It Can’t Happen Here

An excerpt from the book, It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis (1935).

“If Bishop Prang, our Savonarola in a Cadillac 16, swings his radio audience and his League of Forgotten Men to Buzz Windrip, Buzz will win.  People will think they’re electing him to create more economic security.  Then watch the Terror! God knows there’s been enough indication that we can have tyranny in America—the fix of the Southern sharecroppers, the working conditions of the miners and garment-makers. and our keeping Mooney [a political activist wrongly imprisoned] in prison so many years.  But wait till Windrip shows us how to say it with machine guns!  Democracy—here and in Britain and France, it hasn’t been so universal a sniveling slavery as Naziism in Germany, such an imagination-hating, pharisaic materialism as Russia—even if it has produced altogether too much power and money.  On the whole, with scandalous exceptions, Democracy’s given the ordinary worker more dignity than he ever had.  That may be menaced now by Windrip—all the Windrips.  All right!  Maybe we’ll have to fight paternal dictatorship with a little sound patricide—fight machine guns with machine guns.  Wait till Buzz takes charge of us.  A real Fascist dictatorship!”

“Nonsense! Nonsense!” snorted Tasbrough.  “That couldn’t happen here in America, not possibly!  We’re a country of freemen.”

“The answer to that,” suggested Doremus Jessup, “if Mr. Falck will forgive me, is ‘the hell it can’t!’ Why, there’s no country in the world that can get more hysterical—yes, or more obsequious!—than America.  Look how Huey Long [a proponent of socialistic wealth redistribution] became absolute monarch over Louisiana and how the Right Honorable Mr. Senator Berzelius Windrip owns his State.  Listen to Bishop Prang and Father Coughlin [evangelist] on the radio—divine oracles, to millions.  Remember how casually most Americans have accepted Tammany grafting and Chicago gangs and the crookedness of so many of President Harding’s appointees?  Could Hitler’s bunch, or Windrip’s, be worse?  Remember the Kuklux Klan?  Remember our war hysteria, when we called sauerkraut ‘Liberty cabbage’ and somebody actually proposed calling German measles ‘Liberty measles’?  And wartime censorship of honest papers?  Bad as Russia!  Remember our kissing the—well, the feet of Billy Sunday, the million-dollar evangelist, and of Aimee McPherson [con artist evangelist], who swam from the Pacific Ocean clear into the Arizona desert and got away with it?  Remember Voliva [Flat Earth proponent, in 1914] and Mother Eddy [creator of Christian Science]? …Remember our Red scares and our Catholic scares, when all well-informed people knew that the O.G.P.U. were hiding out in Oskaloosa, and the Republicans campaigning against Al Smith told the Carolina mountaineers that if Al won the Pope would illegitimatize their children?  Remember Tom Heflin [a white supremacist and Democratic senator] and Tom Dixon?  Remember when the hick legislators in certain states, in obedience to William Jennings Bryan [a famous populist, also pacifist], who learned his biology from his pious old grandma, set up shop as scientific experts and made the whole world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution?… Remember the Kentucky night-riders?  Remember how trainloads of people have gone to enjoy lynchings?  Not happen here?  Prohibition—shooting down people just because they might be transporting liquor—no, that couldn’t happen in America!  Why, where in all history has there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours!  We’re ready to start on a Children’s Crusade [crusades, to drive Muslims from the Holy Land in the 1200s] –only of adults—right now, and the Right Reverend Abbots Windrip and Prang are all ready to lead it!”

“Well, what if they are?” protested R.C. Crowley.  “It might not be so bad.  I don’t like all these irresponsible attacks on us bankers all the time.  Of course, Senator Windrip has to pretend publicly to bawl the banks out, but once he gets into power he’ll give the banks their proper influence in the administration and take our expert financial advice.  Yes.  Why are you so afraid of the word ‘Fascism,’ Doremus?  Just a word—just a word!  And might not be so bad, with all the lazy bums we got panhandling relief nowadays, and living on my income tax and yours—not so worse to have a real Strong Man, like Hitler or Mussolini—like Napoleon or Bismarck in the good old days—and have ’em really run the country and make it efficient and prosperous again.  ‘Nother words, have a doctor who won’t take any back-chat, but really boss the patient and make him get well whether he likes it or not!”

“Yes!” said Emil Staubmeyer.  “Didn’t Hitler save Germany from the Red Plague of Marxism?  I got cousins there, I know!”

“Hm,” said Doremus, as often Doremus did say it.  “Cure the evils of Democracy by the evils of Fascism!  Funny therapeutics.  I’ve heard of curing syphilis by giving the patient malaria, but I’ve never heard of their curing malaria by giving the patient syphilis!”

….”[T]his chewing the rag is all nonsense anyway.  As Crowley says, might be a good thing to have a strong man in the saddle, but—it just can’t happen here in America.”

And it seemed to Doremus that the softly moving lips of the Reverend Mr. Falck were framing, “The hell it can’t!”

(p.16-8)

Lewis, Sinclair. (1935). It Can’t Happen Here. New York: New American Library.

——————————————————————————————————-

Imagine the following:

“If Rush Limbaugh and David Duke swing their radio audience and the League of Forgotten Men to Donald Trump, Trump will win.  People will think they’re electing him to create more economic security.  Then watch the Terror! God knows there’s been enough indication that we can have tyranny in America—the fix of the poor Southerners, the working conditions of the miners and retail workers. …  But wait till Trump shows us how to say it with machine guns!  Democracy—here and in Britain and France, it hasn’t been so universal a sniveling slavery as Naziism in Germany, such an imagination-hating, pharisaic materialism as Russia—even if it has produced altogether too much power and money.  On the whole, with scandalous exceptions, Democracy’s given the ordinary worker more dignity than he ever had.  That may be menaced now by Trump—all the Trumps.  or Bush – all the Bush’s. All right!  Maybe we’ll have to fight paternal dictatorship with a little sound patricide—fight machine guns with machine guns.  Wait till the Donald takes charge of us.  A real Fascist dictatorship!”

“Nonsense! Nonsense!” snorted Tasbrough.  “That couldn’t happen here in America, not possibly!  We’re a country of freemen.”

“The answer to that,” suggested Doremus Jessup, “if Mr. Falck will forgive me, is ‘the hell it can’t!’ Why, there’s no country in the world that can get more hysterical—yes, or more obsequious!—than America.  Look how Bernie Sanders wants to redistribute the wealth, how Bobby Jindal ruined Louisiana.  Listen to Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson on the radio—divine oracles, to millions.  Remember how casually most Americans have accepted Chris Christie’s bridge scandal or Rick Perry’s felony indictment or Chicago gangs or police violence targeting unarmed black men and the crookedness of so many of senators?  Could Hitler’s bunch, or Trump’s, be worse?  Remember the Kuklux Klan?  Remember our war hysteria, when we called french fries ‘Freedom fries’? Remember the Patriot Act?  And wartime censorship of honest papers?  Bad as Russia!  Remember our kissing the—well, the feet of Pat Robertson, the million-dollar evangelist, and of Kenneth and Gloria Copeland?  Remember Scientology ? …Remember our Red scares and our Catholic scares and our Muslim scares, when all well-informed people knew that the KGB were hiding out in Oskaloosa, and how Catholicism was an issue when John F. Kennedy ran for president? Remember Tom Heflin and Tom Dixon and David Duke?  Remember when the hick legislators in certain states, in obedience to William Jennings Bryan, who learned his biology from his pious old grandma, set up shop as scientific experts and made the whole world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution? or only teaching creationism? or abstinence? or that global warming isn’t real?… Remember the Kentucky night-riders?  Remember how trainloads of people have gone to enjoy lynchings?  Not happen here?  War on Drugs—mandatory minimums just because they have a small amount of cannabis?—no, that couldn’t happen in America!  Why, where in all history has there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours!  We’re ready to start on a Children’s Crusade–only of adults—right now, and Donald Trump and Cruz are all ready to lead it!”

“Well, what if they are?” protested R.C. Crowley.  “It might not be so bad.  I don’t like all these irresponsible attacks on us bankers all the time.  Of course, Cruz has to pretend publicly to bawl the banks out, but once he gets into power he’ll give the banks their proper influence in the administration and take our expert financial advice.  Yes.  Why are you so afraid of the word ‘Fascism,’ Doremus?  Just a word—just a word!  And might not be so bad, with all the lazy bums we got panhandling welfare nowadays, and living on my income tax and yours—not so worse to have a real Strong Man, like Hitler or Mussolini—like Napoleon or Bismarck in the good old days—and have ’em really run the country and make America great again.  ‘Nother words, have a doctor who won’t take any back-chat, but really boss the patient and make him get well whether he likes it or not!”

“Yes!” said Emil Staubmeyer.  “Didn’t Hitler save Germany from the Red Plague of Marxism?  I got cousins there, I know!”

“Hm,” said Doremus, as often Doremus did say it.  “Cure the evils of Democracy by the evils of Fascism!  Funny therapeutics.  I’ve heard of treating cancer with chemotherapy, but not giving cancer to patients on chemo.”

….”[T]his chewing the rag is all nonsense anyway.  As Crowley says, might be a good thing to have a strong man in the saddle, but—it just can’t happen here in America.”

And it seemed to Doremus that the softly moving lips of the Reverend Mr. Falck were framing, “The hell it can’t!”

————————————————-
Footnotes:

James Thomas Heflin was a white supremacist and Democratic senator.  David Duke was a former Grand Wizard of the KKK, he ran for president in 1988, he switched from Democrat to Republican in the ’80s and was actually a senator of Lousiana from 1989-92.  Apparently, he forced welfare recipients to be tested for narcotics before they could receive aid.  He almost was the governor of Louisiana in ’91.  (and Trump certainly knows who David Duke is, apart from the 2000 clip where he mentions him by name, as it states that David Duke and Pat Buchanan were the reason Trump dropped out of election in 1999)  Apparently Duke was convicted of tax fraud in 2002, and arrested in the Czech Republic in 2009 for promoting Naziism.  He was expelled from Italy.  The Swiss don’t want him either.  And this guy endorsed Trump, and Trump didn’t speak out against it, at least not for awhile, until Trump finally tweeted later, something akin to, “ok fine, I disavow. whatever.”

 

 

 

Related Links

It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis, (barnesandnoble.com)

Election 2016 links, my blog, (wordpress.com)

First Presidential Debate 2016 outline, my blog, (wordpress.com)

No, Not Trump, Not Ever, David Brooks, 3/18/16 (nytimes.com)

Rush Limbaugh calls Sandra Fluke a slut (youtube.com, The Young Turks)

2012 GOP candidates not exactly disagreeing with Rush Limbaugh’s comments (youtube.com, The Young Turks)

Limbaugh and other Republican media hosts siding with Cruz (youtube.com, The Young Turks)

Limbaugh confused by Trump (youtube.com, The Young Turks)

http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/

Rachel Maddow: Republican Party May Just Survive Trump (Hulu Plus, hulu.com)

Daily Show with John Stewart on global warming: Burn Noticed (youtube.com)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Climate Change (youtube.com)

Bernie Sanders on Scandinavian socialism (youtube.com, Late Night with Seth Meyers)

What Americans Don’t Understand about Nordic Countries, Business Insider (businessinsider.com)

It really can happen here: the novel that foreshadowed Donald Trump’s authoritarian appeal (salon.com)

WordPress:

The Plot Against America, P. Roth

Hitler was a Christian? Trump is a Christian!

is there an emptiness of Trump?

The Truth about Trump?

Opinion: Why Donald Trump is the Worst Presidential Candidate

It Can’t Happen Here, a video about fascism

Us, Them & the Boogeyman

Just for Fun:

Donald Trump quiz, with facial expressions (playbuzz.com)

12 countries draw political cartoons of Trump (playbuzz.com)

Quiz: Real Trump Policy or policy of our warped imaginations? (playbuzz.com)

#SaferThanaTrumpRally: TheWrap, GlobalNewsLatin Post, Twitter

Sample Questions from Trump University Exam (newyorker.com)

http://donaldtrumpisanasshole.com/

 

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One Response to “It Can’t Happen Here”

  1. Excellent and scary post. I read the book back in January, and have been feeling uneasy ever since.


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