Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Can it happen here? You be the decider."

Recently the news has been full of reports of the executive branch of our federal government expanding its activities, legally or illegally. The end result, if the citizens remain uninformed and inactive, is authoritarianism.

Why am I not surprised? Because I read Joe Conason’s IT CAN HAPPEN HERE several months ago. I decided to do a book review of this important book, posting about my plan to do a “group” book review on March 5, 2007. On April 17, I posted a couple of comments about the book and again invited people to read the book and send me their comments.

I don’t think group book reviews have caught on yet, but my 87 year-old first-cousin-twice removed, June, sent me a great review. Her opening paragraph: “Joe Conason has hit the nail on the head. It Can Happen Here is well-written and well- documented. Can it happen here? You be the decider.”

In several paragraphs, June succinctly describes the significant factors that lead her to believe that this country has reason to doubt the future of democracy. She ends her review with, “Can it happen here? It's up to we the people to save our democracy as we knew it.”

If June’s review doesn’t persuade you to read Joe Conason’s most recent book, I suggest you read Daily Kos diarist SusanG's book review, posted February 25, available here. Susan opens her review with, “Telling the political story of the creeping unitary executive has been a challenge for both observant traditionalists and progressives. Resorting to Hitler comparisons when discussing the nation’s constitutional plight with the underinformed brings easy dismissal on the grounds of exaggeration. Drawing parallels between the rise of European fascism invites discussions of minute and often unimportant distinctions about whether uniforms are worn or trains run on time. Delving back further to comparisons with the Roman Empire rely heavily on a knowledge base that is often lacking in modern discussions.

"But Joe Conason has hit upon an elegant solution on which to hang a very American narrative by reviving interest in Sinclair Lewis’ disturbingly prescient It Can’t Happen Here, written in 1935 as a response to Lewis’ concern about the rise of Italian fascism.”

Susan notes that one of the most widely cited quotations of late comes from Joe Conason: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.”

What is authoritarianism? In the introduction to the book, Conason describes it as follows: “The most obvious symptoms can be observed in a regime’s style, which features an almost casual contempt for democratic and lawful norms; an expanding appetite for executive control at the expense of constitutional balances; a reckless impulse to corrupt national institutions with partisan idealogy; and the ugly tendency to spear dissent as disloyalty.”
Can it happen here? You be the decider. Do you think it has already happened?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Arthur M. Schlesinger in 1974 wrote an article entitled "What if we don't impeach?"

He's prescient.

You can find the article at

I recommend reading it because everything he said then applies today.