It's hard to know if Donald Trump really believes the false stories he is promoting about how the election was stolen, or if he is cynically pushing the conspiracy theory in order to prepare the ground for what he imagines will be the clamour by a grateful nation for him to return to the White House in 2024.
Is it delusion or is it a cynical manipulation of gullible people?
Either way, it is utterly destructive and an assault on democracy.
The tragedy is that conspiracy theories get traction.
Think of the fantastical, provably-false nostrums which came to be believed after 9/11. Did you know that there weren't any Jews in the Twin Towers when the attacks happened - except that there were.
Nor did the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) deliberately allow the hijacked airliners to reach their targets.
Some people believed all this rubbish. They believed that American astronauts didn't land on the moon.
But Mr Trump, a skilled user of the media, must know the power of a lie to get around the world before truth has put its shoes on.
He and his enablers and disciples have not produced a shred of credible evidence of voter fraud in any of the 60 lawsuits they have brought, often to judges appointed by Republicans. They have come nowhere near making a case that there was voting by undocumented immigrants, or of voters voting twice or that votes in the name of the dead were cast.
And still, he defies the evidence. According to The Washington Post, Mr Trump said last week about election organisers, "They dropped hundreds of thousands of ballots in each state. It's all documented."
"We won this in a landslide."
He didn't. The contrary, in fact.
None of this would matter if it were just the sad ravings of an old man who can't accept that his power is leaving him.
But Mr Trump is the President of the United States of America, with power to use, both before he is compelled to hand over on January 20 but also afterwards to shape the political landscape.
He has already made some terrible pardons, particularly of the four Blackwater mercenaries contracted to the US military who massacred 17 innocent people in Baghdad (though the Democrats are not in a position to shout about pardons after Bill Clinton's pardoning and commuting of the sentences of 140 people on his last day in office).
Anger and debate over the pardons will come and go - but an attack on democracy (which Mr Trump's actions are) will be harder to undo.
Those who want to believe a false narrative will not be persuaded out of it.
Mr Trump is ensuring that the division of America will remain. The Republican party will remain as he has fashioned it, devoid of moderate voices.
From day one, President Biden will know that it will be a fight. There will be no alliances across the aisle.
It is too much to hope that Mr Trump will change his ways. We would be fools to think that he will suddenly show grace and magnanimity. We know that won't happen.
But it would be nice to think that some of his allies will distance themselves from him (that, by the way, includes Rupert Murdoch whose Fox News has done so much to bolster Mr Trump's fantasies).
It would be good if Mr Trump's fans were told that the election wasn't stolen, that Mr Trump lost and that Mr Biden won.
It would be good if Americans of Right and Left learnt that their democracy needs repair - before it is gone.