As a teenager, seduced by the notion that it was possible to learn everything, I was drawn to fat books. One of the first I tackled was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer’s monumental account of Nazi Germany. It was an early education in just how bad things can get.
Here in the age of Trump, which may either be blessedly nearing its end or approaching the midpoint, much has been written and aired about Trump’s esteem for thuggish dictators. And in his amorality, in his thinly veiled racism, in his disdain for (or ignorance of) democratic norms, in his outspoken scapegoating of entire religions and ethnic groups, he bears more than a passing resemblance to them. His more hysterical critics have seen a creeping potential for authoritarianism in Washington, fearing the dawn of some gold-veneered total Trumpism.