Can It Happen Here?

Can It Happen Here?

Authoritarianism in America

Book - 2018
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"What makes Trump immune is that he is not a president within the context of a healthy Republican government. He is a cult leader of a movement that has taken over a political party - and he specifically campaigned on a platform of one-man rule. This fact permeates "Can It Happen Here? . . . which concludes, if you read between the lines, that "it" already has." - New York Times Book Review

"Several of the contributors...agree that American politics is susceptible to creeping authoritarianism and provide the intellectual underpinning." - Washington Post

With the election of Donald J. Trump, many people on both the left and right feared that America's 240-year-old grand experiment in democracy was coming to an end, and that Sinclair Lewis' satirical novel, It Can't Happen Here, written during the dark days of the 1930s, could finally be coming true. Is the democratic freedom that the United States symbolizes really secure? Can authoritarianism happen in America?

Acclaimed legal scholar, Harvard Professor, and New York Times bestselling author Cass R. Sunstein queried a number of the nation's leading thinkers. In this thought-provoking collection of essays, these distinguished thinkers and theorists explore the lessons of history, how democracies crumble, how propaganda works, and the role of the media, courts, elections, and "fake news" in the modern political landscape--and what the future of the United States may hold.

Contributors include:

Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School Eric Posner, law professor at the University of Chicago Law School Tyler Cowen, economics professor at George Mason University Timur Kuran, economics and political science professor at Duke University Noah Feldman, professor of law at Harvard Law School Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business Jack Goldsmith, Professor at Harvard Law School, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and co-founder of Lawfare Stephen Holmes, Professor of Law at New York University Jon Elster, Professor of the Social Sciences at Columbia University Thomas Ginsburg, Professor of International Law and Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Cass R. Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard University Duncan Watts, sociologist and principal researcher at Microsoft Research Geoffrey R. Stone, University of Chicago Law school professor and noted First Amendment scholar
Publisher: New York : Dey St., an imprint of William Morrow, [2018]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062696199
Branch Call Number: 320.473 C16011 2018
Characteristics: xi, 481 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Sunstein, Cass R.


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Jun 05, 2018

I've read several works by Sunstein. He is an overrated, generally inane thinker and, more importantly, a handmaiden to power and a "deep state" agent in his own right. Thus, I had low expectations for this collection of essays he edited. Sunstein exceeded my expectations and even his own contribution was worth a read.

Don't get me wrong there are some really poor contributions in the book. For instance, in her essay Samantha Power completely fails to mention the longstanding influence of Israel and its partisans on US politics. Israel's agenda also figures prominently in Trump's foreign policy, most notably in the embassy move and the scuttling of the JCPOA with Iran. And one of the reasons Mike Flynn was in touch with the Russians was to try to do Israel's bidding at the UN Security Council while Obama was still president! Also, Bob Mueller's team has reportedly been in Israel collecting evidence about Wikistrat, Black Cube, Psy-Group, and Joel Zamel--who has strong ties to Israeli spy agencies--and their roles in Trump's election.

As for Bruce Ackerman, he wants Congress to formally grant the Trump ability to impose a state of emergency and restrict civil liberties. My response: Yeah, great idea, genius, because the War Powers Act worked out so well at restraining unconstitutional presidential war-making.

The real standouts (in a good way) in this collection are: Jack Goldsmith's "Paradoxes of the Deep State" and Jack Balkin's "Constitutional Rot". Goldsmith's analysis pointedly warns about the perils of the anti-Trump deep state "resistance" and how that may help usher in the very thing Trump opponents say they fear and oppose. Geoffrey Stone's essay on "The Lessons of History" is also valuable. Coincidentally, each of these essays helps fill (or underscore) major gaps in Timothy Snyder's specious book "On Tyranny".


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