At the same time, the president has cultivated a studied insensitivity, treating empathy as a sign of weakness or fecklessness. The distinctive rhetoric of Trumpism isn’t merely the use of insult and invective against political opponents; it is also the brutal willingness to degrade and demonize others as “animals” and “rapists,” while unsubtly comparing them to the sort of vermin who will “infest” the country.

The embrace of swaggering callousness became a hallmark of Trumpism, with harshness masquerading as toughness and cruelty as a sign of strength. All the better if it triggers the libs. This is how we get the on-air mockery of a story about a child with Down syndrome being separated from her mother.

Ironically, conservatives used to lead the charge against zero-tolerance policies, because they produce foolish, knee-jerk, bureaucratic responses that lack common sense and result in absurd outcomes. It was in the name of zero tolerance that a kindergartner was once suspended for bringing a dinosaur-shaped squirt gun to school and it was zero-tolerance that led school boards to such excesses as expelling a high school student for having a single tablet of Advil in her purse.