How to Think About the Trump Presidency

The Atlantic’s essential writing on an improbable, consequential, chaotic four years

Trump's face overlayed on an illustration of the White House
Shutterstock / The Atlantic

The Atlantic has covered Donald Trump as a television star, provocateur, and businessman for as long as he’s been all those things. But our first writing on Donald Trump as a politician came in 2010, in a piece that now feels as prescient as it does quaint. “Might Donald Trump Try for the White House in 2012?” inquires the headline of an article dated October 4, 2010. “Almost certainly not, says everyone,” the subheading responds; the article goes on to parse the real-estate mogul’s ability “to dominate the news, if he wants to,” as well as the fact that he “may not be the strongest candidate.”

Trump did not seriously try for the White House in 2012, but by 2015 we were again asking “What if Trump is the nominee?”, and warning that polls might be underestimating his support. In the early part of the 2010s, we reported on his bankruptcies, his bluster, and his career-making commitment to birtherism, the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. During his campaign, we asked why he wouldn’t repudiate the Ku Klux Klan, identified his particular politics of fear, reported on his appeal to an anxious nation, and remarked that the election could be the most consequential anywhere in nearly a century. And in the November 2016 issue, in only the third presidential endorsement in The Atlantic’s 16-decade history (the fourth ran two weeks ago), we argued that he “might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.”

Whatever happens this week (or next week, or the one after that), we will, of course, continue to cover the Trump presidency—its reverberations, its revelations, its damage report—for years to come. But in the meantime, we’ve compiled a list of our most essential reporting on Trump’s first term as it happened. (You can read more in The American Crisis, a collection of our most urgent writing about the current moment.)