Some of the most prominent conservative leaders of the 20th century refused to support Nelson Mandela or his political party, the African National Congress. President Ronald Reagan preferred “constructive engagement” with the apartheid regime. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opposed sanctions against South Africa. Future Vice President Dick Cheney voted against a resolution demanding Mandela’s freedom. All true.
The left is playing up these cherry-picked facts to reinforce their desperate attempt to label conservatives in general and Republicans in particular as racists. They ignore the fact that there were many people who differed with Mandela and the ANC, yet also opposed apartheid. South Africa’s liberal Progressive Party, for example, led by Helen Suzman, opposed the apartheid regime but also opposed economic sanctions against it.
More important, the left is ignoring the context in which conservatives were skeptical of Mandela and the ANC–namely, the fact that they had aligned themselves with the Soviet Union, as well as some of the most villainous figures of the time, including Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, and Muammar Ghadafi. For conservatives, the fight against Soviet communism was the overriding strategic concern, and Mandela had chosen the wrong side.