Ed Driscoll at Instapundit reminds us of a classic example of Leftist paranoia:
The article is by Brown graduate Simon van Zuylen-Wood, who somewhat sheepishly admits running into an awful lot of other Brown graduates while researching his tale of adorable young Marxists dreaming of class war while sipping (I am not making this up) frozé in (I am not making this up) Bushwick. He focuses on the Democratic Socialists of America. The DSA, we are told, is both a rising political force and also has one-fifth the membership of the Rotary Club. Anyone who thinks the Rotary Club is powerful also probably thinks “I Love Lucy” is the hottest thing on television, but picture something one-fifth as powerful as that.
The Rotary Club, you say? Some original “Progressives” absolutely convinced themselves that the Rotarians were plotting coups and takeovers in the night (or at least at lunch), as Fried Siegel wrote in 2014:
In his new book, The Revolt Against the Masses, Fred Siegel looks back at Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 book, It Can’t Happen Here, which posited that the Rotary Club(!) was poised to seize American power:
The heart of It Can’t Happen Here is laid out in the opening chapter, which presents the local Rotary Club, with its Veterans of Foreign Wars tub-thumping patriotism and prohibitionist moralism, as comparable, on a small scale, to the mass movements that brought Fascism to Europe. Later in the novel, he has a character explain, half-satirically and half-seriously, “This is Revolution in terms of Rotary.” In other words, Lewis’s imagined fascism is little more than Main Street writ political. When he wants to mock Windrip, he describes him as a “professional common man” who is “chummy with all waitresses at . . . lunch rooms.” For Lewis, fascism is the product of backslapping Rotarians, Elks, and Masons, as well as various and sundry other versions of joiners that Tocqueville had once celebrated as the basis of American self-government. There is more than a hint of snobbery in all this. The book’s local incarnation of evil is Jessup’s shiftless, resentful handyman Shad Ledue, who was a member of the “Odd Fellows and the Ancient and Independent Order of Rams.” Ledue uses Windrip’s ascension to rise above himself and displace Jessup from his rightful place in the local hierarchy of power.
If the book were merely an indictment of red-state nativist intolerance, there would be little to distinguish it from numerous other novels and plays of the 1920s that were part of “the revolt against the village.” Lewis was hardly the only writer of the period to, Mencken-like, describe the average American as a “boob” or “peasant.” What made It Can’t Happen Here compelling was that it showed the boobs working through a familiar institution, the local Rotary, to become a menace to the Republic.
As Siegel goes on to note, as late as the 1960s, prominent leftist American intellectual Dwight Macdonald was muttering, “Europe has its Hitlers, but we have our Rotarians.” My dad was president of a local suburban chapter for a year in the mid-1970s; I had no idea until recently what a hard core violent revolutionary in Florsheim wingtips he was!
Go here to read the comments. I have been seven times president of my local Rotary Club. No wonder I am such a fan of the right of revolution set forth by Mr. Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence!