6 Books That Predicted Donald Trump's Presidency
In the weeks since the 2016 presidential election, many of us have asked ourselves, repeatedly, "How could this have happened?" To that end, we've found movies, Simpsons episodes, and books that predicted Donald Trump's presidency — items we either overlooked or ignored in the months leading up to Nov. 8.
In the first few months of Trump's presidential campaign, many of us — liberal, conservative, and otherwise — watched his antics as a form of lurid entertainment. When he called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, we were outraged, but many of us thought that was where it would end. Then he mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, imitating his arthrogryposis with an obscene gesture that, unfortunately, many of us remember from elementary school. Again, we were incensed, but we thought that there was surely no way for this man to become the GOP's presidential nominee, let alone POTUS.
We were wrong. We underestimated the degree to which sexism, racism, and xenophobia remain entrenched in the U.S. That Hillary Clinton won the popular vote is a small consolation, reminding us that most voters did not want Trump to take the White House, but the election results leave us with so many questions about our future.
If you're still trying to understand how it all came together, here are six books that predicted Trump's rise to power.
1. Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau
Yes, Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury is a comic strip, not a book, but the political cartoon has enough material on Trump to fill a book: Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump . Trudeau first predicted Trump's rise to power in a 1987 strip, and the New York City magnate has been a recurring character in the series ever since.
2. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
In Philip Roth's 2004 alt-history novel, a celebrity concocts conspiracy theories about minorities, panders to racists and anti-Semites, is nominated by the Republican Party, and goes on to win the White House. As president, he keeps the country out of a global conflict by aligning himself with its biggest antagonist, and rolls back rights on the minority populations he first targeted, until their very existence is threatened by nationwide purges.
3. It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
Published in 1935, Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here imagines a U.S. in which authoritarianism wins out, as it had in Russia and Germany at the time. Based on the real-life figures Huey Long and Charles Coughlin, Lewis' American dictator is Buzz Windrip: a senator who wins the presidency with promises that charm the common man. As president, Windrip moves swiftly to curtail criticism of his administration, build paramilitary forces under his sole command, and create concentration camps for dissenters and other undesirables.
4. Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
Set against a blighted and post-apocalyptic backdrop, the second installment in Octavia E. Butler's Earthseed series sees Lauren Olamina and her followers threatened by a presidential candidate, Andrew Steele Jarret, whose followers beat and burn suspected witches and cultists, and who wants to "make America great again."
5. The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin
According to Brooklyn College professor Corey Robin, conservatism is an ideology that needs something, some supposed threat to tradition, to rally against. For Edmund Burke in the 18th century, that threat was the end of the monarchy through revolution. For Donald Trump, it's immigration and Islam.
6. Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty
Published in 1998, Richard Rorty's Achieving Our Country predicted a populist movement, comprised of "members of labor unions, [and] unorganized skilled and unskilled workers," would one day grow weary of waiting for the government to offer job security and fair wages, and would back an authoritarian candidate, who promised to defang corrupt politicians and liberal elites. The election of this "strongman," Rorty argued, would "wipe out" decades of progress made for women, minorities, and LGBTQIA individuals.
Although it was decried at the time for its assertion that the U.S. could succumb to the wiles of a demagogue, Achieving Our Country sounds painfully prescient in the wake of the 2016 general election.