As many voters counted down to election day, some nervous partisans turned to games and humor to wile away the final hours of an unpredictable race by hosting “Bet Against Bush” poker parties.
The cards used at the gatherings, which promise to “last years longer than the administration of George W. Bush,” mock members of the current administration and criticize Bush supporters ranging from Iraqi National Congress President Ahmed Chalabi to former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay.
“It’s funny because I’ve always sort of treated the cards as a book,” said freelance filmmaker and Bush Cards creator Zachary Levy. “I’ve always thought that people just buy them to read the information on them. It was only recently that I realized people can actually play cards with these.”
Each card in the deck features a photo of an administration member and a quote or a fact about him or her. With each printing, the cards are updated to reflect changes in the administration; members who have left are stamped with the word, “Resigned.”
“I think the larger message for these cards never was just ‘anti-Bush,’ it was people at the grassroots need to take a critical look at the people in power, no matter who they are,” Levy said. “I think it’s always important for people at the grassroots level to keep their minds active and not buy wholesale into political marketing, no matter what side it’s from.”
The popularity of the cards, which are modeled after the “Iraq’s Most Wanted” playing cards given to American troops in Iraq in 2003, has meant an unexpected financial boon for Levy, who before making the cards, had no business experience.
“It really wasn’t the idea to make a successful business,” Levy said. “It just turned into one. The cards just seemed like a way to make people laugh and make them think a little bit at the same time.”
According to Levy’s statements to the “New York Times,” his cards began with an idea he pitched to friends in a bar and a $10,000 investment on his MasterCard. But it wasn’t long before the handful of New York City bookstores to which he distributed the cards were asking to be restocked and Internet orders for them kept coming.
But if Levy hopes that the outcome of the election will keep his business alive, he’s not admitting it.
“I figure that I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve had a good run and if it means the end of the business, it’s a sacrifice worth making for a saner world,” he said.
Levy said he is excited about the potential of the cards to affect the politics of their users.
“I think people see the cards and they no longer think of the ‘Iraq’s Most Wanted’ cards,” he said. “Now they see the cards almost like a voting guide in 52 chapters. They can get into places and reach people a lot of other political outreach doesn’t because they’re fun, because you can play games with them.”
Levy recently won a formal accolade from the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.