“In too many areas the expression of quite moderate, common-sense conservative views is regarded as eccentric. To be reasonable and realistic is to be branded ‘right-wing’ or even ‘extremist.’”
Though first uttered by Margaret Thatcher four years before she became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1979, these words could easily describe the state of American conservatism today. During her 11 years of premiership, Thatcher’s fiery and principled posture relit the waning flame of conservatism in a nation that was suffocating under the weight of a ballooning socialist system. Through her tenacious wit, efficacy, and willpower alone, she revitalized conservatism from near extinction to its emergence as the aegis of British society by steamrolling a lethargic establishment and reinvigorating the crumbling British economy.
Thatcher’s success in a situation so closely analogous to that of America today serves as a reminder that restoring America requires not meek submission to progressive hegemony, but adopting a Thatcher style of American conservatism.
The Iron Lady offers much wisdom for our time, especially when the left dominates our culture and our economy, with university campuses, Silicon Valley, the media, and corporate boardrooms all under its sway. Given the left’s seemingly invulnerable control of our institutions, it’s understandable many conservatives feel paralyzed and fear that challenging these institutions is not only insurmountable but dangerous.
Yet it’s because of the left’s toxic imperialism that now, more than ever, is the time we must mount a Thatcherite challenge to restore and rebalance our institutions.
In the Claremont Review of Books, Steven Hayward explains that “Thatcherism,” so often misconstrued simply as Chicago school economic policy, is not a political philosophy, but rather a “disposition of mind and character” that is best summed into three qualities. First, Thatcherites must rigorously challenge their political opposition; second, they must adopt a platform that is accessible, transparent, coherent, and principled; and finally, they must engage relentlessly to dominate the open discourse in the public square.
British conservatism, before Thatcher, capitulated often, had few victories, and resembled much of the zeitgeist of the Republican establishment today. Republican leaders have become all too comfortable secluding themselves in afternoon seminars, fundraising, endless white papers, and softball appearances on friendly media while allowing the left to march through our institutions uncontested. While easy to assign such lassitude to laziness, this inaction is more often a reflection of fear of an increasingly intolerant hegemonic left. Lacking institutional opposition and armed with university syllabi and Silicon Valley’s loudest megaphones, they have unleashed a maelstrom of ad hominem attacks to stigmatize and even dehumanize any opposition. For too long, conservative leaders have abdicated the responsibility of fighting back, preferring to hang their heads low rather than engage the opposition, further cementing the bleak outlook and rear-guard mentality held by so-called “conservative leadership.”
Instead of meekness, we must rally behind the words of the late Prime Minister: “This Party of ours has been on the defensive for too long. The time has come to counter-attack.”
During her eleven-year premiership, Thatcher challenged the status quo by using the strength of her convictions and wit to unrelentingly dismantle both the Labour Party’s hare-brained opposition and her own party’s timid old guard. Her confrontational leadership went hand in hand with a clear agenda where she found success by saying what she meant and doing what she said.
By assertively making the case for a distinct Conservative platform and contrasting it to Labour’s, Thatcher was able to avoid the error of making unnecessary concessions to avoid conflict. Thatcher adopted bold, free-market economic reforms while battling both high unemployment and overwhelming pressure to reverse course from popular critics and even her own cabinet. But Thatcher did not blink. When challenged by her cabinet, she found competent, enthusiastic replacements and carried on through the pressure by making her case directly to British voters, who repeatedly entrusted her to weather the storm. This resilience and faith saw Thatcher’s government and the British people through the Falklands Crisis, the 1984 Miners’ Strike, and the ultimate success of her transformative economic reforms.
America’s predicament under the Biden administration is hardly inspiring. The Biden administration is afflicted with a strange derangement where it believes that disparaging America’s founding values and history is projecting strength against China’s abhorrent human rights abuses and transparent ambition for global domination. When China attempted to equate America’s contemporary issues to China’s intentional eradication of Uighurs and unambiguous Chinese racial supremacy, Biden officials equivocated. This was not only farcical, but it undermined our nation’s strength at home and on the global stage. Emboldened by perceived American vulnerability, Russian President Vladimir Putin flippantly challenged President Biden to a “debate.” Less than six months into the Biden presidency, our global competitors are already eagerly taking advantage of perceived American weakness. Weakness is provocative, and the Biden administration’s failure to project American strength will invite further aggression from our adversaries.
The Iron Lady would not tolerate the feeble character that is emblematic of self-loathing progressivism and neither should we. To survive the global power struggle developing before our eyes, we must replace the impotent liberalism with a Thatcherite conservatism that embraces a posture of confrontation, a transparent policy agenda, and a tireless resolve to follow through and take back control of our nation’s latent potential.
With April comes the anniversary of the Falklands Crisis, a key moment when Prime Minister Thatcher was faced with a choice between capitulation or confrontation. She chose the latter to great effect, defeating a revisionist regime and putting the principle of British sovereignty before the demands of the world’s bleating leftists.
Likewise, American conservatives today are faced with our own Falklands Crisis, where we too must choose between submission or rebirth. Instead of surrendering to the self-denigrating ineptitude of American progressivism, the conservative movement must rally around and confidently project its vision for a vibrant workforce, strong and stable families, and American greatness. Margaret Thatcher has already shown us the way: the era of conservative capitulation must end, and a confident and assertive conservatism must take its place.
As the Iron Lady so often said, “There is no alternative.”
John Dominguez is a public affairs associate and a recent graduate of Cornell University.