Rachel Maddow traces the fight to preserve American democracy back to World War II, when a handful of committed public servants and brave private citizens thwarted far-right plotters trying to steer our nation toward an alliance with the Nazis.
Inspired by her research for the hit podcast Ultra, Rachel Maddow charts the rise of a wild American strain of authoritarianism that has been alive on the far-right edge of our politics for the better part of a century. Before and even after our troops had begun fighting abroad in World War II, a clandestine network flooded the country with disinformation aimed at sapping the strength of the U.S. war effort and persuading Americans that our natural alliance was with the Axis, not against it. It was a sophisticated and shockingly well-funded campaign to undermine democratic institutions, promote antisemitism, and destroy citizens’ confidence in their elected leaders, with the ultimate goal of overthrowing the U.S. government and installing authoritarian rule.
That effort worked—tongue and groove—alongside an ultra-right paramilitary movement that stockpiled bombs and weapons and trained for mass murder and violent insurrection.
At the same time, a handful of extraordinary activists and journalists were tracking the scheme, exposing it even as it was unfolding. In 1941 the U.S. Department of Justice finally made a frontal attack, identifying the key plotters, finding their backers, and prosecuting dozens in federal court.
None of it went as planned.
While the scheme has been remembered in history—if at all—as the work of fringe players, in reality it involved a large number of some of the country’s most influential elected officials. Their interference in law enforcement efforts against the plot is a dark story of the rule of law bending and then breaking under the weight of political intimidation.
That failure of the legal system had consequences. The tentacles of that unslain beast have reached forward into our history for decades. But the heroic efforts of the activists, journalists, prosecutors, and regular citizens who sought to expose the insurrectionists also make for a deeply resonant, deeply relevant tale in our own disquieting times.
About the Author
Rachel Maddow is host of the Emmy Award–winning Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, as well as the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Drift and Blowout, and the New York Times bestselling co-author of Bag Man. Maddow received a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Stanford University and earned her doctorate in political science at Oxford University. She lives in New York City and Massachusetts with her partner, artist Susan Mikula.
Praise for Prequel
“Maddow’s sublime research into the precursors of current existential threats is astonishingly deep. She finds rabbit holes even rabbits are unaware of.”—Booklist, starred review
“America beat fascism once. Maddow’s timely study of enemies on the homefront urges that we can do so again.”—Kirkus, starred reviews
Praise for Blowout
“An account of international intrigue, high finance, low characters, and outrageous legal and illegal acts that put the global economy and Western democracy at grave risk. . . . [Maddow] tells this tale deliberately and methodically, building her case not as a cable commentator, but as a Rhodes Scholar.”—The Boston Globe
“Blowout is a rollickingly well-written book, filled with fascinating, exciting and alarming stories about the impact of the oil and gas industry on the world today. . . . A brilliant description of many of the problems caused by our reliance on fossil fuels.”—The New York Times Book Review “I can’t stress enough what a great storyteller Rachel Maddow is. [She carries] the reader through some hair-raising journalism in such an engaging and propulsive fashion you simply cannot put the book down. . . . It has left a most lasting impression.”—San Francisco Chronicle