At last, we have a result in the US presidential election, whether Donald Trump is capable of accepting it or not. Joe Biden has won.
That, in itself, is an achievement worth acknowledging. Trump is the first sitting president to lose an election since George H.W. Bush almost 30 years ago. Beating the incumbent is a seriously tough task in the United States, and Biden managed to do it.
It's fitting that Trump is refusing to confront the obvious reality of his defeat, and is instead spewing out baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud. The President's chronic inability to deal with difficult facts is the chief reason he finds himself in this situation.
In some alternate universe, where he took the coronavirus seriously from the start and told Americans the truth instead of peddling misinformation and downplaying the threat, Trump just coasted to re-election, the drama of his first term in office forgotten.
I don't think that's an unreasonable assumption. Look at the margins Trump is losing by in Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin and Georgia. Biden's electoral vote total looks impressive, but in all those key states, this was no landslide.
That said, this is a bit like musing about an alternate universe where I'm two metres tall and dunking over LeBron in the NBA. Donald Trump, by his very nature, was not up to the job. As the virus spread throughout the US, needlessly infecting and killing so many, he abdicated his most basic duty – to keep his constituents safe.
Right up until election day, as cases surged to record levels, he was still telling Americans not to worry about the virus. It was "going away" and the country was "turning the corner". His enemies were only talking about it to harm his re-election prospects.
He was a President in denial. And confronted by this result, he remains in denial. It says so much about the man that he can muster no self-reflection in this moment, no humility, no sign he comprehends or even cares why a record number of Americans voted against him.
There's just anger. Bitterness. A small man of monumental privilege, once again playing the victim, because that is what he always does.
As Biden's supporters celebrate, you would hope the President-elect is pondering the sobering and unprecedented challenge he now faces.
Trump will stay President until Inauguration Day on January 20. He clearly has no intention of facilitating a smooth transition. No doubt there will be legal challenges, in a doomed attempt to overturn the result. And when Biden does finally take office, he will inherit a deadly epidemic which has been allowed to spiral entirely out of control.
Plenty to be going on with, then.
The greatest challenge ahead of Biden, however, is the one he tried and failed to overcome during the election campaign.
This result is not the overwhelming repudiation of Trumpism that the President's critics craved. They hoped for a truly crushing defeat; something so seismic and humiliating that American conservatism would have no choice but to turn away from what it has become.
It didn't happen. Not even close. Trump won the second-highest number of votes in history, more than Barack Obama claimed in his 2008 landslide.
The President lost, yes, but he was still competitive. After four years of lies, drama, division and grievance, a huge number of Americans were still receptive to his message. More people voted for Trump this time, with a record to judge him by, than did four years ago, when they could project anything they wanted onto his candidacy.
A 2 per cent swing in the popular vote and he would have won re-election.
On top of that, the Republicans have paid no real price for their acquiescence to Trump.
The party has almost certainly retained control of the Senate, pending a pair of special elections in Georgia, and the Democrats' majority in the House of Representatives will be no stronger in January than it was at the start of the week.
Those facts will have important practical implications for president-elect Biden when he enters the White House. The Republican Senate Leader, Mitch McConnell, will be able to stymie his agenda and wield immense influence over his administration's appointments.
So we're probably not going to get a left-wing version of Justice Amy Coney Barrett appointed to the Supreme Court in the near future. And Biden's self-described talent for making deals across the political aisle will be thoroughly tested.
This stuff matters a lot. The Democrats believed they were about to win total control of the federal government for at least two years. Instead, the US is facing even more gridlock. It's entirely possible that nothing of value will get done.
Ultimately though, this election was not really about the practical details of government.
Biden consistently cast it as a more abstract, moral choice; a referendum on who Trump was rather than any specific thing the President had done.
"We're so much better than this," he said over and over again during the campaign, calling the election a battle for the "soul" of the nation.
Biden was asking Americans to reject not just Donald Trump, but Trumpism in its entirety. By that measure, he fell short.
The result is a little like Biden himself. The former vice president and senator has never been a stellar political candidate. He's a perfectly serviceable politician, one who gets the basic job in front of him done without ever shattering the status quo.
This result, too, gets the job done. It gets Donald Trump out of office. But it does not shake conservatism free from his influence.
This is by no means a perfect analogy, but to illustrate my point, I want you to consider the two most recent UK elections. They showed that merely defeating a divisive politician is not necessarily enough – the manner of that defeat is important as well.
In both of these elections, the Labour opposition was led by Jeremy Corbyn, a perpetually grumpy and dishevelled figure from the extreme fringe of the British left.
You'll recall that Trump was once considered something of a joke by the Republican Party's mainstream. The same was true of Corbyn in the Labour Party.
When he first faced the voters in 2017, Corbyn lost, but by a closer margin than expected. Labour's core supporters convinced themselves Corbynism was palatable enough to the public to be competitive.
So, over the next two years, he only tightened his grip on the party. Loyalty to the leader was paramount. Some progressive MPs who didn't toe the line were chased out and left politically homeless.
It took the historic ruin of last December's election, in which Labour somehow managed to haemorrhage seats to a shambolic incumbent government, to shock the party out of its blind subservience to an obviously unfit leader.
It has since shifted back towards the reasonable centre under Sir Keir Starmer.
Ask yourself, which of those two elections more closely resembles what we have just seen in the United States? It's the one from 2017.
Any Republican running for office in the near future will need to court Trump and his base of supporters, who still demand loyalty to their leader. Failure to do so will likely mean losing a primary contest and never even making it to a general election.
We have already seen this dynamic in action. A couple of days ago the President's son, Donald Jr, slammed the potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates for doing too little to back up his father's farcical claims of fraud. Within minutes, they fell in line.
Even now, when Trump has lost, someone like Nikki Haley – the eminently reasonable former governor of South Carolina, and also a former United Nations ambassador – cannot hope to pursue her ambitions unless she kisses the ring.
That is what Biden failed to vanquish. Trump's presidency is ending, but his movement remains. And it's going to stop the American right from engaging in the sort of brutally honest self-reflection it desperately needs.
In fact, I'm not just talking about American conservatism here. The number of Australians, some of them elected officials, repeating Trump's paranoid and baseless ramblings this week has been instructive to say the least.
A few years ago, the principles of conservatism were clear enough. You might not have agreed with them, but you knew what they were – smaller government, low taxes, budget surpluses, personal responsibility, a foreign policy of peace through strength. All that stuff.
For some, it also meant personal morality, and the idea that character really does matter in public life, including in our political leaders.
How does Donald Trump measure up against those principles?
He's cut government regulations and taxes, I'll grant you that. What else though? He's run up bigger deficits than Obama. He takes no personal responsibility for anything, preferring to cast himself as the victim at every conceivable opportunity. His foreign policy has involved sucking up to autocrats and spitting in the faces of America's allies.
Let's not even broach the subject of personal character or morality.
So what is the Republican Party under Trump? What is the conservative movement that idolises this deeply peculiar human being?
It's a movement that proudly lives in an alternate version of reality, where the pandemic is nothing to worry about, unhinged conspiracy theories thrive, political norms are for suckers, legally cast votes should not be counted, compassion and honour are signs of weakness, cruelty is celebrated, racist dog whistles are cheered, knowledge and expertise are sneered at, QAnon-supporting lunatics belong in Congress, and the actions of the world's most powerful public servant deserve less scrutiny than whatever some TV host said on MSNBC last night.
Most of all, it's a personality cult in which whatever the leader says must be true, even when his words are the most obvious of lies.
The Democrats' failures in government helped drive millions of people to support this ugly version of politics. Biden's performance in this election failed to shake them loose.
He has four years to do better.