Review: It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis

I first read this book around 50 years ago and have read it several times since. When it was reissued in the late 1960s, the publisher touted it as being especially relevant to the political turmoil of the Nixon era. Little did anyone realise then how much more relevant it would be now, 85 years after it first appeared.

Reading the book in the Trump era, one is struck by a discussion early on in the book when characters make the first “it can’t happen here” argument about the possibility of fascism in America. The main character, Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup, replies that of course it can happen here — that American history has a dark side, a tradition of anti-labor repression, lynching, slavery, racism, xenophobia and so on. It’s not all about the Founding Fathers with their vision of all men being created equal.

Essential reading today for anyone who wants to understand what is happening in America, and what could happen next.