As noted in my last post, for the next several posts, I am going, quite simply, to set out quotes from Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here. As you read them, their relevance to today’s political scene should be apparent, and I hope they will inspire you to obtain and read the entire book. So, here’s the second excerpt (this one is from chapter eight. Doremus Jessup is considering the appeal of the presidential candidate, Berzelius Windrip):
“Doremus Jessup, so inconspicuous an observer, … watching Senator Windrip…could not explain his power of bewitching large audiences. The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store… .
“…[Berzelius] was an actor of genius. There was no more overwhelming actor on the stage, in the motion pictures, nor even in the pulpit. He would whirl arms, bang tables, glare from mad eyes, vomit Biblical wrath from a gaping mouth; but he would also coo like a nursing mother, beseech like an aching lover, and in between tricks would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts–figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect.
“But below this surface stagecraft was his uncommon natural ability to be authentically excited by and with his audience, and they by and with him. He could dramatize his assertion that he was neither a Nazi nor a Fascist but a Democrat-a homespun Jeffersonian-Lincolnian-Cleveandian-Wilsonian Democrat–and (sans scenery and costume) make you see him veritably defending the Capitol against barbarian hordes, the while he innocently presented as his own warm-hearted Democratic inventions, every anti-libertarian, anti-Semitic madness of Europe.”