Donald Trump’s second term as US president, not so long ago, was regarded as a wish-fulfilment fantasy conjured by fanatical admirers in red MAGA caps. In the real world, so the official narrative ran, Joe Biden, the experienced senior politician and guarantor of stability, had restored the rightful order of things, the elites were back in control and the Trump presidency would go down in history as a freakish interlude from which Americans had emerged chastened.

That was the received wisdom, just a few months ago, among the American mainstream media, the liberal commentariat, the Democratic establishment and the echo chamber that amplifies their views among the similarly bien-pensant media here in Britain. Now, however, just 11 months into the Biden administration, the return of Donald Trump to the Oval Office in 2024 is being widely canvassed, not chiefly among conservatives but by pillars of the American liberal establishment, and not as a marginal hazard but as a growing likelihood.