The HBO adaptive of a Philip Roth novel continues to resonate : The following article contains spoilers for HBO's ''The Plot Against America''.

The one problem with Philip Roth's tour de force 2004 novel, ''The Plot Against America,'' is that it's too feel-good.

I know this is a strange accusation to make about an alternative history about a fascist United States. In Roth's version of the 1940 presidential elections, Americans choose the Nazi-sympathizing aviator Charles Lindbergh, who goes on to institute insidious then overt programs of authoritarianism and anti-Semitism.

The nation is riven and people are killed.

But in the end, everything is set right. In 1942, Lindbergh goes missing while flying his airplane, a special election is called, and Franklin D. Roosevelt is re-elected against Lindbergh's vice-president, Burton K Wheeler. The United States enters the war against the Axis, and history continues, more or less, on the track that we know.

It's a sober, unsettling story, but it ends on a note of optimism in America's ability to right itself - too easily. I would argue given everything we saw before it.

Earlier this year, HBO aired ''Plot'' as a six-part series, adapted by David Simon, who is not known as TV's great optimist. His best known series. ''The Wire,'' was a five-season lament for American cities. His website is titled ''The Audacity of Despair.''

Simon's confident, chilling adaption stuck largely in Roth's story, with few changes. The biggest was to that ending, which reimagined in ways that get more unsettling and relevant as the U.S. election season goes on.

The final sequence begins on Election Day, 1942, which, because history has a sense of humor, was Nov 3, just like this year's. 

On the soundtrack, Frank Sinatra croons ''The House I Live In [That's America to Me]'' Citizens line up in the Weequahic High School gym in Newark N.J. They go into the booths and cast their ballots. The citizenry is turning out. America is showing its best side.

As Old Blue Eyes keeps singing [''A certain word / Democracy''], a few discordant notes begin to sound. A man with an F.D.R. pin is told ''he is not on the list'' at the precinct where he has voted for 20 years and is hustled out by the police. More officers wheel away a voting machine, telling puzzled onlookers, ''It's broken.''

In a country field, men open a car trunk, unload ballot boxes - marked with the number of an election district in which we just saw lines of Black voters - and burn the contents.

All this and much more makes ''PLOT'' more than a thought exercise in ''Here's what might have happened then, and thank God it didn't.'' Instead, it's ''Here's what could happen at any time. Here's what does happen all the time. Why should we think we're so special?''

The way this all plays out in ''Plot'', its being 1942, is different in its particulars from today's concerns foreign influence operations, bots on social media, attacks on mall voting, reducing polling access and all the potential roadblocks related to voting in a pandemic.

The most chilling echoes, though, are broad and timeless. Someone takes a flight into anti-democracy, and others feel permission to follow. And when a nation struggles to name what's happening in plain terms, while we wait for the ''conflicting results'' to roll in.

The World Students Society thanks author James PonieWozik.


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