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race to the white house Trump's call for counting to be shut down sent a shiver across the US

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Donald Trump told supporters ‘we will win this’ (Evan Vucci/AP)

Donald Trump told supporters ‘we will win this’ (Evan Vucci/AP)

Donald Trump told supporters ‘we will win this’ (Evan Vucci/AP)

IT is the morning so many anticipated waking to the political obituary of Donald J Trump – “died raging, choking on a fake news bone” – trending on Twitter and detailed by RIP.ie.

Instead, the sun rose to reveal America as a country in desperate search of himself, a nation divided down the middle by its discordant attitude to the most polarising human on earth.

A superpower on the brink, a global titan diminished, a land in deep and terrifying crisis.

America, the land of the free, is struggling, in an overnight gale of autocratic sentiment whipped up by the current White House resident, to cling to its democratic credentials.

The race to be the 46th President of the United States is going to a photo finish: Just a few pixels will determine who takes the keys to the most powerful nation on the planet.

Joe Biden requires two of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia to unseat Trump.

He initially trailed in all four (though a postal vote surge took him into a narrow lead in Wisconsin while significantly reducing his deficit in Michigan), having failed dismally to deliver the landslide suggested by the polls, and is clinging to a growing hope that the postal votes yet to be counted will skew heavily Democratic.

The growing fear is what might happen if the current Commander-in-Chief is unseated.

Trump, as in 2016, emboldened by his making a nonsense of pre-election numbers, delivered a disquieting, chaotic, inflammatory speech around 7am Irish time.

It might have been borrowed from Putin’s authoritarian Russia.

Prematurely declaring victory, calling for counting to be immediately shut down, suggesting electoral fraud and casting doubt on the democratic process, it sent a shiver across the nation and those who are committed to constitutional politics.

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US President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House (AP/Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House (AP/Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House (AP/Evan Vucci)

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Imagine - though it would never happen - Brian Cody demanding the final whistle at half-time in the All-Ireland hurling final just because Kilkenny were leading by a point.

And threatening to go to the Supreme Court in a strop if the game was played to a final whistle and the Cats were beaten.

America is living through an infinitely more real and sinister version of that imaginary erratic behaviour.

It casts a tyrannical shadow over the whole process, offers a glimpse of what lies ahead if Biden – inching toward victory where some liberal media, blindsided by their own prejudices, confidently forecast a runaway success - can snatch legitimate victory from the jaws of defeat.

Biden’s response to Trump's menacing weasel words speaks of how acutely America is split, emphasises the foreboding, fear and loathing that is the soundtrack to this elemental reel currently running in the minds of the 350 million US citizens.

“The president’s statement tonight about trying to shut down the county of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect. It was outrageous because it is a naked effort to take away the democratic right of American citizens,” spat the Biden camp in a statement.

America is not divided over its attitude to war or tax or standards of healthcare or medication.

It is not even torn asunder by conflicting attitudes to Trump’s incoherent Covid-19 response.

The gash, the hatchet-blade wound in its society, has distilled down to attitudes toward one amoral, narcissitic, malignantly alienating 74-year-old who will stop at nothing to hold and to power, yet is revered by his supporters as a bulwark against a liberal tsunami.

What is unspooling is not a contest between Biden and Trump: Rather it is a referendum on the latter.

On one side of the chasm, their MAGA baseball caps worn proudly, are several disparate groups: Those who feel left behind, ignored by the urban elite, economically disenfranchised; social conservatives, evangelical Christians and – in places like Florida – the Cuban Americans alarmed by Trump’s taunting of Sleepy Joe as a “socialist”.

And, lasciviously caressing their semi-automatics, a sinister band of white supremacists energised by Trump’s instruction to “stand back and stand by.”

Staring across the battle-zone, are those who are repulsed by Trump, who believe him to be unmoored from truth, despise his naked racism, gargantuan ego, incessant lies, climate-change denial and absolute absence of empathy.

They too have their extremists, notably the criminal rump who attached themselves to legitimate protest groups and used the discord over the criminal police gunning down of black Americans to loot the stores of Fifth Avenue and the Miracle Mile.

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Joe Biden and Donald Trump (Andrew Harnik/Evan Vucci/AP)

Joe Biden and Donald Trump (Andrew Harnik/Evan Vucci/AP)

Joe Biden and Donald Trump (Andrew Harnik/Evan Vucci/AP)

The anti-Trumpers – who watch CNN and read the New York Times while their foes tune into Fox News and the POTUS Twitter feed – would probably inject themselves with bleach if it guaranteed their hated adversary would dissolve and disappear.

The result is still in the balance.

At 10.15 Irish time on Wednesday morning, Paddy Power had Trump as solid 8/11 favourite, Biden trading at 11/10. By 12.45, the challenger was installed as a narrow favourite.

The odds-makers are not offering terms on what happens when the results are known.

What seems certain is America will convulse and tremble, its democratic institutions coming under a strain unprecedented since the 1776 Declaration of Independence.

Whether he wins or loses, it all comes down to the mood-swings of the self-styled "extremely stable genius".

For that reason alone, America should be afraid. Very afraid.

At an existential moment in its history, a raging, unpredictable egotist, one who is emotionally unequipped to deal with defeat, will not think twice about taking his nation to the brink.

And, perhaps beyond.

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