Bari Weiss of the Wall Street Journal checks out Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America" in NY1's The Book Reader.
A rookie politician with a distaste for minorities nabs the Republican nomination for the presidency. This populist promises to put America First again, and campaigns against the "internationalist" on the Democratic ticket. He is glamorous. He's famous. Oh, and he has his own plane.
If you think I'm describing Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president of the United States, you'd be right.
But I'm also describing the story of Philip Roth's prescient 2004 novel "The Plot Against America." If any book deserves a re-reading in light of this presidential election, it is this one.
In 1940, in real life, the GOP nominated Wendell Wilkie. FDR beat him by wide margins. And the Allies beat the Nazis.
Roth's novel is a counter-history rooted in this history-altering election. He imagines that the GOP instead nominates the aviator Charles Lindbergh--a man who in real life and in the novel admired Hitler. Lindbergh is admired by his supporters as "a man's man who gets the impossible done by relying solely on himself."
In Roth’s novel, Lindbergh beats FDR. He goes on to sign neutrality pacts with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. At home, he initiates a re-education campaign for American Jews called "Just Folks." The book’s hero, Herman Roth, a Jewish insurance salesman and father, is incredulous: “He dares to call us others? He is the other,” he says. "The one who looks most American—and he’s the one who is least American. The man is unfit.”
The plot of this American election is still unfolding. How will it turn out? There is no novelist to deliver a conclusion, just the voters, who will make a historic decision November 8th.