I spent the whole time editing this podcast on a yoga ball. So Gabe, I get you.
It’s that time again – as the United States gears up for another Presidential election, the rest of the world (of which I am a part), sits and waits to find out whether the danger of a complete lunatic getting his or her hands on the nuclear footballs and dooming us all comes to pass, or whether we’ll get the next smiling nice guy (who actually isn’t that great at all) as the world’s premier political cartoon plays out in live action before our very eyes. So, naturally, with so much of the internet abuzz with talk of just who will contest the election, along with the impending general election in my own country of Ireland, I decided to dig through Steam, and find the best political simulation I could that would also run on my pretty old Macbook.
The result, is Democracy 3. Now, Ireland isn’t part of the game (although there is a wildly inaccurate mod that adds us – seriously, our population’s not actually 93,000,000), so, I figured, heck, I may not have ever even been to the United States, but if an absolute moron like Donald Trump can run for office, there’s no reason I can’t. I mean, I at least have some policies. So I fired the game up, and decided that it was time to revolutionize the world’s largest economy, under the banner of the glorious Johntent Party, and finally destroy the evil, heinous Cosimano Dawn once and for all.
My plan of attack here was simple. I set the game up to be as realistic as possible, giving myself a four year term, and allowing myself to be re-elected once, should the population so choose. I was going to stick to my own beliefs as much as possible – and there were certain things I absolutely would not bend on. As someone who believes heavily in tackling social inequality and with a history of voting for Green politics, these were going to be the backbone of what The Johntent Party stood for. My aim was to get re-elected and see out two full terms as President of the US, though, to be honest, I expected to be assassinated before the first one ended.
Look at that starting debt, hoo boy.
And so, off I set, with an immediate deficit of $40bn, and a massive national debt of well over $3,000bn. Obviously, I needed to raise some cash, and quick, because The Cosimano Dawn had apparently abolished almost every tax in the nation (apart from a fixed-rate income tax), and we were already flat broke. So taking a look at the problem areas of the nation, I noticed that alcohol abuse was through the roof – what better way to start tackling that than with an alcohol tax? And hey, a plastic bag tax has been great for the environment just about everywhere, so let’s implement one of those, too. And gosh darn it, the health of the country’s in the shitter, so we’re implementing a junk food tax, sorry McDonald’s!
With money now flowing into the country, it’s time to invest. Education and health are the two biggest issues we apparently face here in the Land of Johntent, so let’s make things better for our kids. Investing in free, healthy school meals is first up, and ensures that our poorer students aren’t going hungry. Pumping some money into technical colleges is a big investment, but the population is happy to support it, and the standard of education should rise with time as a result.
Next, it’s time to invest in the environment a little, by tightening controls over pollution, and imposing harsher fines for breaking them, as well as implementing a tax on airline pollution. My first quarter in charge of the nation ends there, and things are going well; the taxes brought into the country have helped slash the deficit, while essentially everyone is happy, with the exception of only the most hardcore, militant right-wing capitalists.
As I move into my second quarter in charge, homelessness has become an issue, and here’s where I start to make some enemies for real. My investment in state housing in order to tackle this issue, coupled with my taxing superstores (because fuck you Walmart, honestly) has led to some hard-right lynch mobs roaming the streets, and my newly implemented ban on public smoking hasn’t helped things. As the quarter ends, I’m left searching for something that I can do to placate them, without compromising my own values.
Curbing alcohol abuse was a major concern.
I find just the tonic quite quickly, by clamping down on corruption, enacting some new consumer rights laws, and investing in an alcohol awareness campaign as the first year ends. Things are going well now, and I’ve managed to quiet my most vocal, violent opponents. And then, it all goes wrong, or so you’d maybe think.
I surge ahead in the polls, though I’m quickly brought back to earth by cutting military spending, making patriots now hate me. Almost immediately after making drastic cuts to a $200bn per quarter expense, my oil pipelines are attacked by the Canadian government. Ordinarily, this would be catastrophic, but luckily, my recently enacted hybrid car policy has cut the nation’s oil use by a quarter, so those pesky Canadians didn’t succeed quite as much as they would’ve hoped. After all, further planned policies will only result in oil usage being cut even more.
Now well into my second year, my cabinet are starting to get a little on edge. With the game giving you a random assortment of ministers to start with, three of them were unhappy with the ways Johntent was improving the country, and so, I let them go. I took a big hit among conservatives and patriots, with whom I had suddenly become bizarrely popular despite implementing policies that’d probably get me killed in real life – possibly because of the budget surplus I was now working with. I didn’t help myself by reenacting the laws against racial discrimination that Cosimano Dawn had apparently abolished, nor did legalizing gay marriage shortly afterward.
I was now in real trouble – I received a warning that a small extremist cell was plotting to murder me, but I decided not to give in. Instead, I provided child benefit grants to parents, began a needle exchange program, and committed one of the ultimate sins in the eyes of the ultra-right, by making university education free. This was especially popular with the youth and socialist demographics, though I was now 100% about to be assassinated. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone, placating the right while tackling unemployment, and poured some money into both a business startup campaign, and a youth entrepreneurship scheme, to bring me back up in the polls, to around 46% overall in a country where conservatives outnumber the more liberal population.
Now into my final year in power, the nation’s GDP is climbing, health improving, education soaring, and unemployment slowly falling, not to mention the environment is doing great. But the people, they’re stressed out, and my popularity is falling as Cosimano Dawn takes a slight lead in the polls. An election’s coming, and business still has too much power and influence over the working class, so let’s help to destress our population, and try make ‘em a little more jolly in the process. By turning Labor Day into an official bank holiday, encouraging businesses to move towards telecommuting jobs, and making fully-paid maternity leave the law, the people are happier and less stressed.
Now’s the time to really buckle down and start doing things to make everyone happy. Unfortunately, my next move – making foreign language education compulsory – has the opposite effect on the nation’s patriots, but, they hate me anyway, so I can probably live with that. Free eye tests are cheap, and everyone’s into it, while my clean fuel subsidies are saving people money, encouraging them to go green, making everyone happy and helping to further combat the asthma epidemic I inherited from Cosimano Dawn.
In the final quarter before election time, I discover – to my horror – that Cosimano Dawn had apparently relaxed child labor laws to an insane degree, and now very young children were at work – for a pittance. By criminalizing child labor, parents everywhere love me, but my biggest victory is yet to come. Just like in the real world, the US prison system is a mess, and with a significant surplus at my disposal, thanks to the increase in GDP as well as the billions my new taxes have brought in, I can invest in a more European style prison system, focusing on rehabilitation. Bizarrely, not only is this a hit with the left-wing, but the right also gets on board, and now things are neck-and-neck with Cosimano Dawn, as election time comes. Their party is bigger, but I have a slight lead in the polls. Things could go either way, but…
Fuck you, Cosimano!
I’m re-elected! Only 57% of the electorate turned out to vote, but I’ve beaten Cosimano Dawn by a margin of 35-22. Honestly, I’m shocked. That I survived plots by radical groups and warmongering Canadians is shocking enough, but to be reelected ahead of Mike Cosimano and his frankly psychotic policies? That’s the real surprise. I didn’t get to accomplish everything that I wanted to in my first term, but hey, I turned the deficit into a surplus, improved the economy, took big strides towards real civil rights reform, and have almost fixed the nation’s health. What’s more, I managed to stay true to my own beliefs, even if it was difficult at times.
That’s what great about Democracy 3, it’s a game that really forces you to think about the things you do, the things that you believe in, and weigh the pros and cons accordingly. There are issues near and dear to me that I couldn’t implement, no matter how much I wanted to, because I didn’t have the money, because my own political party had too many dissenters, because someone would have literally killed me – I was pretty sure if I had issued that wealth tax or opened the door for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship when I originally wanted to, that’d have been game over. It’s a fairly simple looking game, but deep down, the depth is incredible.
It’s on the back of that success that the people have given Johntent their approval after four years of sweeping reform, and seen fit to give me another shot at it. There’s much more to do, with significant investment in infrastructure, public transit and the environment top of my list, not to mention some more taxation for the 1% and significant immigration reforms, but will I get to do so, or have to bow to pressure in order to stay alive? Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.