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A lot has happened this year. Today, we’re reflecting on what The Atlantic covered in 2020. Below is a non-exhaustive list of must-read stories, including some of our standout work on the coronavirus, America’s racial reckoning, and the election.

Mara Wilson

Cleaning the NYC subway
Dina Litovsky / Redux

1. How the Pandemic Defeated America

Despite ample warning and considerable advantages—such as immense resources and scientific expertise—the United States floundered. In our September cover story, Ed Yong unpacked how the pandemic brought America to its knees.

2. The Prophecies of Q

QAnon is more than just a conspiracy theory, Adrienne LaFrance wrote in our June issue. It’s the birth of a new religion—and its legion of followers is growing.

3. Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’

Jeffrey Goldberg first reported that President Donald Trump had repeatedly disparaged service members and wounded veterans: “Why should I go to that cemetery?” Trump said the morning of his canceled visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in 2018. “It’s filled with losers.”

4. The American Nightmare

This summer, Ibram X. Kendi examined what Black Americans have experienced for more than 400 years: “To be black and conscious of anti-black racism is to stare into the mirror of your own extinction.”

5. Exclusive: The Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing

Testing is one of the most important tools in understanding the epidemiology of a disease. In March, The Atlantic combed through COVID-19 data from all 50 states and found that if the true extent of the outbreak were known through testing, the American situation would look a lot worse.

The last children of Down syndrome
Julia Sellmann

6. The Last Children of Down Syndrome

“Few people speak publicly about wanting to ‘eliminate’ Down syndrome,” Sarah Zhang writes. “Yet individual choices are adding up to something very close to that.”

7. Dwight Schrute Was a Warning

One of the reasons The Office is still popular 15 years after it first aired, Megan Garber writes, is because of the prescience of its worst and best character, Dwight Schrute: “He is tragedy and he is comedy, and because of that he is intensely cathartic to watch.”

8. The Table Stays White

A national discussion on racism in food media erupted in the middle of the year—dismantling the industry’s oldest cliché, Food brings people together. It might be tempting to dwell on questions of representation when examining the disparities in the industry, Hannah Giorgis writes, but the work of challenging biases in food must dig deeper.

History will judge the complicit
Borja Alegre

9. History Will Judge the Complicit

What drives people to abandon their principles in support of a corrupt regime? Why do some Republican leaders choose to support Donald Trump’s immoral and dangerous acts? Anne Applebaum examines the history and nature of complicity.

10.  Winning Was the Easy Part

Electoral triumph is usually when candidates luxuriate in reveries about what they might accomplish, Franklin Foer wrote after Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump. But the president-elect’s task won’t simply be to enact an agenda—he’ll also have to put the country back together.


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