The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year by Amy Siskind, Bloomsbury Publishing, US $28.00, Pp 528, March 2018, ISBN 978-1635572711
President Donald Trump is perhaps the only president of the United States of America who became highly controversial much before he entered the White House – even before he was elected president. He is either loved or hated. There are few Americans who have a balanced and nuanced view of President Trump and his presidency. As soon as Donald Trump was elected the president of the United States, Amy Siskind started writing weekly about important events and actions by the Trump Administration under the headline “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.” She created this Weekly List as a project she wanted to share with her friends but it soon went viral and now gets more than half a million views every week. In The List, Amy Siskind has compiled her weekly lists in one volume.
‘The List’ didn’t start with any grand ambitions or even a vision. Amy Siskind writes, “I just had an instinct to write down all things that were happening — things that were not normal… Week 1 had nine items, but by week 2, ‘The List’ had doubled to eighteen items and concluded with, ‘I’m sure there are more. This list is overwhelmingly already.’” A few weeks later, as the readership started to take off, she started adding source links so the people could read the articles. The chaos was building, there was so much to keep track of, and people were missing news items.
The weekend before Trump took office, January 14, 2017, ‘The List’ went viral for the first time. She says the Week 9 List carries thirty-six not-normal items and it was picked up by several prominent progressive bloggers and had close to two million views. She wrote a short note that week observing that in normal times, “anyone of these items would be a shock” and the “lack of consequences had changed me, and I suspect us all.” She told readers that she hoped ‘The List’ would help us “trace our way to normal when this nightmare is over.”
Even as ‘The List’ grew longer week by week, the themes remained consistent: Trump was interested in making money and staying in power, and he would take whatever steps necessary to make these things happen. She says that every week Trump fanned the flame of hate, from signing the Muslim Bans to the Transgender Military Ban to ending DACA to increasing ICE roundups, to repealing the Global Gag Rule, to taking swipes at NFL players. He took steps to consolidate power such as installing regime members to undermine the very agencies they were meant to lead, silencing dissent and our free press, intimidating the legislative branch, and stuffing the judicial branch full of extremists. At the same time, Trump transformed our standing in the world, alienating our close allies while cozying up to authoritarians, including of course Putin.
As year one of ‘The List’ draws to a close, Trump is still complaining about the “rigged system,” which he assured his raucous crowds he would fix by silencing the fake media and dismantling what was left of the Deep State corrupt institutions that hampered him from assuming full control. Amy Siskind says that it turns out authoritarians do follow a fairly predictable game plan – even if new to us and our fragile democracy. Our country has spent a year in chaos, and so often people worry out loud about forgetting all the events that happened in a single week.
The List is a rarely important addition to the existing and growing literature on current American politics. Amy Siskind has done a highly commendable job of writing what can be described the outline of our current history. The List is a necessary read not only for students and experts of American politics and history but also all Americans who care for their country. No other book is packed with so much knowledge about American politics since the election of President Trump. The List is as easy-to-read as Twitter and Facebook feed but can still be called a reference book. Everyone with interest in current politics will enjoy reading it.