In the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Finder lists his five favorite political conspiracy books. Number one is Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here:
A charismatic Democratic senator who speaks in “noble but slippery abstractions” is elected president, in a groundswell of cultish adoration, by a nation on the brink of economic disaster. Promising to restore America’s greatness, he promptly announces a government seizure of the big banks and insurance companies. He strong-arms the Congress into amending the Constitution to give him unlimited emergency powers. He throws his enemies into concentration camps. With scarcely any resistance, the country has become a fascist dictatorship. No black helicopters here, though. Sinclair Lewis’s dystopian political satire, now largely forgotten except for its ironic title, was a mammoth best seller in 1935, during the depths of the Depression and the rise of fascism in Europe. His president, Berzelius (“Buzz”) Windrip, is a ruthless phony with the “earthy sense of humor of a Mark Twain”; one of the few who dare oppose him openly is a rural newspaper editor who is forced to go on the run.
Update: The text of It Can’t Happen Here is available online, as part of Project Gutenberg.