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President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theatre, in Wilmington, Del., on Jan. 15, 2021.

Matt Slocum/The Associated Press

It’s not a typographical error. According to a new Washington Post-ABC poll, which is consistent with other polls, some 70 per cent of Republicans do not believe Joe Biden legitimately won the election.

That translates to about 50 million Americans.

This is not in the immediate aftermath of the Nov. 3 election, when emotions were pent-up. This is 2½ months later, when Americans have had a chance to cool down a bit and reflect. This is after recounts and court challenges and certifications upheld the vote count.

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Nothing in the country’s history compares. There were substantial grounds, much moreso than in the recent election, for believing the 1960 election was stolen from Republican Richard Nixon by the Kennedy Democrats. But Americans accepted the verdict without rancour.

Back then the mind-controlling elements of today were absent from the political culture. There was no internet, no far-right media ecosystem, no political pyromaniac, as Mr. Trump has been described, in the Oval Office.

That said, the 50 million number (or even if it’s half that many) is still a staggering indictment. Did anyone think so many Americans could be that gullible, that deluded, so susceptible to being – is this too strong a word for it – brainwashed?

In his unsubtly titled 2019 book How America Lost Its Mind, Thomas Patterson says Americans have become much more educated over time. “Yet, they are no better informed today than they were decades ago.”

When Joe Biden takes the oath of office on Wednesday, Inauguration Day, he will do so in a capital so terrified of what Mr. Trump’s troglodytes might do, in a Washington so laden with military platoons that it looks, as Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff put it, like Baghdad in war-convulsed Iraq.

Given the rejection of his legitimacy by so many, given a United States more divided than at any time since the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, not to mention the raging pandemic and the economic blight, how can Joe Biden be expected to govern? How can his plans for unity, which he keeps talking about, be at all realistic?

Republican legislators, many of whom are at one with the tens of millions of election verdict deniers, are warning of hell to pay if the Democrats proceed with a Senate trial of Donald Trump for impeachment.

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But despite all the ominous forces, there is some room for hope.

To begin with, President Trump has set the bar so low that Joe Biden cannot help but rise above it. He will be a relief on so many behavioural fronts; in terms of dignity, diplomacy, sincerity, professionalism. He will be a relief with his half-century of preparedness in terms of competence, his capacity for putting in place a reform agenda grounded in expertise as opposed to seat-of-the-pants and lurch-of-the-brain bombast. He will be a relief in terms of his multi-ethnic cabinet that is a reflection of all of America instead of a white nationalist culture.

On the pandemic, he arrives at the worst of times, with its death toll heading toward a half-million, but also at a most promising time, with the vaccine being administered at a rapid rate, signalling the end of the devastating trauma is within reach.

While his opposition on the right is so hostile and explosive, the Republican Party that Mr. Biden faces is in shambles, divided, leaderless, at the risk of breakup. Its ties to the insurgents who ransacked the Capitol, its affiliation with mobocracy, will exact a brutal toll. While still capable of much malignance, Mr. Trump has had his vocal cords stripped with his loss of the Oval Office and his enormous Twitter audience.

Mr. Biden has small majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. He has at the ready a raft of executive orders that Republicans can’t block and that will undo some of the Republicans’ most heinous work, such as their bigoted policies on immigration.

Public opinion is divided on Mr. Biden, with about half of the population expressing confidence he will do the right thing. Mr. Trump was around the 40-per-cent mark when he entered office, Barack Obama at about 60 per cent when he took the reins in 2009.

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As Mr. Biden proceeds with his work, there is reason to expect the preposterous numbers who contest his election victory will substantially subside.

With the departure of the fire-breathing dragon, there is room for optimism that the pall will be lifted and the country will move away from the precipice to which Mr. Trump drove it.

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