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It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

Updated on February 9, 2014

It Can't Happen Here, A Warning Against Facism by Sinclair Lewis

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis is a great fictional novel that serves as a prophetic warning to the United States that shows the danger of Fascism that can creep up even in the U.S.  Published in 1935, it is considered Lewis's last great work, and had a play adapted from it, as well. This is a heavily political work that is very well known as one of his most famous, even so much so that modern authors often take up his warning when talking politics, like in the book It Can Happen Here

Copies of "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis

A good place to find used and new copies--even some first editions that are in pretty good shape.

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

Sinclair Lewis Dystopia | Political Dystopia | Sinclair Lewis Politics

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis is a political novel focusing around a folksy, self-conscious plain spoken Southern politician named Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip rises to power during a period of profound unrest in America, appealing to the "common man" of the American voters.

At this time (in a very pre-World War II setting) the United States is facing a slew of its worst existential crises to date, and the American people, once sunny, confident, and striving, are now scared, angry, and disillusioned.

Buzz Windrip appears to be a regular guy, personable, easy to get along with, and reasonable. He claimed to want America to be whatever one wanted, the land of the free and the brave, better than all others. Guided by his secretary Lee Sarason, he cozies up to the electorate by stoking their disdain for fancy ideas and encouraging them to follow their hearts, not their minds.

When Windrip is elected, all hell breaks loose. The dissent is crushed, the Bill of Rights is gutted as he stacks the Supreme Court, blame is placed on foreigners and war is declared (on Mexico), and "rehabilitation" (labor) camps are established to help shore up Windrip's vaunted "New Freedom," which toted the beauty of American freedom and branded anyone who disagreed or even questioned the President, as anti-freedom and anti-America while quietly killing freedom.

All that's really left of the old America are the flags and patriotic ditties, which for many is more than enough because they have others to blame. The blame falls on the "it can't happen here" crowd, those who have yet to realize that being American doesn't change your human nature.

Sinclair Lewis wanted to make the point that Americans are not inherently better than others. Whatever it is in human nature that attracts people to tyranny is in Americans like it's in anyone else.

The problem is that Americans are arrogant and oblivious, and so saying they have freedom is enough that they don't believe tyranny can happen in their country, even as it is going on right in front of their eyes.

Windrip's most formidable task, convincing Americans to renounce bedrock democratic principles, was already accomplished well before he took power. The United States was ripe for a Fascist takeover, it was just waiting for its moment. Through a combination of influences-his easy bearing chief among them (along with massive cash donations from Big Business, spineless disorganization in the liberal opposition, a stuffy aloof opponent, and support from religious fanatics who felt like they've been unfairly marginalized)-he wins the presidential election (sound familiar?).

Once in, he appoints his close personal friends and political advisers to high-level positions, stocks the Supreme Court with 'surprisingly unknown lawyers' who called him by his first name, takes away most of the power of Congress under the guise of national security, allows Big Business to dictate economic policy, consolidates the media to a few rich corrupt owners, and fills newspapers with syndicated gossip from Hollywood to keep everyone distracted.

Newspapermen worry that America is moving backward to a time when anti-German politicians renamed sauerkraut "Liberty Cabbage" and "hick legislators"...set up shop as scientific experts and made the world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of true science while silencing real scientists,'' but newspaper readers, wary of excessive negativity, stop paying attention, even when journalists who don't toe the line start disappearing.

Given the nature of "powerful and secret enemies" of America, who are always hiding infiltrated in your neighborhood, and always on the verge of "planning their last charge" to take away our freedom, always hiding around the next corner-an indefinite state of crisis is declared, with freedom tossed aside "until the threat passes."

The President assures this is for America's own safety, and as soon as the threat is over, the freedoms will come back.

Sure, some say these methods are extreme, but enemies are around everywhere, and since everyone is permanently in danger, and plain folks are tired of wishy-washy leaders, and feel the president's decisiveness is good leadership in a time of emergency-not a Fascist takeover.

Besides, as one man says, a Fascist dictatorship "couldn't happen here in America...we're a country of freemen!"

Can It Happen Here in the United States?

Reading It Can't Happen Here really makes you look at both political parties and begin to wonder, could Facsim sneak into the United States?

Can Facism ever take root in the United States?

See results

List of Sinclair Lewis Links

For more information on Sinclair Lewis, his works, and the antique value of his novels.

New copies of It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis has remained so relevant that it is still re-printed to this day.

It Can't Happen Here
It Can't Happen Here

The newest paperback printing of Sinclair Lewis's classic political novel.

It Can't Happen Here
It Can't Happen Here

An early collector's edition of Sinclair Lewis.


So Let's Fight About It!

Here's a chance to give your opinion on whether Facism can sneak into the United States or not--but please keep it civil! No name calling or foul language or else I'm going to have to be the mean 5th grade teacher who erases comments.

Is Facism sneaking into the United States?

Yes, it's been happening for years now!

Yes, it's been happening for years now!

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    • anonymous 7 years ago

      The govt already has used its heavy hand in bailing out the banks/GM...which are 'private' companies. Now they want to further increase their authority via "healthcare reform", "cap and trade", "job creation bills" by spending more of the taxpayers money. In 2009 the number of unionized workers who work for the govt SURPASSED those in the private economy for the first time. tick...tock...tick...tock...tick...tock

    • anonymous 8 years ago

      This book should be at least on every suggested summer reading list for rising high school seniors, or those students who will be taking American Govt the next year.

      The past 8 years in this country were forewarned in Mr Lewis's statement: If facism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag carrying a cross.

    • anonymous 8 years ago

      it's here

    • EshanMonteath 8 years ago

      Thanks for your comment, Chris, but I'm hardly "one of those conspiracy theorists." GPS chips are required in cell phones according to the FCC - so unless the FCC, Sprint, Verizion, NPR, and Cingular are all conspiracy theorists (or liars) it is required. See:

      It's a government requirement that every cell phone has a GPS that is trackable as long as you know the phone number and the phone is turned on: and I wasn't saying the government is tracking everyone, I'm pointing out that there are systems in place that would make it possible.

      I have no idea what "lack of evidence" as evidence means. I would think a lack of evidence would mean there is no evidence. But I have evidence, as the links show. The FCC requires a GPS in cell phones. That's not conspiracy, that's federal law, so I'm not a nut job acting from emotion.

      Most conspiracy theorists I think are in left field, but there's a long history of the government saying one thing and then revealing later they were lying (Tuskegee experiements, CIA disposing of foreign govts, Abu Gahrib as a 'myth', etc.)

      So my point is that I'm not a nut, the infrastructure is there, people can make their own choices whether it's being used or not.

    • EshanMonteath 9 years ago

      It's sad, but it's been happening thanks to both parties. Every cellphone has a GPS chip that the government has a code to track, phones are tapped without warrants, and gun restrictions are constantly being voted on while all the news is controlled by 2-3 people. Real democracy is hard to find on the national level.

    No, people are just overreacting!

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      • anonymous 8 years ago

        It can happen, but it's not as simple as Lewis made it sound...then again, when 9/11 happened, we all remember the Patriot Act. It's a touch question. But my main point is that what Monteath said was wrong - not every cellphone has a GPS chip, and those that do are not used for government tracking purposes. Basically, he is just a conspiracy theorist who considers a lack of evidence as actual evidence. I know, that sounds weird, but that's how conspiracy theorists tend to think. Lewis warns of the dangers of using emotion as the primary factor of decision making, but that's exactly what conspiracy theorists do.

      Sinclair Lewis Works from Amazon

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      It Can't Happen Here: Odds & Ends

      "It Can't Happen Here" is a great first edition starter book for all those new Bookhounds out there.

      Also feel free to check out this page on how to become a freelance writer.

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      Can it Happen Here?

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