The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year
"Siskind provides a valuable reference work for the first year of the Trump presidency—judged the worst in U.S. history by leading political scientists."
What happened in the first year of the Donald J. Trump presidency is detailed here with information drawn from a wide variety of sources—not just the major newspapers but also The Hill, Politico, MSNBC, MaddowBlog, Atlantic, BBC, CNN, BuzzFeed, Forward, Fox News, and many Twitter accounts.
The List includes events related to domestic and external affairs. When Siskind began this survey in November 2016, her “authoritarian” list included nine to twenty items per week. The week of the Women’s March, as Trump took office, the list grew to thirty-something items. In his first hundred days in office, the list grew to and found a new resting point of sixty- to seventy-something items per week. By May 20, 2017, the list approached and then began to exceed one-hundred events each week. To give a flavor, here are a few events drawn from different weeks:
Week 1: November 13–20, 2016
- The president-elect threatened First Amendment rights as his tweets attacked Saturday Night Live, The New York Times, and Hamilton.
- The untraditional and unorthodox acts of the president elect and his many conflicts of interest occurred so fast and furiously that they barely got coverage. Reporters followed Trump’s reality-show story lines on Twitter instead of reporting as traditional journalists.
Week 21: April 2–8, 2017
- Five weeks passed since Trump accused Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower without offering any evidence or an apology.
- The Los Angeles Times launched a scathing six-part series on “Our Dishonest President.”
- Rejecting Trump’s defense, a Kentucky federal judge said a lawsuit against Trump for inciting violence at a campaign event could proceed.
On May 20, after 26 weeks—half a year—Siskind urged readers to be aware of events that many people were normalizing and accepting each week amid the chaos. They failed to notice many items in the news because of the overwhelming number of stories. Normalizing”meant accepting what might earlier have shocked.
Week 33: June 25–July 1, 2017
- Trump ended an almost two-decade-long tradition of celebrating Ramadan at the White House.
- Six Afghan girls were denied one-week visas to show their robot at FIRST Global Challenge in D.C.
- Jared Kushner did not report the loan or his personal guarantee on his financial disclosure form filed with the Office of Government Ethics.
Week 49: October 15–21, 2017
- Larry Flynt took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post offering to pay ten million dollars for “information leading to the impeachment and removal from office” of Trump.
- The New Yorker reported on “Duty to Warn,” a group of psychiatrists who claimed Trump “suffers from an incurable malignant narcissism” that makes him unfit to serve and dangerous.
- A federal judge in Kansas denied bond for one of three men in a militia group called the Crusaders, a group of Trump supporters who had plotted an attack against Muslims one day after the 2016 election to “wake people up.”
- Mashable reported that the EPA climate change website, which was taken down in April 2017, reappeared in part, but with all references to climate change removed.
Week 51: October 29–November 4, 2017
Siskind listed 133 events and reported Trump’s most aggressive statements against the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the court system for not doing what he thought they should do.
Week 52 November 5-11, 2017
Trump attacked U.S. intelligence and sided instead with “President Putin, very strong.”
Caveat emptor! Siskind warned that experts in authoritarianism advised citizens to keep a list of things subtly changing around us. Her message paralleled that of Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (Crown, 2018), who noted similarities between cases in East Central Europe in the 1930s and Latin America in the 1970s and the United States in 2016–2017.
Siskind provides a valuable reference work for the first year of the Trump presidency—judged the worst in U.S. history by leading political scientists (New York Times, February 19, 2018).
Any historian of the 45th presidency should consult Siskind’s list. To be sure, her selection focuses on events likely to disturb liberals, but many of these same events might please Trump’s base. Most of her sources are centrist or liberal, though she does cite many tweets from the White House and some bulletins from Fox News. For one explanation of these phenomena (besides the collected works of Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx), readers might consult the book reviewed at NYJB David Neiwert’s Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump.