The day after Donald Trump was elected president. Amy Siskind started compiling “The List.”
“Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember,” said Siskind, a Marblehead High grad.
So that’s what she’s done, each week sharing news stories representing eroding norms under the Trump administration. Taken together, she said, they reveal a nation pushed toward authoritarianism, the wielding of unchecked governmental authority by one person or group at the expense of the freedom of those who oppose them.
At first, Siskind shared her list of Trumpisms with only close friends. It went viral. And here it is, 74 weeks later, and more than a half-million readers visit theweeklylist.org. The Weekly List is also being archived by the Library of Congress.
Now, “The List: a Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year” (Bloomsbury Publishing), her just-released, much-buzzed-about book, catalogs tweets and posts from the president’s first 52 weeks in office. It shows, she says, that the “new normal” of American politics is not normal and that our 45th president is doing harm to America.
“It started with six or nine items a week. Last week’s list was 163,” said Siskind. “Trump has not changed; he’s still attacking the same things he attacked in week one.”
The Weekly List is the opposite of “fake news” and “alternative facts” she said.
“Trump is stoking hatred as a purpose. He has supported hate crimes, he has criticized the media and casts off those who don’t agree with him. There is no accountability or consequences, so he continues to push the boundaries of the previously unthinkable.
“Trump is surrounded by 20 sycophants; those who disagree with him are fired. Hundreds of top government jobs are unfilled. Our standing in the world has weakened. Hate has been normalized. He has no real policy agenda or grand vision.
“He cares about two things: enriching himself and staying in power. He’s creating crises and chaos. He is changing the fabric of our country.”
Rather than take on the president, some 40 high-profile Republican senators and congressmen, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, are walking away from elected office. Siskind believes the tide will start to turn with the midterm elections.
“I don’t believe (Trump) will make it to the end of his term,” opined Siskind. “This is not Republicans versus Democrats. This is democracy versus authoritarianism. People are now engaged and ready to fight to save our democracy.”
Her social media followers, she said, are united in stating that The Weekly List gives them back a sense of control, that they aren’t imagining the chaos and seeing it in writing helps them make sense of it all.
The Cornell grad worked on Wall Street for two decades, eventually leaving to raise her children, Amanda, now a junior at Middlebury College in Vermont, and Jackson, a high school senior. She got involved with Hillary Clinton’s successful Senate campaign in 2006 and, joining many women who were disquieted by unfair treatment (by the media and others) to Clinton during her presidential run, co-founded and has served as president of The New Agenda. The grassroots bipartisan national organization works on issues including economic independence and advancement, gender representation and bias, and campus sexual assault.
Siskind, who has been on a whirlwind “This is How Democracy Ends” book tour that has taken her to the West Coast and back, is speaking via phone from her home in New York’s Westchester County on a rare off-day. She will read from and discuss “The List” in Cambridge May 15, a rare return to the Bay State.
“I go to high school reunions and stay connected via Facebook, but it’s been a while since I’ve been back,” she said. “It was a wonderful experience, growing up in Marblehead. I was very involved in school, a three-season athlete and in many student activities.”
Her parents, the late Bernard and Selma Siskind, raised five children in Swampscott and Marblehead and were founding members of Temple Beth El (Shirat Hayam). Amy Siskind is the youngest by 22 years.
“Although my parents are not alive to see this, I carry my dad’s watch in my handbag along the book tour to keep them beside me.”
And her children have embraced Mom’s activism. “Yes, they are very involved, too. They see how all-encompassing The Weekly List is, and ask ‘Why don’t you stop and let someone else do it?’ They know that won’t happen. As long as Trump is in office, I will continue compiling the list.”