Republicans struggle to find allies, even among Thatcher’s political heirs

That was then…

“She gladly claims that no one admires Ronald Reagan more than she does. ‘I’m his greatest fan,’ Margaret Thatcher has said. For his part, Reagan has never hidden his glowing respect for the Conservative British leader,” Time Magazine reported in its Mar. 4, 1985 issue.

“So it came as no surprise that Thatcher and Reagan behaved like a two-person mutual admiration society during the Prime Minister’s two-day visit to Washington last week.”

Twenty-seven years ago, the relationship between British Conservatives and U.S. Republicans was indeed quite strong, the two parties finding a natural affinity in their pro-free-market brand of conservatism, and with their leaders getting on famously well.

The world has changed, however, over the intervening years. Reagan died in 2004 at age 93. Thatcher, who will turn 87 in October, lives on, but suffers from dementia and is rarely seen in public aside from a few photographs captured this year during an outing to a London park with her caregivers.

Over those years, their respective parties have grown further apart.

In June 2011, it was reported that former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wanted to drop in to meet Margaret Thatcher at her London home. That idea was quickly quashed.

“Lady Thatcher will not be seeing Sarah Palin,” an unnamed insider told the British press. “That would be belittling for Margaret. Sarah Palin is nuts.”

Three months later, it was presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann’s turn to be taken to task by a British Conservative, who this time was more than happy to be identified.

“I know Margaret Thatcher, and congresswoman, you’re no Margaret Thatcher,” Andrew Roberts of the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust wrote after Bachmann compared herself to the former British prime minister.

“It is simply impossible to imagine Lady Thatcher suggesting that it would be better for her country’s economy to be allowed to default on its international financial obligations sooner than to raise its debt ceiling,” he wrote in a scathing critique of Bachmann’s economic views.

Nor did Roberts think that Thatcher would approve of Bachmann’s ideas on social or environmental policy, which enjoy a receptive audience in the Republican Party.

“Thatcher would have seen through Bachmann’s ideologically driven scientific ignorance and absurd social bigotry in a matter of moments,” he thundered.

British Conservatives showed little sign of being any more sympathetic to or even able to comprehend their former American allies’ veer to the right during the Tampa convention that formally nominated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential candidate.

“I’m not as nervous of a Romney-Ryan team in the White House as a lot of people are across all [British political] parties,” U.S.-born British Conservative MP Brooks Newmark told the Daily Telegraph around the time of the convention.

“[But] I think you will find still, in our party today, more people still supporting Obama.”

“[T]he whole Tea Party movement doesn’t sit comfortably with most conservatives in the UK. And the whole Bible-Belt thing; looking to God the whole time; the extreme anti-abortion approach; it just doesn’t sit well with the Conservative Party at all,” Newmark said of the growing trans-Atlantic rift.

The rift has only been widened, as the article notes, by the perception among Republicans that David Cameron, the U.K.’s Conservative prime minister, has been too friendly with U.S. president Barack Obama.

Other British Conservatives say that reports of bad blood between the two parties are exaggerated.

Yet a lack of affinity for the Republican Party among British voters of all ideological stripes is the logical conclusion of a poll conducted in June, but only released this week, for the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

If given a choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the “approximately 1,000” British adults  surveyed would have handed Obama a runaway 8-to-1 victory — 75% Obama, 9% Romney. (See p. 29).

When the same question was asked in continental Europe, the results were often even more lopsided.

(A similar result would materialize in Canada, where pre-U.S. election polls dating back to at least 1992 have consistently shown that most Canadians, if we had a vote, would vote Democratic. This Democratic lead has been strong even in times when the Conservatives have been leading in Canadian polls. In 2008, the “decided vote” in Canada favoured Obama over McCain by more than two-to-one.)

Recent U.K. polling has given the Conservatives about one-third of the vote, the gap between that and the extremely low Republican support suggesting even British Conservatives feel they have little in common with the Republicans.

British voters, of course, have no say in who the United States elects as its president in November. Nor do Canadians, Swedes, Turks or New Zealanders. It is a choice that only Americans can make.

But should he become president in January 2013, Mitt Romney might find himself having to walk a tightrope.

Be too moderate, and he could find himself fighting off a re-nomination challenge from his party’s right wing in 2016. Similar challenges to other incumbent presidents, such as to Gerald Ford in 1976 (from Reagan), Jimmy Carter in 1980 (from Ted Kennedy) and George H. W. Bush in 1992 (from Pat Buchanan), were precursors to defeat.

Be not moderate enough, and he could find himself with little political capital on the world stage, with international leaders fearing that being seen to be too cooperative with the U.S. president could risk their own political careers.

A tough spot to be in indeed.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

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