A friend forwarded to me an op-ed article that suggested that the main problem in America is stupidity. It’s true that stupidity is a big problem, but it’s less of one than either malice, cynicism, mean-spiritedness, greed (whether for money or power), or anti-social behavior to gain the approval of others in one’s cult. These are the characteristics of thugs. These are the qualities that distinguish the character of Donald Trump and his allies and followers. They are displayed in the behavior of politicians and others claiming that mask mandates and vaccination requirements are assaults on sacred values of liberty, when in fact they are sensible measures to save lives and reduce misery. They are displayed in the behavior of politicians and others who promote or acquiesce in Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen and that our electoral processes can’t be trusted and should be set aside when they say so.

Adolph Hitler was a magnet for attracting thugs during the years of the Weimar Republic. Just about every thug in Germany flocked to him. Trump unleashed the thuggish potential of millions of Americans. It’s not unlikely that as large a percentage of the population of our country are thugs or potential thugs as was the case in Germany almost a century ago. Thugs don’t normally determine the character of a nation and the course of history, but in certain circumstances they do.