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It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush Hardcover – February 20, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here envisaged a right-wing populist president, advised by a cunning political strategist and backed by a cynical alliance of religious fundamentalists and corporations, who uses security threats to consolidate dictatorial powers, destroy civil liberties and establish folksy fascism. This is a virtual blueprint for the current Bush administration, a "corrupt and authoritarian ruling clique" that accords the president "the prerogatives of a king," argues political columnist Conason (Big Lies) in this lively, if overwrought, j'accuse. He surveys a long list of what he sees as Bush administration affronts to freedom and democracy: military tribunals, torture, warrantless wiretapping, politically motivated terrorism alerts, a war based on fraudulent pretexts, the Abramoff scandals, the handover of policy making to business interests and Christian zealots, tight secrecy coupled with a dissemination of propaganda through the right-wing media and a lawless contempt for constitutional constraints on the presidency. His indictment often hits home, but it's broad and indiscriminate, treating biased journalism, religion-tinged politics and lobbying scandals as signs of creeping fascism rather than age-old commonplaces of democracy. Conason delivers his usual cogent, hard-hitting critique of Republican misdeeds, but his insinuations of authoritarianism, coming just as the Republicans have been voted out of power in Congress, seem badly timed. (Mar. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Conason follows Sinclair Lewis' 1935 book It Can't Happen Here with a firm assertion that fascism can indeed take root and blossom in the U.S. if Americans aren't more vigilant about freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Although we are not facing full-blown fascism, Conason sees a "gradual and insidious turn toward authoritarian rule" for the first time since the Nixon administration. He explores how and why Lewis' grim and amusing tale resonates today as Americans watch an increasingly secretive Bush administration usurp the power of the legislature and disregard provisions of the Constitution by stoking fear of terrorism. Conason, author of Big Lies (2003) and The Raw Deal (2005), points to periods throughout history when nations have been tempted by tyrants to turn over the reins of government, and the factors in U.S. history and culture that make us vulnerable to similar impulses now, in the midst of manufactured fears. However readers might feel about Conason's political viewpoints, his caution is worth considering. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (February 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312356056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312356057
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,211,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 109 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Barricklow VINE VOICE on March 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Fascist Mussolini once described fascism as simply Big Government & Big Business working hand in hand.

Joe Conason describes Sinclair Lewis's book, "It Can Happen Here", extremely well. In the book the newly elected president with has advisor, seize upon an economic crisis to aggregate more & more power to the White House. The Adminstration proceeds to turn Congress into an advisory board, as they start appointing political hacks to the courts. Acting on the assumption that constitutional procedures are a dangerous hindrance to executive powers, the administration swiftly begins to dismantel them. The U.S. Government begins to conduct business in near total secrecy (controlling or, at best suppressing the media). The country is eventually bankrupted while the wealthy few at the top grow even more wealthy. Any citizen who dares to question the new order is brought before a military trbunal to answer charges of treason. The book ends with the utter suppression of dissent, the complete nixing of the Bill Of Rights, the establishment of labor & dentention camps, and the violent suppression of labor unions & political rivals.

The author gives us pertinent background to Lewis. For instance,Lewis had been married to Dorothy Thompson, who had been expelled from Berlin by the Nazis a year earlier and quickly became America's most outspoken critic of Fascism.

After providing an excellent backdrop to the rise of Hitler's power the author bring us to the present and not so perfect present/future:

Our very corporate style of government, most appropriate to a corporate state, where business executives and government officials can collude & pillage without concern for the troublesome checks and balances of a constitutional democracy.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on April 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While I agree with some of the other reviews that state much of this information is available elsewhere, it was nice to find it in a well written book nicely packaged together.

The book begins with a nicely written piece on the Sinclair Lewis book "It Can't Happen Here" and compares the current administration to that in the Lewis book. The author then begins a tour of the cast, which include all the favorites: Bush, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and dozens of others, many of whom were players in the Nixon and Reagan administrations.

Descriptions are provided of the actions taken by this administration to create a perpetual war, so that the power of the President can become unitary. There is also thoughtful commentary of how the religious right and the corporate right got together behind Bush.

The book is not flattering to most of the participants, and it is scary how close we were to having a theocracy in the United Sates. Although many people have battled to keep this from occurring, it seems as if it was the self destructive work of the current administration that kept us free from that occurrence.

This book is recommended for any thinking American, and should be required reading for every voting American. This book would also be a good background book for those thinking the President should be impeached. The book is well researched, documented and written!
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Peter Bloch on April 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you read a lot of newspapers every day, there probably won't be a lot of new information you'll learn in this book. But most of us don't--and even for those who know many of the facts, Conason's compelling story of how our government is being transformed into the opposite of what the American Revolution was fought for is necessary reading as we go into one of the most important elections in our history. Read this book and then consider where the different candidates stand--not on the War, not on stem-cell research--but on the fundamental qualities that made America the greatest nation in the world. Conservatives probably think they're going to hate this book, but conservatives more than anyone need to see how their principles have been hijacked to create the biggest, most intrusive government ever.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Richard Cumming on April 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Joe Conason nails the Bushies. Richard Nixon claimed that he "was not a crook." His link to this administration is clear and Conason shows us the old Nixon boys in detail, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rove as they attempted to give George W. Bush imperial powers with their campaign of lies and deceits.

This secretive administration has tried to trash the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Hopefully, it's not too late to stop them. Americans are starting to awaken from our national nightmare, the Bushies.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By C. Boese on May 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Conason really drives home the need to link authoritarian thinking to other elements of fascism (such as corporatism, cronyism, and other corruptions of good government).

Of the group, I fear authoritarianism most of all, because it demands blind adherence to X, whatever X is deemed to be. Authoritarianism is ultimately classist as well, because it divides the world into an elitist class of relativist-thinking Machiavellian authorities, and a class of those who are meant to be nothing more than blind followers of the authorities.

That speaks greatly to the fools they deem the followers to be, and reflects poorly on the educational "reforms" executed by this administration, most to indoctrinate authoritarian thinking and the shut down of critical thinking and questioning abilities, anything that might lead one of those blind followers to stand up and say "the emperor isn't wearing any clothes."

So-called "faith-based" initiatives are also a thinly-cloaked attempt to further indoctrinate authoritarianism and blind-goose-stepping, by setting up strict hierarchies of patriarchal authority all over again, like the Divine Right of Kings, reining in the empowerment of women, anything that might lead to free-thinking dissent.

The TRUE IRONY of all of this persuasion process is that the so-called authoritarian elitist class are deep relativists, far more postmodern than most intellectual postmodernists.
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