THERE is no question that Donald Trump’s actions and statements since Tuesday’s election have been the opposite of presidential – they are also undemocratic and at war with objective reality. But then, Mr Trump’s appeal rests on just those points: his ardent supporters like that he does not resemble previous presidents, they mistrust America’s political structures, and those who inhabit them, and they do not believe authority figures or established media.

The President, as he is still, has been petulant in the face of defeat. Worse, his behaviour has been dishonest, divisive and dangerous. It must be said at once that there is no credible evidence at all for his claims of widespread fraud, or a conspiracy against him.

America’s Byzantine voting system, which differs in each state, has faults, not least reliance on unreliable machinery and insecure systems, some leading to voter suppression prior to the polls – a charge levelled at Republican areas more often than Democratic ones.

While postal and absentee ballots can be open to abuse (as they can in any country), however, the Trump campaign has shown no grounds for believing it has happened – far less on a scale that would swing elections.

But if that is the kind of thing Mr Trump can credit: fine. Let the charges be assessed in the courts, where, no doubt after further recounts and wild allegations, this election is likely to end up.

We have been here before, when Al Gore refused to concede to George W Bush 20 years ago, and the result was not confirmed until mid-December. Mr Trump’s case is flimsier than Mr Gore’s, but it is his right to make it, however preposterous and undignified he looks – something that, admittedly, seems never to have concerned him much.

In their delight at having brought Mr Trump down, his opponents need to reckon with uncomfortable facts. The President will (almost certainly) lose the election with more votes than any previous losing candidate, but possibly also any previous winner. That makes Joe Biden’s achievement the more impressive, of course, since he has comfortably won the popular vote, whatever the eventual tally from the Electoral College.

But it leaves a great many Americans who clearly reject the opinions and priorities, not only of the Democratic Party, which looks unlikely to take a Senate majority, but of the US’s political classes’ and media’s norms. That those voters back Mr Trump, even with his manifest character flaws and unsuitability for the post, is overwhelming evidence of deep-seated dissatisfaction and a worrying disconnect between government and almost half the people.

The progressives’ knee-jerk dismissal of Trump supporters (and not just Mr Trump himself) as crude, racist and delusional doesn’t seem likely to win them round. Indeed, after four years, Mr Trump’s support has increased with every demographic group – including blacks, Hispanics, women and those with college degrees – except white men, though they are still far and away the largest element of his fanbase.

Liberal commentators and opinion pollsters have been guilty, again, of wishful thinking; if Mr Biden has clearly won, or even ends up near the margins predicted, they still hugely underestimated Mr Trump’s vote, and the breadth of his appeal.

That makes it the more important that US news organisations learn to look out from their elite metropolitan bubbles to make honest, impartial assessments of the territory, and the electorate’s priorities.

It is the responsibility of all media outlets to report the facts and challenge extravagant and unfounded claims; less trusted news sources, including social media and partisan broadcasters, should follow suit. And the unaccountable social media giants editing content need to recognise that they are acting as publishers and should be held to the same editorial standards.

However, the blame for dragging out this fiasco lies with the President. His refusal to behave in a manner befitting the leader of the free world is damaging and can benefit only the enemies of democracy.