In Brooklyn, a group of strangers with beers in hand tried to find common ground on Election Night.
“Our Southeast Asian policy is unnecessarily hostile towards China,” said Morten Lindtner, 28, a Danish citizen who said he would have written in the name of Sen. Bernie Sanders if he could vote.
“Disagree,” said Jonathan Fluck, a supporter of Green Party candidate Jill Stein, as he grabbed his drink.
As polling stations across the country closed, about a dozen people filled the backroom of Pete’s Candy Store, a bar in Williamsburg, for a non-traditional game night. Duos took the stage and approached the microphones hesitantly, awaiting the topic they would soon “anti-debate.” They were paired together based on their opposing political views, with the hope they would come to agreement on issues like foreign policy and health care.
The goal is to encourage unity at the height of political divisiveness, said James Hook, the organizer and gamemaster of the event. While there were no self-identifying Republicans in the room, there was still a great difference of opinion.
“People are addicted to this level of disagreement as a form of entertainment and spectacle,” said Hook, 46. “But they don’t like the effects it has on our world.”
He decided gamesmanship would be a good way to celebrate agreement. The rules were simple: each team of rivals, taking turns wearing white lab coats or what Hook calls a “costume of authority,” had about two minutes to come up with as many agreements as they could. Finding common ground earned them a point. If a teammate uttered “disagree” into the microphone, both people have to take a drink. Then it was back to finding terms of commonality. No facts or statistics were allowed. Only opinion.
Fluck, sporting a Green Party t-shirt tucked in neatly to a pair of light-wash jeans, said that the trivia night was crucial to “bridge a divide.”
“I can’t tell you have much vitriol the Green Party faces,” said Fluck, who volunteered for the campaign. “There is incredible animosity.”
Reporters and pollsters were beginning to call congressional races on a television that mounted on the wall, and trivia night was tied after two rounds. Fluck and his teammate, Lindtner, were up against another duo: Jennifer Mandaglio, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, and Ben Lorenz, who supported Bernie Sanders but reluctantly voted for the Democratic candidate. After a quick break to check on the results of the election, people made their way back through the glass sliding door for a “Sudden Death” round. The topic was space travel.
“Taxpayer money should be used to fund trips to outer space.”
“It’s wrong that space exploration is spearheaded by corporations in the United States.”
When the clock ran out, Mandaglio and Lorenz racked up four agreements. They were the winners.
While the contest would have been more challenging with a Republican teammate, Mandaglio said it was productive to bring together people who generally align broadly, but disagree on the nuances of big-picture issues.
“There are people from different demographics,” said Mandaglio, who lives in Brooklyn. “It was productive to force them to work together.”
The next thing Mandaglio and her teammate will have to agree on? How to split up the prize. The duo received one night at the nearby Wythe Hotel.
“We’re figuring it out,” Mandaglio said.