“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.
Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law SchoolEric Posner, law professor at the University of Chicago Law SchoolTyler Cowen, economics professor at George Mason UniversityTimur Kuran, economics and political science professor at Duke UniversityNoah Feldman, professor of law at Harvard Law SchoolJonathan Haidt, social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of BusinessJack Goldsmith, Professor at Harvard Law School, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and co-founder of LawfareStephen Holmes, Professor of Law at New York UniversityJon Elster, Professor of the Social Sciences at Columbia UniversityThomas 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 SciencesCass R. Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard UniversityDuncan Watts, sociologist and principal researcher at Microsoft ResearchGeoffrey R. Stone, University of Chicago Law school professor and noted First Amendment scholar
Playing off the title of Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel about the rise of an authoritarian regime in the U.S., It Can't Happen Here, Sunstein (#Republic) gathers together 17 provocative, topical essays, prompted by fears that the Trump presidency could become a dictatorship. His contributors, a diverse group of social scientists, political scientists, and legal experts, ponder topics that include "constitutional rot," the use and misuse of government-declared states of emergency, and lessons from the country's founding. University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner contends that dictators succeed when they take on and defeat several institutions, including the press, courts, and party system; Trump, Posner argues, depends on such institutions, and for now at least is not enacting the dictator's handbook. University of Chicago law professors Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Huq cautiously remind readers that the U.S. Constitution excels at preventing coups or rapid deployment of emergency powers, but not at preventing autocrats from slowly dismantling democracy. Duke University political scientist Timur Kuran warns that in an era of cascading intolerance it is no easy task to find societal common ground. Like almost any essay collection, this one is uneven, but the best of the entries rouse the reader to think carefully and deeply about the prospects for American authoritarianism.