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To Republicans, Margaret Thatcher was first conservative-as-insurgent

Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, embodied much of what inspires US Republicans with her iron-willed stand on the effectiveness of conservative principles.

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“She was never afraid to say she liked the United States, and lots of foreign leaders are very free with their criticisms of the United States,” says Bromund. “Margaret Thatcher said some critical things, too, but it was always obvious that it came from the perspective of a friend and a supporter.”

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While her domestic pursuit of free-market economic policies inspires the tea party, her support of a robust, sometimes interventionist foreign policy continues to reverberate with the more hawkish wing of the GOP.

"Margaret Thatcher was one of the great role models in the history of the conservative movement,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, a leading defense hawk, in a statement. “Her foreign policy was clear eyed and firm. She, along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II stood up to Communism, the great evil of their time, with an uncompromising conviction.”

One place where Democrats offered their praise for Thatcher was on account of her being the first woman to ascend to her nation’s seat of legislative power. But the fact that Thatcher rarely reflected on her sex as a measure of her accomplishment was, in true Thatcher form, yet another place where liberals and conservatives took strikingly different views of the Iron Lady.

“No one thinks of Ayn Rand as a ‘woman writer,’ she was a writer,” says Carrie Lukas, managing director of the conservative Independent Women's Forum. “Thatcher was evaluated similarly and embraced for being brilliant and principled. One of the things that made Thatcher appealing, however, is that she didn't run away from her femininity.”

Many of the GOP’s younger generation of rising stars were young adults during the Reagan-Thatcher years, tuning in to the political scene for the first time and making the pair a formative influence on many considered to be future leaders of the movement.

“As someone who grew up in the Ronald Reagan era, I admired the special bond he had with Margaret Thatcher,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, a rising GOP star with 2016 presidential potential, in a statement.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona, likewise, recalled that he was working at a nongovernmental organization in Namibia when Thatcher swooped in to shore up a shaky United Nations accord granting independence to the new nation.

When Senator Flake had the opportunity to discuss the incident with Thatcher several years later at an event in Arizona, Flake said in a statement: “she remembered it well, and seemed to tense up and clench a fist just thinking about it. There was no going wobbly on her watch.”


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