Nicole Villani explores the world of alternative history…

How America almost became a Nazi Empire.

Philip Roth’s 2004 novel ‘The Plot Against America’, finds its protagonist, a fictionalised version of the seven year old author himself, leading a mundane existence punctuated by nightly radio news broadcasts, dinner with his all-American Jewish family and neighbourhood jaunts undertaken to fill the halcyon hours of summer holidays. The writer then suddenly announces ‘’ The Republicans nominated Lindbergh and everything changed.’’

What follows is an alternative reality confined in the same genre as Philip K. Dick’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’. However while the latter depicts a world in which the Germans won WW2, Roth’s novel places its departure from the period before the conflicts peak, envisioning a world where the isolationist United States nevertheless entangles itself in international affairs.

Accurately blending truth and imagination, The Plot Against America pits Charles A. Lindbergh against Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 Presidential election. Voter’s choice argues in a trailer for the series that it is not between Lindbergh and Roosevelt, but ‘’between Lindbergh and war.’’

While the Roth family, renamed the Levins in the HBO show, and many of the characters mentioned in The Plot Against America are based on real people, much of the narrative is entirely contrived. Showing the true extent of Lindbergh’s anti-Semitic views to the rise of the ‘America First’ movement.

Like many novels The Plot Against America recounts dramatized figures on real life people and characters. However, this does not mean that characters like Lindbergh were not based on their actions in real life.

As historian Thomas Doherty says, Nazi Germany shared Lindbergh’s admiration of ‘’Spartan physicality’’ and aviation-centric militarism. In 1938, the American hero attracted immense criticism for accepting, and later declining to return, a medal from Nazi military and political leader Hermann Goering.

After moving back to the US in April 1939, Lindbergh became a figurehead for the ‘America First’ movement. He spoke at rallies, denouncing the war as a European affair with no relevance to the US, and soon shifted from isolationism to outright anti-Semitism. Among his most bigoted remarks: Western nations ‘’can have peace and security only as long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood’’ and ‘’it seems that anything can be discussed today in America except the Jewish problem.’’

Whether the pilot actually came to regret his comments is a point of conversation between scholars. Though his wife later claimed as much, he has never personally apologised for his comments. Roth, writing in 2004, argued that ‘’he was at heart a white supremacist, and … did not consider Jews, taken as a group, the genetic, moral or cultural equals of Nordic white men like himself and did not consider them desirable American citizens other than in very small numbers.’’

In hindsight, Lindbergh loosing the 1940 Presidential election paved the way for one of the most celebrated and remembered President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Moreover, this decision saved the inevitable reality that America might have joined the Axis side and as a result may have won the war, resulting in Nazi domination and a world relating to the reality explored in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.

As Roth concludes ‘’Lindbergh … chose himself as the leading political figure in a novel where I wanted America’s Jews to feel the pressure of a genuine anti-Semitic threat.’’