I’ve been watching the back-and-forth regarding Thatcher’s legacy on the social media silo sites. And friends of mine have made a few really bad arguments to try and defend Margaret Thatcher from the charges laid against her.
It’s the economy.
The first argument people say is something along the lines of: Yes, Thatcher was a nasty piece of work. But what she did was essential because the economy was up shit creek and she needed to fix it otherwise Britain would have collapsed economically.
I hate to sound like a broken record but… Section 28. No economic circumstance can justify the phrase “homosexuality as pretended family relationship”. Plenty of the things Thatcher did which her critics hate her for most have nothing to do with the economy. Her opposition to the anti-apartheid movement: what great moral leadership there.
Ah, but she was elected fair and square, repeatedly. She must have been doing something right.
Sorry, that’s not a valid argument. There are people out there who undoubtedly think The Cheeky Girls have made more of a contribution to Western culture than Mozart. Just because a bunch of people agree with something doesn’t mean it is right. An appeal to popular opinion ignores the actual point under discussion, namely whether people are justified in holding the opinions they do, whether they are morally right or not, whether the opinions are in the best interests of the country (etc.).
It is perfectly legitimate to criticise a politician because they do things you don’t like. The democratic process isn’t a magic wand: sometimes we elect people who do bad things. That doesn’t mean the bad things are somehow good. Hitler won an election at one point. That the country voted for a politician who gave us Section 28 doesn’t mean that Section 28 was somehow acceptable. (Feel free to fill in your least favourite Thatcher policy in place.)
The “well, she was democratically elected, therefore you can’t say anything bad about her” argument sets a pretty low bar. No, she wasn’t a dictator. She’s an improvement on Kim Jong-Il. That’s a fairly low bar to meet. Saying Thatcher was alright because she was a democratically elected leader rather than a dictator is a bit like going to a dinner party and saying “well, the meal wasn’t too bad, it wasn’t a bloody turd on a plate”. I have slightly higher expectations of prime ministers of democracies (which, you know, we all take irrational pride in being for some reason) than “slightly better than a totalitarian dictator”.