More than any book I’ve read or lecture I’ve attended, the Trump phenomenon has explained the 1930s for me. Witnessing so many otherwise rational people fall for the lies of a demagogic con man who promises that he “alone” can “fix” all of our country’s problems and bleats about throwing his opponent in jail (when he’s not urging his raucous crowds to kill her), one begins to fathom how a modern, educated, advanced country like Germany went Nazi. You already see the stirrings of a nascent fascist movement in America. The parallels between the GOP’s amoral cowards willing to do anything to achieve power and the German leaders who thought Hitler could be “controlled” are as pathetic as they are frightening…

It’s true that some Trump supporters loathe the man’s behavior and more outré positions, but nonetheless see him as something of a savior figure. They are willing to put their faith in a sociopath because they have convinced themselves that the alternative will literally destroy the country. On the other hand, many, perhaps most, Trump supporters aren’t voting for him in spite of his talking like a thug, demeaning women, and hurling racist insinuations at the country’s first black president, but because he does these things.

“Believe me, nice people don’t go Nazi,” Dorothy Thompson wrote. “Their race, color, creed, or social condition is not the criterion. It is something in them. Those who haven’t anything in them to tell them what they like and what they don’t—whether it is breeding, or happiness, or wisdom, or a code, however old-fashioned or however modern, go Nazi.” Trump supporters are people who, were he to become president, would explain away the mosque firebombing or Attorney General Chris Christie’s “opening up the libel laws” against The New York Times, just as passive Nazi voters looked away from the “Don’t buy from Jews” graffiti spray-painted on the neighborhood grocery store. These people are lacking “something in them,” a moral code, and their very large numbers are a troubling indicator of a rot in the American soul.