Tuesday, February 21, 2017
American Stalin — ‘Joe Steele’ in the Age of Obama and Trump
I’ve been a fan of Harry Turtledove’s writing ever since I picked up a copy of Great War: American Front back in 2009. Turtledove has the ability to weave the stories of numerous ordinary people together to make one large patchwork fabric of an impressive, epic tale of a history that might have been. This is the case with his 2015 novel, Joe Steele, which has a relevant message for our time in the age of Obama and Trump.
President Steele immediately begins a series of economic reforms under the first Four Year Plan—an allusion to Stalin’s Five Year Plan but tailored to the President’s term in office—with makes FDR’s New Deal look like a children’s game. The federal government begins confiscating property under eminent domain for large-scale collective farming. The Supreme Court justices who rule the new policies unconstitutional suddenly find themselves in front of a military tribunal for a show trial, and promptly sentenced to death by firing squad. Joe Steele then moves on to purge the military establishment and key political opposition (as well as purging loyal followers who pose a future potential threat to the regime).
For starters, Turtledove proves the extent of his research and his expertise in the field of U.S. history by using real case law from the Civil War that allows the federal government to try civilians by military tribunal rather than by jury trial. And while Americans may sleep well today believing themselves safe from labor camps, current federal documents tell a different story.