Once upon a time, Charles Lindbergh was a famous person in the United States. In fact he was famous multiple times and for different reasons.
He was heroically famous for being the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
He was tragically famous for the kidnapping of his child.
He was politically famous for leading the largest pro-Hitler movement in the United States.
In fact, on the last item, there was considerable political discussion about his running for President. What would that have meant for America’s participation in World War II if Lindbergh had been President instead of Franklin Roosevelt?
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA – THE NOVEL
The Plot against America is a novel written in 2004 by Philip Roth exploring just such an alternate reality. In the novel, Roosevelt is denied a third term. Instead he is defeated by pro-Hitler Lindbergh on the campaign slogan of keeping America out of the war in Europe. Roth told the story mostly through the lens of his own life and family. It addresses the issues of what would happen if anti-Semitism effectively became the law of the land. So the novel is less about the war itself in Europe and more about life in the United States governed by an openly bigoted President.
In this regard, the specific details of Roth’s novel are less significant that the overall message. For example, in his book radio media star Walter Winchell opposes the sell out to the foreign power and pays a big price for his vocal opposition. By contrast today, cable star Tucker Carlson praises Putin and is revered in Russia as well as in large portions of the United States. The bigger question is what would happen if a bigoted President of the United States was submissive to a foreign adversary whom he did not consider to be an adversary at all?
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA – THE REALITY
Obviously in 2004, Roth had no idea that Donald Trump one day would become President of the United States. Like Lindbergh, Trump also had become famous in various ways. He had become famous for saving a skating rink in Central Park and for his apparent business success in prominently plastering his name on multiple glitz buildings. He had become famous for his media sex-life. He had become famous for his fake reality show slogan of “You’re fired!.”
He was not yet known at the time of the novel for his political desires. Sure he had denounced the Central Park Five in what could be considered a preview of his racism. But this was still before the time of questioning the legitimacy of the birth and college education of the Moslem candidate who became President – an accusation by someone who apparently had paid people to take his college tests and write his college papers given his limited mental necessities. It also was before the cry of “Lock her up!” by someone who later flushed, shredded, and removed documents from the White House.
So while Roth was writing about an alternate past and not an unimagined future, there still is much to be learned from his speculation.
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA – UKRAINE
At the time of this post, the United States is involved in a war between Vladimir Putin of Russia and Volodymyr Zelenskyy of the Ukraine. Putin fancies himself as a defender of orthodoxy against the decadent and corrupt West. He will reestablish the glory days of the Russian Empire. Zelensky is Jewish and the leader of a country which seeks to be part of the very West that Putin condemns. The conflict is not simply a standard battle over land between alpha-males, it is a battle between civilizations.
It is this clash between opposing ways of life that makes The Plot against America relevant. Here in America, there are many people who share Putin’s antipathy towards western values. To stress the Jewish identity of the Ukrainian leader will only alienate these Americans to the Ukrainian cause. In time they will link Zelensky to George Soros, claim the suffering Ukrainians are actors, and the supposed damage is special effects by the same people who faked the moon landing and left Matt Damon on Mars. We know that the relatives of Ukrainians in Russia do not believe the words of their relatives about what has been happening in the Ukraine. Instead they believe what they have been seeing on the Russian Foxhub station complete with Tucker Carlson commentary. Roth’s alternate reality was confined to his novel; Putin’s alternate reality is that it is happening in the real world with a receptive audience in both Russia and the United States.
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA – JANUARY 6
Here is America we already have an alternate reality that is believed to be real by tens of millions of people – January 6 was a peaceful demonstration by patriotic Americans engaged in legitimate political discourse attempting to save the country from a stolen election. It is doubtful that even a novelist like Roth could have imagined such a scenario. It is doubtful any American on January 7 could have imagine such a scenario either. Yet here we are over two years and exactly such a scenario is fervently believed by millions who cannot under any circumstances be convinced that such an alternate reality is not in fact real.
Since these people actually do live in the real world and can vote in American elections, there is a real possibility that their alternate reality view will prevail. In the real world we could again have a President who is submissive to a foreign adversary but now in much more dire circumstances than in the previous administration.
Let’s recap the situation.
The President of the United States attempts to overthrow the Constitution and suffers no consequences for it.
That former President makes it a litmus test for candidates in his party that they accept this Big Lie.
Many candidates for election in 2022 openly claim that the election was stolen.
Congressional representatives who opposed the Big Lie have chosen not to run or are being primaried.
After the 2022 elections, the party in power in the House and maybe the Senate accept as true that the election was stolen.
After the 2024 elections, the President of the United States may support Putin in the war and not Zelensky assuming his is even still alive. After all, in his mind Putin is a genius who for $2 gained a country and got rid of the Ukrainian leader who would not do the American leader a favor.
At that point, Roth’s novel will no longer be a novel; it will have become fulfilled science fiction prophecy worthy of George Orwell where only names have been changed. In the novel, the head of the Fifth Column becomes President in a fictional world. In the real world, the head of one of America’s major parties leads the Fifth Column into the White House as he said he would lead the insurrectionists into the Capitol on January 6.