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It Can't Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis

Second paragraph of third chapter:
But Isaiah College has come up in the world today - excepting educationally- for in 1931 it held the Dartmouth football team down to 64 to 36.
My first book of 2018 - a near future history of a far-right takeover in the USA in the mid-1930s, which of course seems all too relevant today. Buzz Windrip, a populist governor who is clearly related to the real-life Huey Long, displaces Franklin Roosevelt as the Democratic candidate in 1936 and wins the election on a platform of guaranteeing every man a basic income, unless they are black in which case they get a maximum income, and basically making America great again. Within days of his inauguration, he removes Congress and the Supreme Court and rules supreme. Like Hitler, Windrip co-opts partners on the way up and casually tosses them aside once he has got there. Meanwhile, repression of anyone who resists or criticises the regime becomes the state's most visible interaction with its citizens. The only thing missing is genocide, though the treatment of black Americans comes close. The hero is Vermont liberal journalist Doremus Jessup, whose family and lover feel the brunt of the new regime at first hand; he endures a hellish time in a prison camp before escaping and joining the resistance as the regime crumbles.

Obviously one looks for parallels to the current US situation. It's not as bad as Lewis's world. Most notably, there is no militia out there employing violence to further the president's agenda. Congress and the Supreme Court may be pretty awful, but they are not under White House control either. Windrip's master of propaganda, Lee Sarason, becomes Secretary of State and then displaces him completely, whereas Steve Bannon has now been relegated to the outer darkness. Basically the Trump administration is nothing like as competent as the Windrip administration - also of course nothing like as popular; Windrip wins the election handsomely whereas Trump lost the popular vote.

I read Main Street more than a decade ago and really enjoyed it; this was excellent also. Get it here.

This was the most popular book I acquired in 2017. Next on that list is The Island Of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Gregory Hullender
Jan. 7th, 2018 07:59 pm (UTC)
Blessed by Incompetence
Yes, "It can't happen here" highlights an irony of America's current situation: we're blessed by Trump's incompetence. He really does want to be a dictator--he just isn't able to pull it off.

What scares me the most is that, now that he's shown it's possible for someone to win election on a fascist platform, we will see a competent fascist run in 2020 or 2024.
huskyteer
Jan. 8th, 2018 07:44 am (UTC)
I read this recently and found the style and humour a bit dated for my liking (and I speak as one who reads and enjoys plenty of other books of similar vintage). It had a very effective way of suddenly veering from comedy into dreadfulness, though.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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