Donald Trump winning the 2016 was such a complete delight for billionaire and Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer that, according to the New Yorker, she has devised a really batshit role-playing board game called “The Machine Learning President” to help re-live the thrill and excitement of it all.
Players assume identities like Mike Pence, Elizabeth Warren, and even her father, Robert Mercer. Each character begins with a certain amount of money, power, access to tech, and an agenda. Mercer’s platform reportedly includes “Mass Deportation of Undocumented Immigrants” and “Freedom of Religious Discrimination (healthcare, hiring),” which is another way of saying the freedom to deny women and LGBTQ healthcare and job protections. A room of rich people role-playing total control over the American political system. Charming!
The goal for each person is to win the election, and it goes like this:
“During each round,” the Rules continue, “Candidates and Factions should be building alliances to increase their political Power and Voter turnout.” This can be accomplished through “political bargaining,” by “buying ads,” or by “investing in tech.” Just as the Monopoly player might get ahead by drawing a good Community Chest card, players of Mercer’s game try to utilize “machine learning”—that is, artificial intelligence driven by algorithms—to enhance their odds of winning. The “Rules of Play” don’t mention Cambridge Analytica, the now bankrupt data-mining firm that used vast amounts of online information obtained from Facebook without users’ consent to pinpoint and persuade voters, and in which the Mercer family invested millions of dollars—but the Machine Learning President echoes the firm’s tactics.
For the Mercers, ruining your life has always been the game. Now it’s also a board game. Wonderful!