A stress test for American democracy

Sir, – The US president was very foolish in declaring victory so early. But there was no "coup" ("At 2.23am, the US president launched an attempted coup", Fintan O'Toole, Analysis, November 4th).

There were no soldiers on the streets, and radio and TV stations were not taken over.

Let’s stop with the loaded terms and let the real winner, whoever that may be, become apparent soon enough. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – President Trump has actually only threatened to use legal means – the courts – to challenge the possible outcome of the election. Coup, used by Fintan O’Toole as a shorthand for coup d’état, is the removal of the existing government by force; the word itself means “blow”. It cannot be reasonably used to describe challenges through the courts.

Your columnist also writes that Mr Trump’s “anti-democratic tribe will almost certainly retain a majority in the Senate” without seeing the contradiction here. The Senate is an elected body, so if the Republicans hold a majority there, it is by democratic means. Are we to reject Senate elections because we do not like the winners?

Convincing the US electorate to reject Mr Trump can only be achieved by listening to his voters and offering them better alternatives; nothing will be gained by exaggerated condemnations of Mr Trump which serve only to reinforce the view of his voters that mainstream media is biased against him. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s polemic on Trumpism was spot-on.

Those commentators who maintained that Donald Trump differed greatly from his Republican presidential predecessors missed the main point. Back in the 1990s, American writer Gore Vidal described the economic policies of Republican presidents as “socialism for the rich, free enterprise for the poor”.

I would like to think that, by year’s end, Donald Trump and his family will be footnotes in American political history. Would I bet on it? No. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The results of the US election confirm that “Trumpism” is part of American society and is not going to go away anytime soon. Viewed from an historical perspective, the Trump phenomenon can be seen to grow from income inequality, immigration, ethnicity and governance, all intensified by social media.

Income inequality is wider in the US than Europe, where governments have intervened more in social affairs.

Most countries with substantial inequalities tend to experience considerable social and political tensions.

There is also a geographical dimension, with low incomes being experienced in some states of the US, like Kentucky or Oklahoma, and the “rust belt” of declining industrial areas, like parts of Pennsylvania, while New York and California enjoy higher incomes. People feel left behind.

The growth of immigration, particularly from South America, has affected most prominently the “sun belt” states of Texas, Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Similar concerns about immigration fuelled the Brexit movement in Britain. These factors combined in the US to reinforce a sense of grievance in the local population which invited support from new political populists.

Governance challenges also arise from the resistance by individual states to encroachment by Washington.

Mr Trump built on all these tensions, supported by communications technology. His use of Twitter exemplifies how a fresh arrival on the political stage can capture new information forms like social media.

The Trump phenomenon is part of a continuous process, and is not necessarily dependent on any one individual. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Please spare us the preening, hand wringing, overly dramatic opinion pieces from those virtuous defenders of democracy who claim to be appalled by Donald Trump’s grubby attempt to overturn the results of the US election but who also steadfastly campaigned – in these pages and elsewhere in The Irish Times – to overturn the result of the Brexit referendum of 2016. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – It’s often said of American sports that they are designed more for televisual entertainment rather than to take part in – with time-outs, divisions into quarters, and structures that encourage momentum in one direction and then the other.

Did the Founding Fathers have the same idea with their electoral system? – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Given what we are currently seeing in America, the slogan for the next US presidential election needs to be MANA (Make America Normal Again). – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – I’m tired of seeing all those US maps coloured in using red and blue only. Maybe it’s time for someone to give the children involved some new crayons.

Then there might be fewer threats and name-calling and they can learn to share. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Is it perhaps a little premature to say, “Lock him up”? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.