It Can't Happen Here

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. This one I read for a book club.

Sinclair Lewis writes this novel in 1935, when he describes the rise of populist, yet unconventional, governor Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip who defeats FDR in the 1936 Democratic primary and wins the national election promising to nationalize the banks, neuter trade unions, share corporate profits with people, not to mention forcing Jews to claim loyalty to the US (and these policies) and stripping voting and education rights from African Americans. Once he wins, Windrip dissolves most government institutions and rules through a paramilitary force.

The story centers on Vermont journalist (and newspaper owner) Doremus Jessup and his opposition to Chief Windrip and his "Corpo" state. But you can't help but notice how relevant it is to today.

If there were ever is a fascist dictatorship here, American humor and pioneer independence are so marked hat it will be absolutely different than anything in Europe. For almost a year after Windrup came in, this seemed true. The chief was photographed playing poker, in shirtsleeves, and with a derby on the back of his head, with a newspaper, a chauffeur and a pair of rugged steel workers.


They planned, these idealists, to correct, as quickly as might be, the errors of brutality and crookedness among officials. They saw arising a Corpo art, a Corpo learning, profound and real, divested of the traditional snobbishness of the old-time universities, valiant with youth, and only the more beautiful in that it was “useful.” They were convinced that Corpoism was Communism cleansed of foreign domination and the violence and indignity of mob dictatorship; Monarchism with the chosen hero of the people for monarch; Fascism without grasping and selfish leaders; freedom with order and discipline; Traditional America without its waste and provincial cockiness.
Like all religious zealots, they had blessed capacity for blindness, and they were presently convinced that (since the only newspapers they ever read certainly said nothing about it) there were no more of blood-smeared cruelties in court and concentration camp; no restrictions of speech or thought. They believed that they never criticized the Corpo régime not because they were censored, but because “that sort of thing was, like obscenity, such awfully bad form.”