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April 17, 2013


Eerie Parallels on Thatcher & Republicans Today

Interesting stuff from a Ricochet post:

Consider the clash within the Conservatives in the mid-1970s. Ted Heath, the Mitch McConnell of his day, had won the Prime Ministership stressing more free market views, but then embarked on all sorts of disconcerting steps: income and price controls, dropping his labor union reforms like a hot rock, subsidies for industry cronies, nationalizing Rolls Royce. Thatcher was originally seen as a Heath acolyte within the Tory wing, given a cabinet position in Education – but the distance between them grew, and she became closer to fellow Cabinet member Keith Joseph, forming a tiny band of back benchers disagreeing with the aims of the party leadership. She did not oppose him or undermine leadership publicly, but she was careful to keep this cronyist approach to industry-driven governance at arm’s length.

Heath’s approach failed at the ballot box. After losing the election in 1974 and failing to form a coalition government with the Liberal Party (a No Labels-esque “Government of National Unity), he took it as a sign that the Tories had to move leftward in order to adapt to the opinions of the nation. Thatcher disagreed, and that made all the difference. When Joseph announced that he would challenge Heath for party leadership, Thatcher was the only Cabinet member to endorse him; when Joseph was forced to withdraw (thanks to demography comments implying the working class really ought to consider using birth control more regularly – the speech is here), he was forced to withdraw. So Thatcher insisted she would run.


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From what I’ve seen, you don’t win an election by being a little to the left/right of the incumbent.  The rationale is that you should pick up everyone on that side, and if you’ve judged the mid-point right you’ll win.  In practice, your supposedly core supporters are dissatisfied and feel like they’ve been sold out, and the middle sees that you’re just incumbent-lite so goes for the guys that they know.  In the end, the only ones who feel a connection to you are those who are loyal to the brand, not the policies.

Instead, offer a clear and distinctive choice.  This appeals to your ideological core.  It also shows the middle a different path, forces them to make a choice, and realise that it actually matters who they vote for.  It certainly doesn’t guarantee a win (thought the chances of it improve with how on-the-nose the incumbents are), but at least it engages with the electorate and proves that you stand for something distinctive.

[1] Posted by Andrew W on 4-17-2013 at 05:43 PM · [top]

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