In 2004, Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America imagined an alternative American history. The year is 1940, and Charles Lindbergh, an American hero and Nazi sympathizer, beats FDR in the presidential election and takes America down the path toward fascism, importing to the US the worst that Europe has to offer.
An implausible historical scenario? Not entirely, not according to this BBC investigative report (listen here with Real Player). In 1933, when America was mired deeply in the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt came into office and launched federal policies to revive the economy. Many now remember well his New Deal policies. But, there were some at the time — particularly well-heeled leaders in the American business community — who adamantly opposed the federal government involving itself in the private sector. Based on research in the national archives, the BBC investigation suggests that titans of the industrial and financial world, including Prescott Bush (the grandfather of our sitting president), were linked to, if not directly backing, a plot that would have Maj.-Gen. Smedley Butler, a highly decorated Marine, lead a 500,000 private army and push Roosevelt out of power. It was a move taken straight from Hitler’s and Mussolini’s playbook. To get more on the coup and how it played out, give the 30-minute investigative report a listen.