Laughs, Learning, and, Yes, Relaxation in the 2020 Election

Board games and books bond families while movies provide escape.

Posted Oct 07, 2020

Beyond heckling in the first debate, staged events, and TV attack ads, what’s a voter—a family—to learn from this election cycle. Plenty.

There’s a lighter side to election learning, from the bevy of books to a board game that paves the way to understanding November 3, plus movie escapes.

Why do we vote? Two books offer key take-aways on what our Constitution intended and how our government works. This often gets lost in divisive, political discourse.

 Loriann Oberlin, used with permission of Workman Publishing and B.E.S. Publishing, an imprint of Peterson's LLC.
A bevy of books, aimed at children, but beneficial for the adults reading with kids, abound this election year.
Source: Loriann Oberlin, used with permission of Workman Publishing and B.E.S. Publishing, an imprint of Peterson's LLC.

Hot off the press, The Constitution Decoded provides a colorful take as we sift through each of the articles, understand terminology and want to turn each page, thanks to author Katie Kennedy. Illustrator Ben Kirchner engages us with graphic images and boxed sidebars, making this a delight.

Similarly, Syl Sobel, J.D. has updated How the U.S. Government Works, carefully explaining how the legislative, judicial and executive branches operate. This discusses the work involved in government, ending with our duties. Citizens pay taxes, serve in the military and on juries and vote. Sobel covers that in Presidential Elections and Other Cool Facts with history, the order of succession, third-party candi­dates and some first ladies. Each contains a glossary and resource guide.

Vote for Me! How Governments and Elections Work Around the World grants a handy comparison describing anarchy, monarchy, theocracy, dictatorship, democracies, and totalitarian states. Authors Louise Spilsbury and Mike Gordon describe parliamentary democracies as in Canada and the UK, communism, and how all of these governments operate. Colorful pages make the content pop. The book ends with, what else…voting and elections.

Grownups: Bond with your child (your pet will do) and center yourselves with objective messages of who we are as a country, how we vote and why it all matters.

Kinesthetic learners love the creativity that Workman Publishing brings to Be a Voter: 450 Stickers for Democracy, featuring talented illustrators. No better way to work on a school project.

Semper Games, used with permission.
A dual-sided, dry erase board, specialty dice, states map and more provide civics, geography, math and probability and strategy lessons for the whole family. Intended for ages 8+, taking 35-60 minutes to play.
Source: Semper Games, used with permission.

Designed by Jim Moran, Election Night!, winner of a 2019 Parents’ Choice Gold Award, allows two players or teams to see what it takes for a White House win.

Play with two sets of PlaySmart Dice™. Roll all four to create two sets and then find where you can get your most influence on the dry erase board, providing a map and guides to crucial electoral votes. One side features the addition method; the tougher flip side uses multiplication. Cards allow you to work with viral campaign ads, statewide vote recounts, or targeted ad campaigns. Moran, a retired Coast Guard officer, wanted to teach his own children the mechanics of the Electoral College while enhancing math skill. In turn, he teaches all of us.1

Semper Games, used with permission
No better homeschool lessons of social studies as well as math than with Election Night!, making the ideal gift this year.
Source: Semper Games, used with permission

Dirty politics is but one aspect of Spin Doctor, a card game, exploring public relations, delegate counts and electoral votes.2

When your only desire is to kick back on the couch, click your remote into a movie or TV series. Classics like All the President’s Men show the shadowy Deep Throat, typewriters and shoe-leather that got the reporting accomplished to expose a history-making coverup. Game Change harkens back images of Tina Fey and exposes what went into that veep choice and the oh-no moments that followed. It’s said that writer and actor Chris Rock got the inspiration for Head of State from another female vice-president pick in 1984. Both timely with Kamala Harris on one party's ticket.

In The Ides of March, George Clooney and Ryan Gosling campaign; Michael Douglas, an incumbent widower, chooses between love and advantage in The American President. Kevin Costner makes us laugh in Swing Vote as his little girl registers him to vote and becomes his consultant. On demand: The Comey Rule, starring Jeff Daniels, in James Comey’s side of the Russia hacking problem, and Irrestistible, where Jon Stewart directs Steve Carell in a small town, culture shock campaign.

Jeff Daniels also starred in TV’s The Newsroom, where Will McAvoy, a Republican who worked for Bush 41, takes on his lost lover MacKenzie McHale as well as the Tea Party in the run-up to the 2012 election. Reporter Jim Harper gets kicked off the Romney press bus while Sloan Sabbith makes economics seem sexy and clues us into the Great Recession. Jane Fonda becomes the media mogul (irony there) of Atlantis Cable News Network. Aaron Sorkin’s fast-paced, at times sarcastic dialogue, makes this enjoyable to watch, and there’s far more to it than an election with several romances and an attempt to take over commentary with real news reporting.

Documentary watchers have their pick of Hilary (a take on what happened in 2016), The War Room, remembering James Carville, part of the brain trust along with George Stephanopoulos, responsible for Bill Clinton’s ascent to the White House, and Our Brand Is Crisis, which explores Carville’s work abroad strategizing elections. Street Fight, details Cory Booker’s underdog status for Newark mayor against a longtime incumbent who took whatever measures to win, and By the People: The Election of Barack Obama, the journey of another long-shot candidate who made history.

Books and films will no doubt chronicle what occurs in the 2020 race and outcome. It’s inescapable, all around us. We might as well have fun and learn a little along the way.

Copyright @ 2020 by Loriann Oberlin. All Rights Reserved.

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