5 disparate ways to talk about politics with your family at Thanksgiving
- Thanksgiving is a day for family, mediocre NFL games, voracious caloric consumption, and quite often, political arguments that quickly devolve into fruitless acrimony.
- The internet is filled with advice takes on how to politically engage your adversarial relatives at dinner.
- The advice runs the gamut from meditation and deference to call-outs and conflict escalation.
Thanksgiving is a day for family, mediocre NFL games, voracious caloric consumption, and quite often - political arguments that quickly devolve into fruitless acrimony.In what has become a pre-Thanksgiving tradition, the interwebs are awash with advice on how to politically engage your adversarial relatives at dinner. Advertisement
- "Don't try to change minds. ... Instead, go in with the goal of simply trying to understand where people are coming from."
- "Make 'I' statements rather than truth statements. ... For example, a Democrat might have better luck saying to a Trump supporter, 'I'm worried that President Trump may be violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution' rather than 'The president is irredeemably corrupt, and you're a horrible person for supporting him.'"
- "Don't characterize the other side's opinion; just characterize your own. ... For instance, a pro-Trumper would be advised to say, 'I'm worried about higher taxes damaging the economy' rather than 'You Democrats just want to feed at the trough of a bloated welfare state.'"
Writing in The New York Times, Lisa Lerer also dispenses some peacekeeping advice.
- "Don't mention President Trump," Lerer advises, citing a SurveyMonkey poll showing "37% of respondents saying mention of the president was most likely to start an argument" - regardless of the respondents' political party.
- "Focus on the food."
- "Lay down the law," by declaring some topics off-limits and "starting the night with a toast to civility."
- "Forget about winning."
But not all Thanksgiving survival advice is conciliatory. Also in The New York Times, Karen Tamerius introduces an interactive bot representing your dreaded "angry uncle," and a game plan on how to convince him that you are right and he is wrong - but only if he's conservative. If he's liberal, you should defer to his wisdom.Clearly no one-size-fits-all advice will be practicable for every family, but if you're someone who would rather avoid the strum und drung of maximalist political warfare among "loved ones" assembled for a mere few hours, Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic offers a tongue-in-cheek 13-step guide to handling every political issue likely to cause resentment among any faction of the family. Point six is the one I'm most inclined to abide by this Thanksgiving:Advertisement
"Every family has a patriotic duty to debate the most important unsettled political question of our era: Is President Donald Trump a sexually predatory Nazi who praises murderous tyrants while normalizing a Margaret Atwood dystopia? Or is he a latter-day Midas who beds porn stars only with their consent … with the same manly hands he used to romance North Korea's leader out of his nukes? At my house, each faction will nominate a champion to argue its position, those of us who remembered to bring IDs will vote on who won, and absent unanimity, we'll settle the matter by combat."
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