Amy Siskind lists the norms changing under Trump. The Capitol chaos didn't surprise her
“I think people are emotionally scarred by four years of him," she says.
Amy Siskind’s critics said she was an alarmist or suffering from Trump hysteria when she warned the U.S. government was being dismantled.
Then came the siege on the Capitol, four years after the author and activist started a list of the shattered norms in Trump’s America.
“We were accused of being nuts,” Siskind said. “I’m surprised at how vulnerable our U.S. Capitol was and how easy it was for people to get inside – but I’m not surprised that they tried.”
The Mamaroneck resident and former Wall Street executive became a face of the so-called anti-Trump resistance with “The Weekly List,” which documents the changes during the polarizing and often chaotic Trump presidency. Since Trump’s election, there have been more than 35,000 items on the list.
Siskind called the riot an attempted coup that was a result of what she has kept track of: the media normalizing the president’s actions and Trump pushing boundaries without consequences.
The images of the riots show members of Congress “basically unprotected” but it could have been worse, she said.
“It scares the hell out of me,” Siskind said. “Imagine if 100 foreign agents from Russia showed up in our Capitol, just stormed and held our lawmakers for ransom.”
Siskind started her list, she said, because she viewed Trump’s tenure as a slow creep toward authoritarianism. She has often cited the metaphor of the boiling frog, which says if you put a frog in hot water it will jump out but if you gradually raise the temperature the frog won’t even notice before it's boiled to death.
Week by week, the list may have seemed gradual, but over the long haul it documented profound upheaval in American politics and society, she said.
The metaphoric frog is boiling today, Siskind said.
“It was very clear he was not going to leave in a normal fashion,” she said.
The first list came the week after Trump’s election, nine items shared informally with her friends on social media, but within weeks the new installments were going viral. By late 2020, new installments included as many as 300 items.
Each began the same: “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.”
"Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet in the Oval Office," an entry in Week 18 reads. "Merkel: 'Do you want to have a handshake?' Trump: *no response*"
The first 52 weeks became a 2018 book, “The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year.” A podcast version was launched.
Siskind’s profile as a social media influencer grew, as she notched half a million followers on Twitter. She became so consumed with the list that she routinely stayed up until 11 or 12 working on it at the end of last year.
The coronavirus pandemic accounted for many 2020 entries.
"Trump repeated the surge of coronavirus cases, blaming, 'when you test, you create cases,'" a Week 192 entry reads, in part. "'So we’ve created cases.'”
After the 2020 election was called for Biden in November Siskind wrote “The End” to conclude her Week 208 update.
There were a few days in November and December after Biden’s win that she said things felt close to normal again.
“I actually started having some normal dreams, which is also nice,” she said. “I didn’t have action dreams where I’m fighting him or fighting forces of evil every night.”
But the list wasn’t over yet.
With Trump refusing to concede and seeking to change the result of the election, Siskind pledged to keep the list going until Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration – unless Trump leaves or is forced out first.
A lot of people are still “super worried,” she said.
“I think people are emotionally scarred by four years of him," Siskind said. "He’s done a real job on the American people."
A list for the month of December had 370 items.
Siskind said once Trump is gone she’ll move onto other projects but she’ll still be paying attention. The media should self-examine over how it covered the presidency and new laws should be put in place, she said.
“I will tell you I’m hanging up my cleats," she said. "But if Biden doesn’t push for accountability and his new attorney general does not hold Trump and others accountable for what’s happened over these past four years, we will be marching again in Washington, D.C. I guarantee that.