HBO’s latest mini-series The Plot Against America has all the makings of an obvious liberal think piece. It follows an alternate history of America, has pointed commentary about politics, and debuted while Trump is still president. But how bad can it really get? Considering this also comes from the creator of The Deuce, all we can hope for is no boobs.
Based on the 2004 Philip Roth novel of the same name, the series follows the United States in the 1940s with one major difference. Instead of Franklin Roosevelt winning his third term as president, famed aviator Charles Lindbergh rides a populist wave to win the White House. Once there, we follow the Levins, a working-class Jewish family witnessing Lindbergh’s rise in power and the creeping reach of fascism.
The first episode, which debuted on March 16, officially announces Lindbergh’s run for president under the backdrop of a rising Nazi threat in Europe. While Hitler is treated as the obvious villain he was, Lindbergh comes as a close second based on how other characters describe him. True, Lindbergh’s open support of the Nazi Party hardly makes him admirable, but the attacks against him quickly begin to sound familiar as far as 2020 is concerned. And since showrunner David Simon referred to the story as “startlingly prescient,” it’s hard to imagine it’s not on purpose.
Herman: This is how it starts. Everyone thinking they can work with the guy, that they'll bring him around. It's like Hitler. Everyone thinking he doesn't mean what he says.
Herman: Year after year, Hitler says terrible things...
Philip: What's happening?
Herman: And they said nothing.
Neighbor: When a man tells you he's a son of a bitch, believe him. Same with the America Firsters with all their crap about keeping pure European blood free from inferior blood? Which, by the way, they mean us.
Neighbor 2: Of course it's us. It's always us.
Herman: But this, with Lindbergh, he's giving permission. He's a goddamn hero. So, if he says it, every anti-Semite has permission. "The lone eagle.” He flew across the ocean. He wouldn't lie. He's a great American."
Neighbor 3: Newspapers and the radio guys, they all lap it up.
Herman: Well, they lap it up because it's Lindbergh. Coughlin says it or even Henry Ford, they argue back. No one will go after Lucky Lindy.
Bess: Is he going to run for president?
Neighbor 2: Against Roosevelt? He'd be a putz.
Bess: He's a hero, as you said.
Neighbor 2: A hero. A hero now. But if the Republicans run him against Roosevelt, after all he did to get us out of this Depression--
Neighbor 3: Who says we're out of it?
Neighbor 2: Worst is over.
Neighbor 3: Says you. A lot of people still aren't earning what they once did.
Herman: I know plenty still out of work. People aren't patient. Not with Roosevelt. Not with anybody. And no one wants another war. Roosevelt's a professional politician. A leader. Lindy's an airplane pilot with opinions.
Neighbor 2: Horseshit opinions.
Herman: If the Republicans are that stupid, Roosevelt will mop the floor with them.
This show is basically aiming to follow the same path as The Handmaid’s Tale. Both took a story written years ago and adapted it for the sole motivation of making political comments about today. The only difference is, ironically, book author Philip Roth previously warned to “never confuse Trump for Lindbergh.” Apparently, no one in the media took his advice.
Speaking of which, it comes as no surprise that media pundits are immediately jumping on this show for its “timely” story. CNN commented, “[T]he miniseries will surely resonate most powerfully among those alarmed by the country's current direction, who will see it as a cautionary warning about being beguiled by a celebrity turned politician who wraps himself in the American flag.” The Hollywood Reporter complimented the series asking, “So what do you do when speculative fiction no longer feels so speculative?” Collider literally called the show “something that has happened in real-life America over the past four years,” and I doubt they were talking about the good economy.
The Plot Against America is far from the worst show even HBO has offered. However, it’s setting the pieces for what could be the most political. We still have five more episodes to go, and the Lindbergh administration has yet to begin. Beware of the imminent rise of fascism, but only in these liberals’ minds.