Tyranny? in America? Sinclair Lewis imagined it in his cautionary 1935 tale It Can’t Happen Here, the 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner

To highlight the Prometheus Awards’ four-decade history and make clear why each winner deserves recognition as a notable pro-freedom and/or anti-authoritarian work, the Libertarian Futurist Society is publishing an Appreciation series of all past award-winners.

Here is an Appreciation for Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here, a 2007 Prometheus Hall of Fame winner for Best Classic Fiction.

By Michael Grossberg

“It can’t happen here.”

That common American comment, widely uttered in the 1920s and 1930s as the rest of the world seemingly was going crazy or descending into tyranny and barbarism, became the resonant title of Sinclair Lewis’ cautionary 1935 novel.

First published during the dark era of 1930s collectivism marked by the rise of fascism in Italy and Hitler’s National Socialism in Germany, It Can’t Happen Here offers a semi-satirical tale and timely warning about the potential rise of similar totalitarianism within the United States.

The central character Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip is a demagogue who incites fear while promoting traditional patriotism and ends up elected U.S. President. Windrip takes complete control of the government by exploiting a ruthless paramilitary force, outlawing dissent, ending women’s and minority rights and eliminating the influence of the U.S. Congress.

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