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The Atlantic launches "Unthinkable": 50 Writers. 50 Essays. 50 moments that define the Trump presidency

As we near the midpoint of the Trump presidency, The Atlantic has cataloged the 50 most norm-bending moments of the administration, analysed by 50 of The Atlantic’s writers and contributors. The digital report, “Unthinkable,” enumerates the incidents that would have been unimaginable under most any previous US president, Republican or Democratic.


Unthinkable ()


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

This project presents a nuanced and digestible compendium of the most outlandish news developments from the current US 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. 

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.

You can find the 50 essays that make up “Unthinkable” today at

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