Watching Out for Broken Norms with Amy Siskind of “The Weekly List”
Amy Siskind kept track of Trump in real time throughout his presidency. Each week, she published list of thing after thing that he was doing that flew in the face of our democracy. Listen to her advice for preventing another autocratic candidate from taking office and how you can help Democrats win the midterm elections!
All episodes begin and end with the 2017 single “Rise” by rock group Betty (www.hellobetty.com)
So this kind of playbook had happened before in other countries which was frightening and at the same time reassuring that other countries had weathered this storm. As a relatively new democracy, we hadn’t been through a bout of this so directly. So the call to action was really from reading what we were about to experience and the idea of writing it down.Amy Siskind (13:20)
In this episode:
The hosts share what they’re pissed about (02:00)
Carol introduces our guest, Amy Siskind (08:50)
How “The Weekly List” started (12:22)
What does returning to normal look like, and is that even the goal at this point? (23:15)
Perpetrators of the Big Lie and how they’re looking to continue Donald Trump’s work (26:45)
What Amy sees for the future and how to make it happen (28:05)
What this means for LGBTQ rights (35:36)
The Hosts Start by Sharing What They’re Pissed About
Gloria is pissed about a phone call she received from a long-time political activist friend who says that President Biden was too strong in his speech on September 1st. She’s even heard some liberals are parroting the Fox News adjective and saying that the speech was “divisive.”
Betty is pissed that Republican politicians and their operatives are erasing their anti-abortion stances from their websites. What gets her goat is that these candidates think that women will just forget what it is that’s being erased. The underlying misogyny here is absolutely revolting.
Sherrye is pissed about Trump’s rant on Truth Social last week. He also rolled out a stream of 60 posts and reposts from QAnon accounts. Then he told a right-wing radio host that he was financially supporting some of the January 6th, 2021 rioters.
Carol is pissed about the Supreme Court – again. They’ll be back in October, and voting rights are on the docket. The Supreme Court is already influencing the November midterm elections as they
Our guest, Amy Siskind, is pissed about the misogyny and sexism in the country and within the Democratic party. Even though the new Prime Minister of the UK is a conservative politician, there is stark contrast between America and other nations who have women in positions of power.
Carol Introduces our Guest, Amy Siskind
Perhaps due to her upbringing as a Jewish American who had studied the Holocaust, Amy felt strongly in 2016 that something wasn’t right. She began studying authors who wrote about authoritarianism and recognized that America was at a real risk of becoming an autocracy. One of the main things that stood out to Amy was the idea of norms being broken, and she felt called to do something. She says that Eleanor Roosevelt has been her North Star, and Amy went to Val-Kill Cottage to ruminate on what she should do. After that walk, she sat down and wrote what was week one of “The Weekly List,” which continued until President Biden was inaugurated.
Sherrye Asks for Some Subjects that Amy Covered in Her Newsletter, “The Weekly List”
The mission of the list was this: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
Week 1 was nine broken norms and listed things that weren’t normal in our country. By the end of the project, there were 250 to 300 broken norms a week. The scope of the project ended up being the documentation of the destruction of our government from within. Historians have referred to this work as the first draft of history that are well-sourced cut-and-dried facts.
Unfortunately, while Amy hoped it would be a map for us as a country to find our way back, it seems that we as a democracy haven’t addressed that many of these issues.
From a Weekly Newsletter to a Book Publication
From week three, The Weekly List really started to spread, with a huge uptick in Week 9. That week, Meryl Streep gave a speech at the Golden Globes about Donald Trump, and several prominent progressive blogs also picked up on “The Weekly List.” About a year into the project, she made a formal website, which is still live and serves as an archive.
While she initially pushed back against compiling everything into a book, she did have a fear of things being taken down from the Internet. If her website was hacked, all of her work — and the evidence of this slide to authoritarianism — could be lost.
It took 500 pages, but she put the first year of “The Weekly List” into a book, simply called “The List.” Buy it here.
From Then to Now
While Amy is looking for a return to normalcy, there are plenty of Republican candidates who could learn from Donald Trump’s incompetence and succeed where he failed. We see this with the demotion of Liz Cheney and her eventual loss in Wisconsin, which was fully attributed to her speaking out against Trump.
Gloria references her current read, “Allow Me to Retort” by Elie Mystal. He’s laying out in great detail exactly how our normal hasn’t been so idealistic. She asks how Amy feels about a return to normal in light of the fact that our normal has not always been so fabulous. Amy agrees that the seeds of this slide towards authoritarianism was more gradual, but she focused on very granular broken norms that weren’t subjective. She cites the example of how Donald Trump put up a picture at the processing centers on the Southern border with “The Art of the Deal” instead of a welcoming message as other sitting presidents have done before.
The Continuation of the Big Lie and Politicians Picking Up Where Trump Left Off
There are extreme right-wing politicians who would love to have a power grab like Trump had, but they are also more effective at what they do.
So it’s up to us to make a statement in midterms. Best case scenario is that Roe being overturned will cause an uprising of sorts from women, independent voters, and realistic Republicans to keep both house of Congress and keep the White House in 2024. We also need to have a strong presence in the Senate so that politicians can push through some of the things—like voting rights, equal rights, and reproductive rights—that really need to be addressed.
LGBTQ Rights Are Also at Risk
Amy talks about how the rulings surrounding gay rights are very new, and there is so much at stake. She makes a call to the LGBTQ community that it is absolutely critical that all of those in the LGBTQ community need to care about these rulings for the issue itself and for future implications. The Supreme Court and Republicans feel accountable to no one, but we can hold them accountable by voting them out on November 6th in direct response to overturning Roe v. Wade.
Amy Siskind Has a Plan
After Roe v. Wade was overturned, Amy put out a video with a road map and held several grassroots events in her backyard. She’s hosted events for Tim Ryan, Val Demmings, and Raphael Warnock. She’s having Cheri Beasley of North Carolina on September 22nd, which is a key state that has a Democratic governor who has veto power over the more conservative state legislature.
Her calls to action are:
- Mobilize in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, where their House and Senate seats are up for grabs, so too are their governor, secretary of state, and attorney general seats
- Get people to vote, especially young (age 18-29) voters
- Volunteer for those key races
Reminder: National Voter Registration Day is September 20th
In This Episode:
Host Gloria Feldt is currently reading “Allow Me to Retort” by Elie Mystal. Buy it here.
“Allow Me to Retort is an easily digestible argument about what rights we have, what rights Republicans are trying to take away, and how to stop them. Mystal explains how to protect the rights of women and people of color instead of cowering to the absolutism of gun owners and bigots. He explains the legal way to stop everything from police brutality to political gerrymandering, just by changing a few judges and justices. He strips out all of the fancy jargon conservatives like to hide behind and lays bare the truth of their project to keep America forever tethered to its slaveholding past.”
As an unrelenting patriot, pro-democracy activist, fighter for social progress, and advocate for the marginalized, Amy strives to help others find their own voices. Her work at The New Agenda and her mentoring of young women and LGBTQ+ youth are a few expressions of this.
In 2017, Amy was recognized as one of the Politico 50 because of The Weekly List. She received formal recognition from the Westchester County Legislators for her LGBTQ+ advocacy. Amy continues to lead The New Agenda’s annual events and speaks at college campuses all around the country on topics such as economic independence, professional advancement, women’s representation, and gender-related bias, as well as campus sexual assault.