It’s been 1000 days.
I doubt the definitive retrospective on this presidency and administration will ever exist. No one book or story, no matter how long, will be able to cover this kaleidoscopic history — let alone its fallout — in its entirety.
Three months after Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, we shared a collection of longreads from Trump’s first 100 days in office in an attempt to capture a cross-section of some of the early, often breathless stories that came out of that hectic period of adjustment (and refusals to adjust). The month after, we looked back even further, examining his war with the past.
Here are some of the longreads from Trump’s first 1000 days that Longreads editors and contributors chose as some of the best political writing of each year, as well as all the stories about the presidency and the administration that headed up our Top 5 Longreads of the Week emails since Trump’s inauguration.
The question is not “Where did Donald Trump come from?” It’s “Where have our so-called allies been?” It is not “Why is he resonating with so many people?” Rather, it’s “How could he not?”
But we already know the answer to that.
“I don’t trust any journalist in the world more that Kirsten West Savali,” Kiese Laymon wrote in 2016, when he picked this story as one of the best political analyses
of that year. Written eight months before the election, Laymon singled this piece out for making it clear “to any one willing to listen what this nation was going to do on November 2” — and for anticipating so many clear answers to questions that are somehow still being asked years later.
“Few writers have done more to expose the racist truth of the Trump presidency than Ta-Nehisi Coates,” Longreads Founder Mark Armstrong wrote while highlighting this excerpt from We Were Eight Years in Power as some of the best political writing of 2017:
Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.
While reading one of its most iconic passages, Longreads editor and writer Danielle Jackson shares how this segment from Coates’ excerpt echoes James Baldwin’s commentary in the 1964 documentary Take This Hammer, on “the creation of a class of pariahs in America.”
The opposite of people who drag you down isn’t people who build you up and butter you up. It’s equals who are generous but keep you accountable, true mirrors who reflect back who you are and what you are doing.
Solnit’s Grimm fairy tale was one of our No. 1 story picks for 2017. For another poetic retrospective, read Brit Bennett’s essay on “Trump Time” in Vogue:
In Trump Time, the clock moves backward. The feeling that time itself is reversing might be the most unsettling aspect of a most unsettling year. What else is Make America Great Again but a promise to re-create the past? Through his campaign slogan, Trump seizes the emotional power of nostalgia, conjuring a glorious national history and offering it as an alternative to an uncertain future. He creates a fantasy for his base of white Americans but a threat for many others. After all, in what version of the past was America ever great for my family? “The good ol’ days?” my mother always says. “The good ol’ days for who?”
He said he was going to bring back the steel mills.
“You’re never going to get those steel mills back,” she said.
“But he said he was going to,” I said.
“Yeah, but how’s he going to bring them back?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “but it’s what he said, last year, and people voted for him because of it.”
“They always say they want to bring the steel mills back,” Frear said, “but they’re going to have to do a lot of work to bring the steel mills back.”
He hasn’t built the wall yet, either. “I don’t care about his wall,” said Frear, 76. “I mean, if he gets his wall—I don’t give a shit, you know? But he has a good idea: Keep ’em out.”
He also hasn’t repealed Obamacare. “That’s Congress,” she said.
And the drug scourge here continues unabated. “And it’s not going to improve for a long time,” she said, “until people learn, which they won’t.”
“But I like him,” Frear reiterated. “Because he does what he says.”
Chris Smith, author of The Daily Show (The Book), contributor to Vanity Fair, and contributing editor at New York Magazine picked Kruse’s story as one of Longreads’ Best of 2017. Longreads Editor in Chief Mike Dang also selected it as an editor’s pick, alongside Adam Davidson’s New Yorker story, “Donald Trump’s Worst Deal.”
Rahawa Haile’s story on hiking the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail was one of our No. 1 stories for 2018:
On Feb. 9, 2017, 20 days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence as attorney general. The travesty of that sentence, the sinister potential of it more than a year later, fuels my anxiety still. It is the reason why, mere months after returning from the Appalachian Trail, I emailed my father on Feb. 22, 2017, to see if he might be interested in meeting me in Alabama for a thru-hike of sorts. I wanted to walk from Selma to Montgomery — following in the footsteps of the civil rights marchers who had come before me — to protest Jeff Sessions’ entire political career, specifically his most recent and wildly dangerous appointment as the head of the Department of Justice. […] I traveled to Selma, Alabama, because I had to, because no other walk on Earth made sense to me, or my rage, at a time when walking was the only activity for which my despair made a small hollow. And fam, let’s be clear — I did it for us.
Jane Mayer has written several blockbuster stories on the Trump administration, including this year’s “Fox & Friends” and 2017’s “The Danger of President Pence.” Here was another of our No. 1 stories for 2018:
Jamieson said that, as an academic, she hoped that the public would challenge her arguments. Yet she expressed confidence that unbiased readers would accept her conclusion that it is not just plausible that Russia changed the outcome of the 2016 election—it is “likely that it did.” […]
Her case is based on a growing body of knowledge about the electronic warfare waged by Russian trolls and hackers—whom she terms “discourse saboteurs”—and on five decades’ worth of academic studies about what kinds of persuasion can influence voters, and under what circumstances. Democracies around the world, she told me, have begun to realize that subverting an election doesn’t require tampering with voting machines. Extensive studies of past campaigns, Jamieson said, have demonstrated that “you can affect people, who then change their decision, and that alters the outcome.” She continued, “I’m not arguing that Russians pulled the voting levers. I’m arguing that they persuaded enough people to either vote a certain way or not vote at all.”
Last year’s ground-breaking investigation into the potentially illegal financial schemes, tax evasions, and grandiose lies employed by the Trump family was one of our No. 1 stories for 2018.
President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.
Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.
But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.
Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes.
8. Hideous Men (E. Jean Carroll, The Cut)
E. Jean Carroll’s excerpt from her memoir, What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal was one of this year’s No. 1 stories:
Which brings me to the other rich boy. Before I discuss him, I must mention that there are two great handicaps to telling you what happened to me in Bergdorf’s: (a) The man I will be talking about denies it, as he has denied accusations of sexual misconduct made by at least 15 credible women, namely, Jessica Leeds, Kristin Anderson, Jill Harth, Cathy Heller, Temple Taggart McDowell, Karena Virginia, Melinda McGillivray, Rachel Crooks, Natasha Stoynoff, Jessica Drake, Ninni Laaksonen, Summer Zervos, Juliet Huddy, Alva Johnson, and Cassandra Searles. (Here’s what the White House said: “This is a completely false and unrealistic story surfacing 25 years after allegedly taking place and was created simply to make the President look bad.”) And (b) I run the risk of making him more popular by revealing what he did.
Further listening: The Daily covers this story in “Corroborating E. Jean Carroll,” which Longreads editors discuss on an episode of the Longreads Podcast, “All Things Being Unequal.”