Last modified on 8 May 2009, at 19:09

It Can't Happen Here

It Can't Happen Here was a 1935 novel by American writer Sinclair Lewis. It deals with a fictional U.S. President, Buzz Windrip, elected in 1936. Windrip turned the United States into a fascist dictatorship, by playing upon citizens' fear of an imaginary Communist threat. Lewis demonstrates how easily a tyrant could grab and hold power in America:

  • Condemning liberals and other opponents for their lack of patriotism
  • Arresting suspected insurgents and placing them in concentration camps
  • Outlawing habeas corpus for anyone the government suspects of being an enemy combatant, and allowing forms of torture
  • Declaring martial law, and keeping citizens in line with a gang of thugs known as the Minute Men
  • Crushing of civil rights, especially those of minorities
  • Condemning the public schools, colleges, scientists, and the medical community for their opposition
  • Promising to lower taxes and hand out large tax rebates
  • Threatening war with Mexico by creating an imagined threat posed by immigrants

Windrip's dictatorship eventually fails; not due to people's revolution, but betrayal by his own Secretary of State, who has ambitions of his own.


"When facism comes to America, it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."


Lewis, Sinclair. It Can't Happen Here. New York: Penguin Books, 1935.

Meisel, Perry. It Can't Happen Here: Introduction. Ibid.