It Could Have Started There Instead

We have had several alternative-history novels in which the Germans (and Japanese) won the Second World War, but what I should like to see is one in which Nazism arose in the United States first, while Germany remained true to Goethe and Schiller.

Don’t laugh: in order to see that the thing is possible, all you need to know is that Nazism was primarily a populist movement against the distress at or even terror of modernity. That is the bottom line, all the specifically German aspects are lagniappe. The most breakneck moderniser in Europe was Wilhelmine Germany, which was then torn apart by the contradictions of that modernity as well as a lost war. (The number two breakneck moderniser was the Russian Empire.) But shall we really say that there was more of that offensive modernity in Berlin than in Chicago? Shall we say that small-town Germans were more trusting in the “eggheads” than were Middle Americans?

In both cases, democracy’s doom would be sealed by the Great Depression: for the birthplace of the Final Solution (perhaps of the Negro Problem rather than the Jewish Problem) to be in at Camp David rather than at Wannsee, all that would be needed would be for the rabid racists and aggressive know-nothings of the United States to be better organised. Which they now are.

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