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Arts and Entertainment

Video: Jake Gyllenhaal And Jon Hamm Perform A Part Of Sinclair Lewis Novel That Predicts The Rise Of Trump

Jake Gyllenhaal and Jon Hamm at the St. James Theatre. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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In the novel It Can't Happen Here, authored by Sinclair Lewis, a demagogue takes advantage of the precarious state of the world and launches a presidential bid that would eventually lead to his totalitarian rule.

Sounds a little familiar, doesn't it? The novel, though, was published back in 1935, when global affairs were dominated by an atmosphere of anxiety (think: the Great Depression, the rise of fascism in Europe). Fast forward to 2016, and it seems as if Lewis' novel is just as relevant today as it had been 80 years ago.

At an October 17 fundraiser for Hillary Clinton at New York's St. James Theatre, actors Jack Gyllenhaal and Jon Hamm came out on stage to perform a scene from the book. More specifically, they performed scene that comes from a stage adaptation that's playing up in the Bay Area at the Berkeley Rep theater.

Jon Hamm took on the role of Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, a blowhard politician who uses his populist slant to appeal to his constituents: "My enemies say I want power—great big imperial power," said Hamm. "But not for me, for you. The power to smash our enemies. The greatest people in the world are with me, and that's you! Are you with me?"

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Gyllenhaal, who portrays Buzz's audience, responds by saying, "I'm not saying I agree with all his methods." But also adds, "I honestly don't care how he does it."

Prescient much?

The Hollywood Reporter just posted a video of the performance here:

The character of Buzz was purportedly written to show parallels with senator Huey Long, who'd also projected an everyman persona (or, at least, some crazed version of it) to appeal to his voters. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had referred to Long as one of "the most dangerous men in the country." As noted by the History Channel:

Capitalizing on widespread public discontent with years of corrupt, myopic, conservative rule, Long developed a fervent popular following. He used it to build a power structure through which he dominated virtually every institution of government. In time, the legislature, the state bureaucracy, the courts, even local governments fell firmly under his control.

Fortunately, the dystopian future that It Can't Happen Here predicted didn't come to fruition in the 20th century. But here we are, wondering if the book will come full circle. Trump, after flagging in the polls for a while, is now gaining ground again (thanks a lot, "Carlos Danger"). All this, and we're only few days away from Election Day.

Lewis won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930, becoming the first American author to do so. He's a great writer, but let's all hope that he's a shoddy clairvoyant.

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