I like fun and I like games. Who doesn’t? There are traditional favorites like musical chairs where it’s perfectly OK to body block your 75-year-old Aunt Millie. Or one of my favorites, the Post-It note game. In this game the host writes the names of famous people on post-it notes and then attaches them to the backs of players. The object is to find out who you are by asking questions of the other players. Then there’s the recently popular enable the Authoritarian Game. In this game you have to start with a political agenda and be willing to do anything to accomplish that agenda, even if it means humoring an ignorant, narcissistic authoritarian bent on destroying the institution you are a part of. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Well, it’s all fun and games until the flying monkeys attack.
For the last four and a half years the Republican Party has been playing this game with predictable results. The game starts benignly enough. The authoritarian could tell a few harmless white lies with an emphasis on whiteness. It might be an exaggeration of crowd size. After all, he has been embellishing the truth about size all his life; so it’s not really that big a deal. One of the best cartoons I saw on this issue was by Clay Jones. In this cartoon Trump’s inaugural crowd size only looks significantly smaller than Obama’s because the aerial photograph couldn’t pick up all those white hoods.
Then the game starts to escalate a little. It’s still about crowd size but it’s a seamless transition to a more impactful lie. The authoritarian starts stoking fears about invading brown people. It doesn’t matter if they are coming from the middle east or south of the border, as long as they are brown. With this lie the authoritarian can build walls, insult religious beliefs, and separate children from parents. This lie also siphons power away from the players and gives it to our authoritarian. At first glance this might seem like a bad move for the players, but their eye is on an agenda; even if it erodes their authority. After all, with authority comes responsibility and the players want to avoid responsibility at all costs.
Now the game starts to get really interesting. With each enabled move the authoritarian grows bolder until there’s nothing he can do that’s too outrageous for most the players. For example, he could increase the wealth gap between the rich and the rest of us. He could promote bogus theories that further endanger people trying to deal with a pandemic. He could undermine the people’s faith in fundamental institutions needed for a functioning democracy. He could, in one breath say no one is above the law, while in the next say he has the authority to pardon himself. That would make it possible for him to commit a federal crime of his choosing and then pardon himself which would, you know, put him above the law. Each one of these moves could be checked or moderated by the players, but their agenda trumps all. The ultimate goal here is for the players to usher in a more conservative, less responsive government complete with a judiciary that could roll back federal overreach, unless that reach extends to a uterus.
Well, like I said: It’s all fun and games until the flying monkeys attack. What the players didn’t fully appreciate was that by enabling the authoritarian, they were also enabling his minions. Those particular monkeys came home to roost on January 6, 2021. On that day, rioters, not protesters, bolstered by the authoritarian’s unfounded claims that he won the election, stormed the Capitol building. They broke windows, ransacked office buildings, defiled chambers, and flung their anarchist shit all over the halls of congress. They also left pipe bombs on the players doorstep. Thank God, these were ‘real Americans’ and not some of those Black Lives Matter snowflakes. That would have been too much for the players to tolerate.
But tolerate this they did. In the afterglow of this exercise of personal freedom, 147 players voted to perpetuate the authoritarian’s tragic lie about the election; a lie that has been invalidated by numerous recounts and audits and has been dismissed over 80 times by courts with the authoritarian’s judges sitting on the bench.
So where do we go from here?
At the writing of this, the authoritarian has less than two weeks to go. Should we hold him responsible for all the things he has done? Should we hold these players culpable, who were responsible for this mess? It was their sophistry and cowardice that brought us to this place. I suggest we do something radical and look for the truth.
The real truth, not an alternative truth, and let it take us where it will.