With the first snow a done deal—and no big deal—my thoughts took me to games little people played. Among my all-time favorite Christmas gifts was a Parker Brothers board game called Landslide. Its box dubbed it a “Game of Power Politics.” The goal of Landslide’s two to four players was to be elected President of the United States by amassing a majority of the electoral votes. While it takes 270 to be elected the real thing, three or four players often made reaching that number problematic. And since the games couldn’t be thrown into the House of Representatives to determine winners, the Parker Brothers brain trust, understandably, took a little liberty with the American electoral vote system.
Landslide debuted in 1971. I received the game from an aunt and uncle a year or so later on Christmas Eve. Strange as it may seem, ten-year-old me was fascinated with the sport of politics and the workings of the American government. My brothers and I—and sometimes friends—played Landslide a lot, which is not something we could say for most board games. I remember Christmas gifts from the past—like Parker Brothers Masterpiece and Careers—played for one brief shining moment before disappearing altogether under the bed or in a closet. With the exception of Monopoly, I’d say Landslide was played in my house more than any other board game.
What I never dreamed possible in my youthful innocence was how debauched the American political front would become. The Man of Steel stood for “truth, justice, and the American way.” Now we have a president—closing in on an abominable year in office—who is the Bizarro Superman, the embodiment of the worst qualities of Americans and, really, humanity. Dishonest, vulgar, and ignorant, the man’s a cheeseburger-wolfing, tweeting narcissist who doesn’t read books and is captive of the small screen—a boob glued to the boob tube. When I first played Landslide, Richard Nixon was the president, hardly a paradigm of virtue. But he and his nogoodniks kept their gutter talk and illicit designs underground, recognizing at least that America was a nation of laws with a constitution. In other words, they hoped and prayed they wouldn’t get caught. The Nixon White House endeavored to maintain a presidential veneer—a public decorum that the American people expected of their presidents—in good times and bad.
Since my Landslide playing days, we have no doubt sunk lower than low. And the current president has bragged more than once about winning one of the “biggest landslides in American history.” Yet, he lost the popular vote by a considerable margin, which means he didn’t come near fifty percent of the twenty-five percent of Americans who bothered to vote. So, this Christmas I choose to remember Landslide, the real one, with great fondness. And I still have the Landslide board in my possession—a keepsake that takes me back to a simpler time before men strapped bombs to themselves in New York City subway tunnels.
(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)