The Atlantic Politics Daily: Our Most Memorable Stories of the Year

A few of the pieces—from Steve King to socialism—that stuck with our reporters this year.

It’s Tuesday, December 24. In today’s newsletter: Our reporters’ favorite stories of the year. We’ll be back on Thursday with more stories worth revisiting.


Covering politics as a journalist can often feel like having short-term memory loss: With the nonstop flood of news, it can be tough to remember what you worked on last week, let alone last month. But as 2019 wraps up, I asked my colleague on The Atlantic’s politics team to remember the best, most memorable stories they’ve worked on over the past year:

Steve King, the Iowa congressman, has become radioactive within his own Republican Party for a years-long track record for racist, incendiary comments. (What he told The New York Times last year: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?”) But while he may be ostracized in Washington, D.C., King keeps on winning reelection back home in Iowa. My colleague Elaine Godfrey talked to King supporters who are more devoted than ever.

Socialism in the United States is having A Moment, with Bernie Sanders proving to be a juggernaut in the 2020 race and and the number of dues-paying members of Democratic Socialists of America growing by a factor of ten since 2016. But contrary to the stereotype, not all socialists are Brooklyn hipsters. Elaine, who covers Democrats and the left, spent some time with socialists in Iowa who are plotting a movement to push the Democratic Party to the left.

If there’s one word to that best defines the chaotic, crowded, nearly-year-long 2020 Democratic primary, it’s this: Electability. “Who do I like best?” might be how voters are supposed to choose a candidate, but “Who can beat Trump?” seems to be, well, trumping it this cycle. Russell Berman went to New Hampshire to talk to voters about why they’re obsessed with electability.

It was only a minor event in a year full of impeachment and a presidential primary, but one of the most stunning political stories of 2019 was Virginia becoming an all-blue state, completing its rapid transformation from a Republican stronghold not even two decades ago. Russell went to Richmond, the capital, to see how Democrats pulled it off, even as the state party was dogged by The Scandals (plural).

Emma Green, our reporter covering religion and the right, has been focused on a question a step ahead of this political moment: What will conservatism look like after Donald Trump leaves the White House? In July, she went to a conference where a set of conservatives sought to graft an intellectual framework to the messiness of Trumpism. Where did they seek to hold their conference to plot a new era in right-wing nationalism? … A Washington, D.C. Ritz-Carlton.

Virtually since Donald Trump descended down the Trump Tower escalator in 2015 and declared his presidential candidacy, a certain unsavory question has swirled around him: Is he losing it? My colleague Peter Nicholas, our White House reporter, wrote in October that Trump’s unhealthy habits amid the impeachment inquiry had his advisers worried: “I think what we’re viewing, if you think about the human side of it, is the man has no life. He just has no life,” a person close to the president told Peter.