In the 1930s many Americans thought the destruction of democracy was none of their business. It had nothing to do with America, where democracy would live forever. They woke up almost too late.

UPDATE: Following publication of this post, it was discovered that HBO is about to present a limited series based on the novel. It premieres on March 16th. See trailer below.


In the 1930s it was hard to convince Americans that democracy was in the first stages of dying in Europe and the world or that it was something that America should be involved in anyway. Some of the biggest American companies were doing business with what they considered a benign and profitable dictatorship. The media didn’t know quite what to make of this unusual Hitler guy, but he seemed to be a fascinating new face on the scene, and always good copy. Some Americans even thought they heard something from Hitler that sounded like cultural music to their ears. Above all, this had nothing to do with democracy in America, which no matter what, was never in danger.

Three years ago, I wrote about Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America (2004). It is an alternative history in which Charles Lindbergh—Nazi sympathizer and supporter of Hitler—defeats FDR in 1940 to become President of the United States.

America woke? Not even close.