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Trump: Photo: “Donald Trump closeup,” by Gage Skidmore licensed under CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. Hue modified from the original.

Butter, Michael. “Conspiracy Theory after Trump.” Social Research: An International Quarterly, vol. 89, no. 3, Sept. 2022, pp. 787–809


The title of my article may seem premature, as American politics is not done with Donald Trump, and Trump definitely is not done with American politics. He may or may not manage to return to the White House, but it is highly likely that he will try. Still, for the time being the Trump presidency is history, and it is time to assess its effects on American politics in general and conspiracy theory in particular. Accordingly, the “after” in my title does not only indicate a temporal relationship but is also meant to articulate another meaning—admittedly, long obsolete in English—which the Oxford English Dictionary describes as “on the authority of, as stated by, according to (an author or text)” (OED n.d.). In other words, what I am tracing is the impact that Donald Trump has had (and of course continues to exert) on the forms and functions of conspiracy theory in American political culture. Specifically, I am interested in tracing a shift in the status of conspiracist knowledge within the Republican Party and parts of its electorate. But to assess the impact of Trump we also need to understand what was going on before he entered the scene. This is why this article begins even before his ancestors immigrated to the United States. It ends with a consideration of what might lie in store in the future.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.