It Can't Happen Here

My one ambition is to get all Americans to realize that they are, and must continue to be, the greatest Race on the face of this old Earth

Inauguration of President Windrip – 20th January 1937

‘The followers of President Windrip trumpeted that it was significant that he should be the first president inaugurated not on March fourth, but on January twentieth according to the provision of the new Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution. It was a sign straight from Heaven, and proved that Windrip was starting a new paradise on earth.

The inauguration was turbulent. President Roosevelt declined to be present—he politely suggested that he was about half ill unto death, but that same noon he was seen in a New York shop, buying books on gardening and looking abnormally cheerful.

A motor company in Detroit had presented to Windrip a limousine with armor plate, bulletproof glass, a hidden nickel-steel safe for papers, a concealed private bar, and upholstery made from the Troissant tapestries of 1670. But Buzz chose to drive from his home to the Capitol in his old Hupmobile sedan, and his driver was a youngster from his home town whose notion of a uniform for state occasions was a blue-serge suit, red tie, and derby hat. Windrip himself did wear a topper, but he saw to it that Lee Sarason saw to it that the one hundred and thirty million plain citizens learned, by radio, even while the inaugural parade was going on, that he had borrowed the topper for this one sole occasion from a New York Republican Representative who had ancestors.

But following Windrip was an un-Jacksonian escort of soldiers: the American Legion and, immensely grander than the others, the Minute Men, wearing trench helmets of polished silver and led by Colonel Dewey Haik in scarlet tunic and yellow riding-breeches and helmet with golden plumes.

Solemnly, for once looking a little awed, a little like a small-town boy on Broadway, Windrip took the oath, administered by the Chief Justice (who disliked him very much indeed) and, edging even closer to the micro phone, squawked, ‘‘My fellow citizens, as the President of the United States of America, I want to inform you that the real New Deal has started right this minute, and we’re all going to enjoy the manifold liberties to which our history entitles us—and have a whale of a good time doing it! I thank you!’’

That was his first act as President. His second was to take up residence in the White House, where he sat down in the East Room in his stocking feet and shouted at Lee Sarason, ‘‘This is what I’ve been planning to do now for six years! I bet this is what Lincoln used to do! Now let ’em assassinate me!’’’

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