Nicholas Capaldi: Thatcher and Trump – Twins in Politics
Guest post by Nicholas Capaldi, Distinguished Professor, Loyola University
Margaret Thatcher was a most divisive prime minister.
She transformed British history and saved her country.
She put the ‘Great’ back into Britain.
Everywhere she went, she sowed division: in her party, in UK politics, and in world affairs.
To this day, her legacy is bitterly debated.
BUT: she was unique as the first woman to be prime minister and as a true conservative.
She was extremely successful in carrying out her agenda.
Had she not succeeded her country would have gone from crippled to doomed.
Today we call it Thatcherism.
Her ultimate successors (Tony Blair) had to redefine a (new) Labour Party to look more like Thatcher’s Tories in order to get elected.
Divisiveness is the result of bringing into the open an underlying, festering, fundamental disagreement that few wish to acknowledge but that needs to be resolved.
Trump is the perfect analogue.
He is divisive in his party, in US politics, AND ESPECIALLY IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS.
He is quite unique as a non-politician and total outsider.
His ambition is to disrupt politics as we know it and he is doing just that, rather masterfully.
He seems, AGAINST ALL ODDS, to be succeeding in his own America First agenda.
Hence there will be (policy and career) winners and losers and therefore much resentment about his achievements.
The underlying disagreement is between those who seek to preserve the US as a specific historical entity, a democratic republic, constitutional nation state, and those who seek to redefine the US as an elitist and globalist abstraction.
This tension already existed in both parties, in the inability of the US to deal with a host of issues (terrorism, immigration, outsourcing, stagnation in the middle class), and in world affairs (with the EU, on migrants, radical Islam, etc.).
It is predictable that Trump will be reelected in 2020 and the Democrats will eventually win a national election by also redefining themselves.
Hollywood could eventually make a film about Trump in his declining years, starring Alec Baldwin as Trump, and Meryl Streep as Melania.
It will be a favorable treatment this time.
But like Baroness, Lady Margaret Thatcher, who was eventually elevated, Trump may never be fully loved by the powers that be.
Yet without him, America would still be crippled, locked into no growth and moving toward creeping socialism.
Thank God for Thatcher and her twin: Donald Trump.