to point out it’s where she veers off from Thatcher. · Jul 2 at 6:47am

    Edited on Jul 02 at 06:47 am

    Thatcher was in no way lacking in ambition, but the environment in which she was operating was different. It truly was hard to conceive of a woman leading the Conservative Party before her. It has for a long time been perfectly possible to imagine a woman as President of the United States. 

    I feel that I ought to say something more authoritative about the comparison, but I think I’m with Stu: The question to ask isn’t “Who’s the next Thatcher,” it’s “Who should be the next President of the United States.” I’m happy to say that I find Bachman much more impressive than Palin, but share the concern about her lack of executive experience. 

  10. HVTs
    Herkybird: Claire Berlinski, upon being asked to comment as a biographer of Margaret Thatcher about any similarity between Sarah Palin and Lady Thatcher, responded by observing that Thatcher had spend 20 years mastering the intricacies of government before putting herself forward for the role of Party Leader and therefore, there was no similarity between the two. I think the same holds true for two-term Congresswoman Michele Bachman and Lady Thatcher. By the way, if I remember correctly, the interviewer to whom she made this observation was one Peter Robinson · Jul 2 at 6:22am

    I think Claire was a bit too quick to dismiss as a political neophyte a woman elected to numerous local and then State-wide office? A woman who took on her own party’s corruption–and won? A Governor of a State with a $10B+ budget and a highly contentious legislature? I think Palin knows more than the average Momma Grizzly about politics. Doesn’t make her Maggie T, by any stretch, but let’s be fair to her nonetheless. And, may I ask, does anyone think there will EVER be another Ron Reagan or Maggie Thatcher? You can only take historical analogies so far.

  11. Boots on the Table

    HVTs:  And, may I ask, does anyone think there will EVER be another Ron Reagan or Maggie Thatcher? You can only take historical analogies so far. · Jul 2 at 7:25am

    I believe the answer is no.  However, I would pose the question…Do we even want another Reagan or Thatcher?  In 1980, were we looking for another Lincoln?  No.  Reagan and Thatcher, as Lincoln and Washington etc. before them, were needed in the time they stepped forward.  The problems of today are not the problems of yesterday, with one blatant exception.  We are currently being led by leaders with no basic and fundamental principles.  We don’t need another “anyone”.  We need another leader with basic fundamental principles and the willingness to step forward and take a stand on those principles.  All evil needs to win is for good to refuse to fight.  Unprincipled candidates, as far as I’m concerned, regardless of their party affiliation, fall into the ‘evil’ category,  Reagen stood against the “Evil Empire”.  Lincoln stood against the “Evils of Slavery”.  Washington believed in the “Evils of the Monarchy”.  Today’s candidate must stand against the Evils of today not the evils of yesterday.

  12. Aaron Miller
    Scott Reusser:  

    Under what type of administration is a Paul Ryan plan or moving to privatize Social Security more likely to become law (and then last, unlike, hopefully, Obamacare) – a firebreathing conservative administration, or one which is perceived as more moderate and pragmatic by the center? (Consider that the greatest piece of domestic legislation to become law in the last few decades was welfare reform under Clinton. Does a President Bachmann pull that off?)

    If pushed by a moderate, Ryan’s plan would become so muddled and weak as to be useless. Clinton’s welfare reform was a capitulation to conservatives. Let’s hope for such surrender from Democrats, not from Republicans.

    Ryan’s plan already puts too much off a decade or two, relying on Republican majorities in many future elections. It’s already a compromise.

    Whether or not Democrats one day reimplement programs we cut or change now, we must at least make immediate cuts which are drastic enough to buy us that time. As things are today, our government is making loans to itself just to maintain a semblence of creditworthiness.

    Moderate cuts are not real progress when set against extreme deficits. The clock is ticking.

  13. EJHill

    Let me say something about flawed analogies and even more flawed conventional wisdom… One cannot compare our leaders (or would be leaders) to those that have risen through the Anglo Parliamentary System and still keep our fetish for “executive experience” intact. 

    Let us take the Conservative Prime Ministers for the United Kingdom and Canada respectively. Both David Cameron and Stephen Harper rose to prominence inside their parties during long periods of being in opposition. Neither had served in Cabinet, so neither had run any portion of Government or had executive experience of any kind. They are both “children of the House.” 

    I’m pretty sure the last Canadian PM who had been a Provincial Premier was Charles Tupper, who led pre-Confederation Nova Scotia and served as PM for a whopping two months in 1896.

    Lady Thatcher had served as a Minister of the Crown as Secretary of State for Education. But that doesn’t mean we should be clamoring for Margaret Spellings or Roderick Paige.

    Either we need to stop looking to PMs or stop this fetish for governors.

  14. Linda Mair

     I remember when Prime Minister Harper was labeled ‘scary’ by what passes for the main stream media in Canada. Not to be facetious but doesn’t a woman who has sheltered 23 foster children as well as raising her own have some ‘executive’ experience?

  15. Sandcastle

     Comparisons may be unfair or incorrect but some things hold true. Watching this video of Lady Thatcher made me think of the Mike Murphy post and the dust up of comments that followed. The pertinent part of this video comes at the 56 second mark to around the 1:43 mark.

    http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-0WyAkZmxk&feature=related

  16. Grendel
    Boots on the Table: …(Arguably the greatest, Washington, did not want the office at all)

    I agree with your post but I would quibble with how arguable that statement is.  Should we think the GW who wore his general’s uniform to the Constitutional convention, not mufti, didn’t want high leadership?  GW wanted honors–it is the  mark of his character that he wanted to deserve those honors.  He served his country at several critical points, being an agent or focal point of unity for a fragile, fractious union.  He doubtless was happy to leave office, realizing that the country needed a president, not a king.  Perhaps he had heard George III’s remark, on hearing that Washington would step down:  “If he does that, he is the greatest man who ever lived”.  Perhaps, also, he knew it was his time to retire:  he lived less than three years after leaving office.

  17. Crow

    Bachmann performed well in the first republican debate–but the debate format also lent itself to extremely quick responses. She made no wild gaffes, but neither was she inspirational.

    Peter, you’ve chosen two points of comparison here that I will not deny are parallel. But one could very easily make the opposite case by taking two other points of comparison: experience and temperament. Actually, should you choose to take the latter points instead, gender and historical accident suddenly seem less worthy of consideration. 

    In short: very premature to be comparing her with Margaret Thatcher–it dishonors both of them. Let Bachmann stand on her own two feet.

  18. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Sandcastle:  Comparisons may be unfair or incorrect but some things hold true. Watching this video of Lady Thatcher made me think of the Mike Murphy post and the dust up of comments that followed. The pertinent part of this video comes at the 56 second mark to around the 1:43 mark.

    http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-0WyAkZmxk&feature=related · Jul 2 at 9:04am

    That link isn’t working for me. Which one is it? (Actually, I should probably be able to guess just by the allusion to the 56-second-mark–House of Commons 22 November 1990?)

  19. Hang On

    Click here.

    There are two http://'s in the link above.

  20. Stu In Tokyo

    Claire try this………

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-0WyAkZmxk

    you might have to cut and paste it :)