The Atlantic Releases “Unthinkable”

As we near the midpoint of the Trump presidency, The Atlantic has catalogued what it describes as the 50 most norm-bending moments of the administration, analysed by 50 of The Atlantic’s writers and contributors.

The Atlantic Releases “Unthinkable”

The digital report, “Unthinkable,” enumerates the incidents that would have been unimaginable under most any previous president, Republican or Democratic, says The Atlantic.

“Unthinkable” appears at, in video, across social platforms, and in The Atlantic’s newsletters.

According to the publishers, this project presents a nuanced and digestible compendium of the most outlandish news developments from this administration. A team of reporters and editors at The Atlantic combed through every day of Trump’s first two years in office to arrive at this ultimate list of 50 moments. The result is the single-largest digital project The Atlantic has done to date.

Topping the list is the Trump administration’s continued policy of family separation. As argued in the leading essay for “Unthinkable”: “It is an axiom of moral life among civilized humans that to separate young children from their parents is an offense against not just nature but society.” The essay continues: “Forcibly yanking children from their parents is of a piece with some of the darkest moments of American history: the internment of Japanese Americans; the forcible separation of American Indian children into special boarding schools; slavery.”

In the introduction to the project, editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg reflects on The Atlantic’s historic endorsement of Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in October 2016—only the third presidential endorsement in the magazine’s 161-year history:

The Atlantic wrote of Donald Trump: “He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar.” The publication argued that Trump “expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself.” Trump, they also noted, “is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.”

The 2016 editorial was a repudiation of Donald Trump’s character as much as it was an endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, says The Atlantic. It was not meant to be partisan. The Atlantic’s founders promised their readers that we would be “of no party or clique.” This remains a core governing principle of the magazine today.

The report is a catalogue of incidents, ranked (subjectively) according to both their outlandishness and their importance. In most any previous presidency, Democratic or Republican, each moment on this list would have been unthinkable, say the publishers.

Writing for “Unthinkable” are 50 Atlantic writers, editors, and contributors. Essays all published simultaneously on January 14 and include: Adam Serwer on Trump’s embrace of white nationalism; Adrienne LaFrance on the true meaning of covfefe; James Fallows on Trump’s inability to console the nation; Annie Lowrey on tax returns; David Frum on the mystery of the disappearing security clearances; Ibram X. Kendi on “shithole countries”; Ed Yong on Trump’s disregard for science; Megan Garber on the press secretaries who lie for the president; David French on Trump’s definition of masculinity; Jemele Hill on the war on black athletes; Franklin Foer on Russian collusion; George Packer on Wikileaks; Emily Bell on attacks against the press; Vann Newkirk on Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria; Caitlin Flanagan on nepotism in the White House; and James Parker on the orb in Saudi Arabia.