While she will go down in history as an icon of Britain, Margaret Thatcher’s passing this week reminds all of us that she also holds a strong American legacy.
Much of her legacy in her own country is tied to one of our own American icons, President Ronald Reagan. Together, Thatcher and Reagan represented the West in the Cold War and did much to ensure that it did not end with nuclear devastation.
Thatcher and Reagan also did a great deal to show that free market values could help economies and did a great deal to bring both of their countries out of deep recessions. I realize that this is a point of argument for many who disagree with free market values. But while not perfect in every situation, it is hard to argue with the benefits that those changes brought to the American and British economies in the 1980’s.
Beyond the economic values and Cold War victory, Thatcher built an American legacy that is more subtle, but I think even more important than most people realize.
Margaret Thatcher broke through an enormous glass ceiling for future women elected leaders as the first Prime Minister of a major Western country. Her success as a leader and her ability to be judged not by her gender, but by her politics and her grit, just like her male counterparts, cannot be underestimated.
Thatcher cleared the way for women from both sides of the political aisle to assert power and be considered equals in the world of politics.
Hillary Clinton earned her shot at the presidency herself in 2008. However, one of the key reasons that she could be taken seriously by voters was that the world had already seen a strong woman lead a country for 11 years.
And while many Progressives may argue with Thatcher’s politics, she made more progress for women because of those politics. Allow me to explain.
While becoming the first woman to be elected leader of an entire country was difficult enough, as a conservative, Thatcher actually broke two barriers.
If Thatcher had come to power as a liberal, we could still very well be waiting for a conservative woman to rise up the ranks.
Now, I’m not here to defend how Republicans have supported or not supported conservative women since the 1980’s. My point is more about how voters see our elected leaders as people and not by their gender.
Thatcher broke that barrier in Britain, but because of her alliance with the United States, Americans also saw how a powerful woman could leader an entire country. Seeing that affected American voters, but also future American women who would eventually become elected leaders in this country.
In this way, Thatcher’s legacy wasn’t strictly about who could or couldn’t run an entire country, but also that women could be elected leaders throughout government. Voters needed to see it, but so did future candidates.
Margaret Thatcher will be remembered this week for the major impact she had on British and world history. But she should also be remembered in this country as one of the first strong women to show all of us, voters and future leaders alike, that a person’s ability to lead should not be based on gender, but rather based on grit, character and integrity.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces and hosts the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.