Sinclair Lewis satirically asserted "It Can't Happen Here" in the 1935 book with that title.
... the novel describes the rise of Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, a populist United States Senator who is elected to the presidency after promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and traditional values. After his election, Windrip takes complete control of the government and imposes a plutocratic/totalitarian rule with the help of a ruthless paramilitary force ...
Here is why I think it could happen here. Trump is running as an outsider, preying on the anti-gummint feelings among Tea Potty conservatives. He is polling well (19% or so) in spite of his racist comments and insults to other GOPlins (like John McCain and Lindsey Graham). Other polls suggest as many as 70% of Republicans agree with Trump's remarks.
For more on my reasoning read the article on the authoritarian appeal to conservatives by John Dean. (Yes, that John Dean.) h/t Pat Heman
Following are some snippets to motivate your reading.
Political pundits everywhere are scratching their heads asking what is going on with Trump. How can a clown like Trump be in front of the "serious" GOP candidates? Most blame the news media for giving Trump’s antics too much attention. But much more than media attention is at work in explaining Trump’s success. In fact, Donald Trump has emerged as America’s leading authoritarian political figure, representative of a type of leadership for which many Americans yearn.
... Trump is far more aggressive in his authoritarianism than his predecessors. To understand the Trump phenomenon, it is essential to appreciate political authoritarianism, as well as its limits and boundaries.
The only restraint on Donald Trump will be voters, but Republican voters love authoritarian leaders. Republicans have spent the last seven year portraying President Obama as wishy-washy and spineless, with Trump, of course, claiming he is not even an American nor as smart as he pretends to be. (Otherwise he would produce the transcript of his college grades, as demanded by Trump!) It is difficult to determine exactly how many Republicans are authoritarian followers—thus naturals for the Trump bandwagon—but in discussions with social scientists I have come to believe that somewhere between a quarter and half of registered Republicans are authoritarians, not to mention they are the activist base of the party. While the entire field of GOP presidential candidates evidence varying degrees of authoritarianism, none can top Trump.
To cut to the bottom line: I can envision a number of scenarios where Trump could capture the GOP nomination, and they all start with him making respectable showings in New Hampshire and South Carolina. If Trump is going to decide to go home and stop playing the game due to it being a waste of money, it will be after South Carolina. If he is in play at that time, he could win the nomination.
John W. Dean, a Justia columnist, is a former counsel to the president.