Philip Roth was a brilliant America writer. He understood the American tendency towards fascism long before any one had ever head of Donald Trump. He wrote a book about it in 2004 called, The Plot Against America. It was a lifetime ago in other words. This year a limited television series was shown based on that book. It was well worth seeing. It really demonstrated how easily America could be tipped into fascism. I would add that Canada is not all that different.
If you think fascism could never come to America or Canada this is a series worth watching and thinking about. The series asks us to consider what life in the United States would be like if Charles Lindberg a famous aviator and racist pundit had defeated Franklin Roosevelt in a presidential election in 1940. Remember, in real life, America had a lot of Nazi supporters at the time. Fro example, there was a political rally in New York that filled Madison Square Gardens with Nazi supporters. Is that hard to believe? In the series Roth Imagined the president signing a treaty of neutrality with Adolf Hitler as a significant number of Americans actually advocated. Then president Lindbergh slowly unleashed his anti-Semitic views, though often his words that were emitted by dog whistles that his supporters understood and many other Americans took as innocent. How would that turn out?
The New York Times described the series this way:
“In other words, as James Poniewozik of the New York Times wrote when the show debuted in March, “HBO asks the audience to imagine the outlandish idea that the presidency might have been won by a celebrity demagogue new to politics who appeals to bigotry and fear, who ran on the slogan of ‘America First,’ who boasts of having ‘taken our country back,’ who sees fine people on the most reprehensible side of history, who cosies up to despots and behaves as if he were their puppet.”
Can you think of anyone this might describe?
Even when Trump is no longer the president, whenever that happens, as Allen Levine University of Winnipeg professor of politics and Winnipeg Free columnist opined, “It is not surprising that many political commentators are wondering if the country is veering toward fascism and authoritarianism.”
Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, not exactly a flaming radical though tinged deeply with leftist tendencies, said in a tweet on June 2, 2020, “Trump is a fascist, and he is promoting fascism in America.” I keep repeating this but I am not concerned so much about Trump. I am more concerned about the fact that more than 70 million Americans voted for him in the 2020 election. That is deeply troubling to me.
Actually, I agree with Levine , that
“In truth, Trump is not so much a fascist as an authoritarian; or more accurately, a would-be tin-pot dictator: “An autocratic ruler with little political credibility and delusions of grandeur.” He declared last year that article II of the U.S. constitution — which defines the powers of the president — gives him the right “to do whatever I want.”
In an interview a few months ago, he claimed that as president his “authority is total.” It is not, but by his impulsive actions Trump has shown time and again that he has no understanding or will not abide by the “checks and balances” system of American government if he can help it. This has become even more blatant after he saw how loyal to him his supporters remained after the impeachment trial earlier this year.
The television series shows how with such leaders the country could slide toward fascism. With the prospect of the current president refusing to leave the White House, we are now seeing evidence of that all around us. I don’t think it is wise to assume that this could not happen. Watch the series because it might disturb your sleep.