Let’s Play No-Trumps (some thoughts on how the cards are stacked this election)


Perhaps it was because my given name means white breasted that, from a young age, I have been sensitive to name meanings. Perhaps it was my early exposure to the Bible, where names mean something significant about the character of a person that consolidated it (Jabez, or Jesus, or Peter, for example). Whatever the reason, I always thought it a little fishy that Donald Trump’s last name was, in fact, Trump.

I learned how to play bridge in college: a card game with trumps and no trumps, suits and hands, scoring above and below the line, with finessing and tricks, and players rendered vulnerable. According to Wikipedia,

trump is a playing card which is elevated above its normal rank in trick-taking games. Typically an entire suit is nominated as a trump suit – these cards then outrank all cards of plain (non-trump) suits. In other contexts, the term trump card can refer to any sort of action, authority, or policy which automatically prevails over all others.

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race, I was entertained. Seriously: the “you’re fired!” guy? Him? With his ridiculous tweets, worthy of Josh Groban spoofing? Yes, he had money, and at first it seemed to me like a game: “let’s see if I can win the Oval Office square on the Monopoly Board, too!”

I thought the obvious ridiculousness of him as a viable candidate would soon become clear, but months are passing, and that’s not happening. I thought we should pay him no mind, and the fuss would go away; just like savvy parents sometimes need to ignore a tantrumming toddler and not reward bad behavior with attention.

Instead, crowds are cheering him on as he makes xenophobic, racist remarks which belie little to no respect for human rights or indeed, any of the values which I think ever made America great in the first place. As one woman shrewdly observed, Trump is what would happen if all the trollish comments on the internet were rolled up into a person. Rather than a measured and wise diplomat one would hope to have wield a position of such great power, he seems to be a bully. a mud-slinger. a flame-thrower.

And, devastatingly, a wildly popular one. The thought of him being the elected leader of the free world  fills me with horror: do people not know that America would be throwing its name under the bus if they elected him? (Not that my own country of birth has done better in recent years: more horrifying than the fact that a man with fraud and rape scandals by the dozen was elected president is the fact the millions of my countrymen voted for him to be there.)

Which brings me back to Trump, and Bridge, the card game. In the bidding rounds before any cards are played, the players signal to their partners with hints about their hands to establish what the “trump suit” will be. If you have a high number of diamonds (inference intended), the game would go so much more favorably if you can signal to your partner and secure diamonds as trumps for that round. You could then have your so-called partner lay down their cards and be the “dummy” for the round while you work the table. The rules are such that a privileged hand can land up taking every single trick, no matter what aces are literally up the others’ sleeves.

But shrewd opponents would work hard to keep the diamond-strong team from declaring diamonds as trumps. Perhaps they could bid for Clubs to be the trumps. Or, better yet, if they rallied their strongest cards, they could settle for a game of No-Trumps: where all the suits are equal, and no one card gets to call the shots over other would-be winners.

Such a game would take finesse, and tactful bidding. If you were playing against a team where one player really did have a stacked hand, you would need team work. Even to lose the round by one or two in a game of no-trumps is better than letting the diamond-heavy Trump take all the tricks.

Friends, don’t let Trump keep playing. Speak up. Please.