But in America the combination of vulgarity with the country’s extreme polarisation is producing a toxic mix. Politicians and public figures are literally dehumanising their adversaries. Mr Trump has called some illegal immigrants “animals” and said they are “infesting” America. Roseanne Barr, an actress, called Valerie Jarrett, a black adviser to Mr Obama, an offspring of the film “Planet of the Apes”. Michael Avenatti, a lawyer who is suing the president, called one of Mr Trump’s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, a “pig”; New York magazine depicted Mr Trump as a pig on its cover. It is not altogether panicky to note that genocides are preceded by dehumanisation: the Nazis and the Rwandan genocidaires called their victims vermin. If your opponents are pigs or apes, it is worth doing almost anything to keep them from power.
America has entered a rhetorical vicious circle that may be impossible to escape. During the election of 2016 Michelle Obama, then the First Lady, said that “when they go low, we go high.” Those grand words have withered in the heat of the new era. Neither side is willing to stand down unilaterally in an escalating war of words. In this climate, Democrats will have little cause for complaint when the vilest of language is flung at their nominee in 2020.