It was either Huey Long or Sinclair Lewis who said, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.”
Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951), was one of America’s many great novelists. They included, classics such as Main Street, Elmer Gantry, and Babbit. But he also wrote one about fascism coming to America. Sadly I must admit I have not read it, but I have heard it discussed so often I know a little bit about it. As faithful readers of this blog will know, ignorance on a subject has never stopped me from blogging about it. So why start now?
The book is called It Can’t Happen Here, and was published in 1935 when populist and authoritarian demagogues were achieving a lot of popularity in Europe. I intend to blog more about that era because I think it was very important for the birth of fascism. Americans, always thinking (wrongly) that this could never happen in the land of the free, were grossly overconfident that they had nothing to worry about. Until the invasion of the Capitol by rabid Trumpists that is. Now some people know better.
Sinclair Lewis showed in his persuasive book that this confidence was not justified. He believed, as do I, and as did Philip Roth in his book, the Plot to Destroy America, which I have blogged about, that the United States could easily slip into fascism.
I learned this about the book: The main character, Buzz Windrip, appeals to voters with a mix of crass language and nativist ideology. Once elected, he solidifies his power by energizing his base against immigrants, people on welfare, and the liberal press. The novel has been called “frighteningly contemporary” in the wake of the Trump campaign and election.
Does this not sound eerily familiar?
It is not easy to define fascism. Many definitions have been proposed. A friend of mine told me a number of years ago that the US was infested with fascists. I thought he was exaggerating. I did not think Trump was a fascist. I thought he was an authoritarian—sort of a fascist light. Now I think he was right.
As Bill Maher said on his television show, “Yes there are many definitions of fascism, but if you can’t call the people who wanted to undo an election that even a lot of judges appointed by Trump said was basically fair, then I don’t know what fascism is.” When you not only try to undo the election but encourage your supporters to storm the Capitol to overturn the election by force—that is fascism.
A while ago, I said fascism was the philosophy of the bully. You could say it is the philosophy of might is right. Is that not exactly what we saw on January 6, 2021 at the insurrection of the Capitol in Washington? People who don’t accept a democratic election. That is what all fascists have in common. A lot people forget that Adolf Hitler was originally elected, before he destroyed democracy in Germany.
And don’t get lulled into a false sense of security that this problem has gone away because Trump is ensconced in Mar-a-Lago. Right after it happened, 45% of Republicans approved of the rampage! After the riot was quelled, a large majority of Republican Senators and Congressmen and Congress women voted for exactly what the rioters were demanding—i.e. that the election be ignored!
Did you notice all the flags and signs that referred to Jesus and Trump? Maybe Sinclair Lewis or Huey Long were right? And this battle is not over.
Fascism is alive and well in America.