The point I was making was that all those gentlemen were inflicted on the world by democracy. That system Winston Churchill described wittily – and maybe generously – as the worst way of choosing a government “except all the others”.
But the fear of Trump is a rational one. Evidence-based, unlike almost everything Trump says, at least publicly.
Hitler, Mussolini et al were not yet mass murderers when they first came to power. The worst they had yet said or done at that point was not notably worse (or very different) than Trump’s idea of a wall between the USA and Mexico. Or his threat to deport three million “illegal immigrants”.
The foul tide of racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-intellectual abuse that his election has opened the floodgates to is, sadly, no invention. At least two friends of friends of mine have received death threats based on their race, sexuality and job titles.
The unleashing, the entitlement, of the bullies has real overtones of Hitler’s brownshirts. In fact it’s all horribly reminiscent of revolutions and coups everywhere.
I am reminded of a quotation from the 1970s BBC adaptation of Robert Graves’s I, Claudius: “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.”
And of the philopher John Stuart Mill’s observation: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”
The question that begs is: What should we do?
We can perhaps pray for legal moves and re-counts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. But even if the election result were to be overturned – and that’s surely a long shot – there’s no easy way of burying all those poisons back in the mud.
There are many ways in which this looks like a Doomsday scenario. And no shortage of intelligent, well-informed people ready to tell you so.
Perhaps, though, in focusing on the danger Trump represents, his opponents risk making it more real. Just as by joining the Trump-crazed media in concentrating on his outrageousness, Hillary Clinton’s campaign succeeded only in making him fatally attractive to a lot of voters. In making the abnormal normal.
There is an alternative, slightly more reassuring, view of Trump. It’s the one put forward by David Runciman, professor of politics at Cambridge University.
Writing in the latest edition of the London Review of Books, he says: “In a country that has seen more bad presidents than good ones, Trump isn’t such an outlier. Not even if he is the nastiest of them all.”
Runciman describes the president-elect, aptly enough, as “the naughtiest kid in the class”. And says that in voting for him the US public was throwing a tantrum, “safe in the knowledge that the grown-ups will be there to pick up the pieces”.
Reassuring only if you trust the grown-ups and are confident they’re up to the job.