Malcolm Gladwell argued in his 2000 “The Tipping Point” that slowly building trends let things stay pretty much the same until some relatively small incident tips them into major change. Are we approaching a “Trumping Point” in which diverse and varied resentments against the Trump presidency suddenly coalesce into a united front?

The uproar over separating children from their asylum-seeking parents may have started it. Trump fumbled a legalistic issue into an inflamed cause. Even congresspersons could not enter detention centers — why are they secret? —to check on the people’s business. The photo of a crying two-year-old girl fused pent-up anti-Trump feeling. It was a cause waiting for a trigger.

Republican defenders of the policy point out, correctly, that something was required to avoid jailing entire families when just the parents had broken the law by entering the U.S. without documents. So, the children had to be separated and held somewhere. Empty Walmarts in Texas were handy.

These Walmarts tell a story. In the 1970s, world oil prices pushed up the Mexican peso, and Mexican consumers eagerly spent at the many Walmarts on the U.S. side. By 1990, however, things turned politically and economically bad in Mexico. The desperate ruling PRI party devalued the peso, forcing many border Walmarts to close. Idea: redo them to temporarily “shelter” separated children. Somebody neglected to consider the human element here.

Trump mostly skirted and avoided catastrophe, but now his self-inflicted dilemmas mount, damning him if he does and if he doesn’t. Improvised policies create one backlash after another, forcing Trump to back down and show weakness, which, he warns, one must never do. Several hot issues now tip against Trump.

The economy is good, but some doubts grow. Labor shortages threaten to boost inflation, something the Fed guards against in its rate hikes, which slow investment. Bonds’ “yield curve” portends recession. Trade-war rumors make markets jittery. Business and agriculture, traditionally Republican, oppose tariff wars, which already hurt some U.S. production. Trump’s bluffs, which may work in real estate, ignore the national-pride factor and amplify trade disputes. Yes, some points need to be fixed, but not by playing chicken. 

Collision looms with China. Last week, a Chinese chipmaker was charged with stealing plans for superchips from the U.S. firm Micron. Beijing denies wrongdoing but aims to dominate the world economy by midcentury and does not let intellectual-property rights stand in its way. If Trump backs down on Micron — as he did with China’s ZTE, which paid a trivial $1 billion for flagrant violations — many Americans, including the high-tech sector, will smell cowardice. But if he really gets tough with China, American exporters will suffer retaliation, and manufacturing costs and consumer prices will climb. 

Smart U.S. trade strategy would be to form a common front with Europe, trans-Pacific countries and NAFTA to block China’s grandiose plans. Instead, Trump picks fights with all of them simultaneously, leaving America economically and politically isolated. Trump’s tweet “Trade wars are good, and easy to win” starts to echo bitterly.

Economics is not the only problem. If Trump’s vague understanding with North Korea’s Kim does not pan out, he will stand accused of weakness and naivete worse than anything Obama did with Iran. Trump did not inform either Seoul or our military in advance that he was cancelling indefinitely our joint exercises. NATO allies fear Trump is abandoning them.

The GOP creates its own dilemmas. Indirectly repealing Obamacare leaves millions uninsured and rural hospitals closing. Their tax cuts lead heavily to corporate stock buybacks that do little for investments or wages. Insulted women charge into politics. High-schoolers turn political. As Trump takes over the GOP, conservative intellectuals flee.

Anti-Trump steam has been building, but scattered among many resentments, with no organization or focus. (Actually, the GOP is also fractured; the “Republican-controlled Congress” cannot pass health-care or immigration reform.) Suddenly, disparate groups unite in a common cause over the wailing children. Trumpists, in playing to their base, have created an anti-base. 

The crying toddler made a brilliant Time cover and brought many together. But, Trumpists object, that is simplified emotion that does not address the complex problem of border-crossers. Well, yes, it is pure emotion. That’s why it’s so effective. And Trump can hardly complain about warping political debate with oversimplified emotional rhetoric. 

What has happened, I think, is that the Democrats are finally learning that one wins elections not by wonkish bullet points — Hillary’s problem in 2016 — but by rousing discontent and anger through emotive words and symbols. If, as Trumpists argue, we are in a post-truth era, Democrats must manipulate post-facts better than Republicans.

Granted, this means playing Trump’s game, but one side cannot let the other have exclusive rights to emotional manipulation. Trump is reaping what he has sown. As usual, the November 6 midterm elections will turn on turnout, which now seems to favor energized anti-Trumpists, including most independents, over Trumpists. We’ll know November 7.