There’s a fantasy being pushed by the Republican Party, as it seeks a winning argument for the November elections, that Donald Trump has been a disaster but his policies have been terrific.

“You may hate the president, and there are a lot of people who do,” Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said to a closed-door gathering of party donors last week. “But they certainly like the way the country is going.”

Like the way the country is going?

Tell that to a 12-year-old boy named Erick and an 11-year-old girl named May.

EDITORIAL

Both children were taken from their parents months ago, thanks to the Trump administration’s heartless family separation immigration policy, and both have cried themselves to sleep at night.

Erick lives in a shelter in Chicago, where he has been put on at least three medications to control his depression and anger. May lived in a shelter in Chicago this summer, too, and now lives with relatives in Florida, where she prays for her mother’s release from a Texas detention center.

In all, the Trump administration this year took more than 2,600 children from their parents, and some 400 of those girls and boys remain separated from their families. The Trump administration failed to meet a court-ordered deadline of July 26 to reunite all families.

There’s a good argument that many of Trump’s top policies — entirely apart from the man’s low character — have been miserable for America, even from the perspective of a conservative Republican.

Nobody should “like the way the country is going,” for example, when the national deficit is allowed to explode so that the richest Americans can enjoy yet another tax cut. Or when steadfast international alliances are trashed in favor of cozying up to thugs like Vladimir Putin of Russia and Kim Jong-un of North Korea. Or when the president works to derail special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

That’s bad stuff for America regardless of one’s politics — Republican, Democratic or independent.

But perhaps nowhere has the Trump administration been more at odds with the feelings of the American people than with its family separation policy, which it suspended in late June only because of a general outrage. Even many Americans who believe our nation’s immigration laws are too lax were offended by the sight of thousands of families seeking asylum being pulled apart.

Polls taken in June showed that 91 percent of Democrats and — more significantly — almost 70 percent of independents — were opposed to the policy. A majority of Republicans, 55 percent, supported the policy, but fewer Americans are identifying as Republicans to begin with.

Children were hurt by the Trump administration’s family separation policy, and they continue to be hurt to this day, according to an investigation by ProPublica Illinois published in Monday’s Sun-Times.

ProPublica looked at the confidential records of 99 children, ages 10 months to 17 years, who were sent to Illinois shelters run by the nonprofit Heartland Human Care Services. The children, whose families had fled dangers in such countries as Guatamala, Honduras and Brazil, struggled mightily to cope. And seven of them, including Erick, have yet to be reunited with their families.

Erick has had trouble sleeping, and he has fought with other children and adults. Another boy, just 11 years old, reportedly “cried inconsolably” when he was brought to a shelter in June. He said he “wanted to die.”

A 12-year-old girl from Romania said she felt “as though she would die without her dad.” And May, the girl who now lives with relatives in Florida, recently wrote to her mother that while she was in a Chicago-area shelter she “spent all night crying, asking God for us to be together again.”

Last month, a coalition of lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit demanding that the government pay for mental health treatment for all the separated children, saying the “emotional and psychological harm” is often permanent.

Mick Mulvaney says Americans may despise Trump, but they “like the way the country is going.”

We think Americans are a kinder people than that, and way too smart to make such a false distinction.

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