I have a little essay in a section of the Irish Times today, dedicated to the U.S. election. I wanted to address a misconception about American politics, one that Barack Obama articulated in a recent speech in Philadelphia, and that I take to be common among many people abroad. Namely, that if Donald Trump goes away, many of the conspiracy theories stalking our politics will go with him. It’s the delusion that somehow by electing a “normal” president, our politics can return to normalcy.
I argue that conspiracy theories aren’t confined to the Trumpian Right, but are pervasive in American life. And I suggest two sources behind the phenomenon: the nature of information sharing on social media, and the decline of our institutions, especially the family itself. If we are formed even from childhood to believe that all institutions and movements exist primarily to advance the self-interest of their members against the common good, then just about everything appears to us as a conspiracy.