It’s Thanksgiving, So Of Course People Want You To Start Political Fights With Your Relatives

Happy Thanksgiving! Don't forget to start a political fight with your family!

Thanksgiving Dinner

Over the past several years, it seems to have become something of a new, troublesome, Thanksgiving tradition for various political writers and advocacy groups to post articles in advance of Thanksgiving giving people guides that basically can be boiled down to “How To Ensure That Your Thanksgiving Will Be Ruined By Political Arguments.” It seems to have started two years ago when the Obama Administration encouraged people to talk about the Affordable Care Act while a group tied to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg encouraged a family argument about gun control, a debate which seemed inadvisable at the time depending on how much alcohol people had been drinking and whether firearms would in fact be present. Last year, the effort to turn Thanksgiving into a version of Crossfire involving food and sad children expanded to include groups that encouraged discussions about climate change, marriage equality,  the outcome of the midterms, immigration, Common Core, the events in Ferguson, theIsraeli-Palestinian conflict, the political subtext of the Hunger Games books and movies, football, but only if you want to talk about anything other than what’s actually happening on the field, and even the revelations about long-simmering allegations against Bill Cosby. Another writer produced a guide to talking to your Uncle who’s involved in the Tea Party, while another relished a political argument with relatives, perhaps so they wouldn’t have to worry about traveling for another family gathering for Christmas.

With Thanksgiving here again, it seems that this unfortunate tradition is continuing. The Democratic Party is out with a guide to talking to your Republican Uncle, thus continuing the tradition of singling out uncles. Raw Story steps in for gender equality, though, and gives you a guide to talking to your crazy Aunt. (Question: Is the Crazy Aunt married to the Crazy Uncle, or are they from different sides of the family?) Vox is back with another comprehensive guide to arguing with your relatives about vaccines, Donald Trump, Syria & ISIS, Benghazi, Black Lives Matter, and Bernie Sanders. Not to be outdone, The New York Times blog The Upshot has its own guide to holiday political discussions, as does The Washington Post’s The Fix. The Wall Street Journal provides those crazy Uncles and Aunts with some ammunition to deal with their millennial nephew. If you’re inclined to troll your family, Politico gives you some advice about how to be the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving. The Virginia conservative political blog Bearing Drift has a humorous but still substantive take on the issue, the Cato Institute offers advice for the libertarians, and Emily Zanotti at The American Spectator offers some ideas for solutions to inter-familial political conflict involving adult beverages, which seems to me to be the most sensible solution. If alcohol isn’t your preference, ABC News has advice for avoiding political arguments at the Thanksgiving table. Finally, Maggie MK Hess at The Washington Post offers practical advice about how to answer that eternal non-political question that inevitably comes up at family gatherings regardless of the time of year, “Why Are You Still Single?.”

Personally I tend to continue to hold to what I said when this weird tradition first started two years ago, and which I restated last year, namely that it’s probably a bad idea to head into family gatherings, or worse gatherings of non-family members that might include co-workers or people you don’t even know well, with the intention of starting, or helping to fuel, arguments about contentious political issues. For one thing, there seems to be something wrong with the idea of seeking out political arguments on a day that is supposed to be about something entirely different and, indeed, something entirely non-political. Surely, one can find a way to give thanks and appreciate family without it turning into a discussion of what’s in the news, right? Hey, if all else fails you can always talk about the weather or how horrible it is that Thanksgiving’s N.F.L. games will subject us to watching the Eagles and Lions playing each other to see which team can be the least embarrassing to their respective cities while the Cowboys try to resurrect a so-far disastrous season against the Panthers and the Packers play the Bears. I mean, I’m a guy who spends way too much time reading, writing, and talking about politics already, I really can’t see why anyone wants to spend a holiday doing it as well, especially if its likely to lead to arguments.

Everyone’s family is different, of course, and perhaps yours is one that can survive a good political argument and even thrive on one. If so, more power to you and proceed as you see appropriate. For me, though, it seems like there are better things to do with your time.

Of course, if you do end up arguing politics at the Thanksgiving table, maybe think about having a camera around. Who knows? It may end up being as funny as this:

FILED UNDER: General,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Here’s a nice, non-partisan solution when someone (almost invariably a liberal, as Doug noted, but it works for all types) starts talking politics.

    Step one: pass them the stuffing.

    Step two: tell them to get stuffed.

    Repeat as necessary.

    And while football ought to be a safe topic, you probably should be careful mentioning the Redskins…

  2. al-Ameda says:

    Got to laugh Doug.

    For years my (dearly departed) mother would always preface festivities by saying something like, “now, we’re not going to talk politics, okay?”

    Now, being the only liberal in a family of 11, I knew that this was directed at me. Well, it didn’t take long before we quite naturally were talking about the events of the day, and I was being baited into discussion – often by my mother. This meant that they looked forward to mocking my opinions, and inevitably they’d be frustrated that I held the ‘misguided and uninformed’ opinions that I do. I didn’t mind it at all – as I told them, if you don’t want to hear my opinion, don’t ask for it. Families are fun – for the entire family.

    Have a great Thanksgiving,
    Peace and good health to you Doug.

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    It will be pretty boring around my house since it will just be my brother and I and we agree on everything political.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    It will be pretty boring around my house since it will just be my brother and I and we agree on everything political.

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    It will be pretty boring around my house since it will just be my brother and I and we agree on everything political.

  6. @Ron Beasley:
    @Ron Beasley:
    @Ron Beasley:

    What about the drama that occurs when two of the Ron Beasley clones discover that they’ve been stood up because the brother was really planning to spend the day with the third clone the whole time?

  7. Mu says:

    So not looking forward to the holidays for just that reason. The senior member of our circle has become a full time Fox News watcher since his retirement, and it is very difficult to find a topic of conversation that does not set him off. “Nice black dress THAT IN THE WHITE HOUSE “We did a nice trip to New York THAT’S WHERE THAT HILARY IS FROM and so on.

  8. CSK says:

    Maybe the only thing worse than a Thanksgiving table with 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats is a Thanksgiving table with 6 Red Sox fans and 6 Yankees fans.

    Jaysus.

  9. grumpy realist says:

    Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

    (Oh great, now I’ll have pissed off all the vegans and vegetarians.)

  10. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    To avoid micro-aggressing vegans and vegetarians, you say “Happy Tofurkey Day!”

  11. Mu says:

    I once offered to replace the andouille sausage stuffing in my turducken with tofu. Was in formed that that was insufficient to make it acceptable.

  12. Stonetools says:

    Happy thanksgiving to one and all. Don’t eat anything I wouldn’t eat ( that leaves a pretty broad range).

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Mu: How does a turducken taste? One of my friends and I are intrigued enough by the concept to try it one year, assuming we can get a SMALL version to try it out with…

  14. Dave Schuler says:

    This is beyond absurd. Most of us don’t need to turn to politics to fight with out relatives.

  15. André Kenji says:

    We don’t have Thanksgiving, so we have to wait for Christmas to fight with relatives about political issues. But no turkey for us.

  16. Slugger says:

    Whenever I get nostalgic for the mishigass that goes for family get togethers in my mishpucha, I reread Joseph Heller’s Good as Gold. Heller died too soon; he would have been able to do something great with the dross of our current political situation.

  17. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: A “discountish” big box supermarket in my area sells a turduckhen made from a turkey breast and parts of a chicken and a duck stuffed with cornbread/pork sausage stuffing. It looks to be about 10 pounds. Haven’t tried it, but I may.

    You might also try a WalMart for a small version. In any event, have a happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your time with friends and family.

    Also, thanks to you, Doug. Without your timely seasonal warnings I would have no idea what sites to avoid in order to continue to not see any of these articles. A valuable service. And Thanksgiving greetings to you, too, while I’m at it.

  18. Tyrell says:

    I try to keep the conversation away from politics and religion. Also, forget football. Just turn the tv off. Cowboys are going down again.

  19. Franklin says:

    You realize you can fix this all with Adele, right?

    /sorry for the SNL link, but I found it mildly amusing … and it is appropriate to this discussion

  20. Todd says:

    Since my family is still back in Texas, and I’m not driving there this year, today I’ve been invited over to eat with a friend and his family. My friend and I disagree with each other so vehemently about things like politics and religion that we no longer follow each other on social media (although I am still FB friends with his wife). All that being said, I expect to have a great day (even after a few beers), because we know that we’re friends for reasons other than our political views … so we have pretty much agreed to either not talk about, or if the subject does come up to preface with a laugh and something along the lines of “oh, I bet you’re going to love what I have to say about this”.

    Note: I’m pretty much agnostic when it comes to religion, so the last time I was over there to eat dinner I got a bit of a chuckle and a smile when my friend informed me a little while before the meal was served: “I just wanted to let you know that we are going to pray before we eat, but it’s ok, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.”.

    … this was from a guy who if I only knew him through his online postings I would have been sure was the prototypical hardcore Conservative Christian hypocritical a-hole who only thinks of himself.

    In short, I’m thankful that I can still be friends even with people who hold “dumb” views about politics. 😉

  21. Matt says:

    @Todd: One downside I see in social media is that of your last two paragraphs. IT’s easier to get introduced to someone in a bad manner and it’s easier to find others who share the same hole for their head.

    Having said that I still have friends on facebook that due to their shares and posts look like right wing nutcases. I just removed them from my feed and I keep most of our conversations in person.

    I have had people I knew for years in daily life unfriend me on facebook after I moved. They got tired of me being a “know it all” because I kept debunking their stupid posts (usually about Obama welfare etc).

  22. Todd says:

    @Matt: I’ve said for a long time that most of us would be much happier if we had no clue at all about the political/ideological leanings of the majority of our friends. Back in the day, to find out all the ridiculous things some of your friends/relatives thought about what was going on in the world usually required copious amounts of alcohol, so could thus be easily blown off the next day.

    Not always so easy when people you know to be “good” and “decent” in real life, fill their Facebook walls or Twitter feeds with the hateful propaganda they read or hear from their favorite “trusted” alternative “news” sources. ;-/

  23. Todd says:

    @Matt: I’ve said for a long time that most of us would be much happier if we had no clue at all about the political/ideological leanings of the majority of our friends. Back in the day, to find out all the ridiculous things some of your friends/relatives thought about what was going on in the world usually required copious amounts of alcohol, so could thus be easily blown off the next day.

    Not always so easy when people you know to be “good” and “decent” in real life, fill their Facebook walls or Twitter feeds with the hateful propaganda they read or hear from their favorite “trusted” alternative “news” sources. ;-/

  24. Mu says:

    @grumpy realist: Turducken has become my standard for the big Xmas dinner. It’s easy to make, easy to serve, and tastes great. Just practice the deboning on a couple soup chickens first, and it’s a cake. First couple years I did the “true” turducken, with all three birds deboned, spinach layer etc. Nowadays I debone the turkey and stuff it with chicken and duck breast while I use the rest of the chicken and duck as base for the meat stuffing. Much less work and flavorwise indistinguishable from the original.

  25. Mikey says:

    @Todd:

    Not always so easy when people you know to be “good” and “decent” in real life, fill their Facebook walls or Twitter feeds with the hateful propaganda they read or hear from their favorite “trusted” alternative “news” sources. ;-/

    If I had a dollar for every piece of that crap my dear friends of decades-long standing and beloved relatives put up on Facebook, but I have simply scrolled past and done my best to ignore, I would be a wealthy fellow indeed.

  26. Kylopod says:

    One of my great aunts was very conservative, spending much of her later years glued to Fox News. (This made her an anomaly in my family, where almost everyone is liberal.) In 2004 she actually begged my mother (who was very close to her) to vote for Bush, not Kerry. “Do it for me!” she said. Needless to say, my mother was unpersuaded. Around the time Rush Limbaugh was going around claiming Michael J. Fox was faking his Parkinson’s, she started telling my mom the same thing, and she cited as evidence the fact that her brother (my grandfather) who had Parkinson’s didn’t display Fox’s symptoms. It didn’t seem to occur to her that not everyone with the disease has the same symptoms.

    You may find this hard to believe, but she was an intelligent, sensible woman–at least in her personal life.

    In a way her behavior wasn’t surprising. What is surprising if you stop and think about it is the number of Foxified, Limbaugh-fried conservatives who maintain close friendships with liberals and don’t just start screaming at them every time they see them. If you listen to what the right-wing hosts have been saying for the past several decades, they not only make liberalism sound like something absolutely illegitimate and even traitorous, they consistently describe liberals as if they were some exotic species of insect, not fellow human beings. Most conservatives I know seem to have adopted wholesale the hosts’ bizarre view of liberalism, but they stop short of applying that judgment to their liberal friends on a personal level–or at least it seems that way based on how they treat us in day-to-day life.

    And I have to admit, my own view of conservatives is almost as negative as their view of me. This is not because I’m stereotyping them, as they might assume I’m doing. If conservatives tended to be like the OTB hosts here, we’d live in a very different–and better–world. But the simple fact is that most conservatives are not like that. They’re generally people who believe that health-care costs have skyrocketed under Obamacare, that global warming is a myth, that the Iran deal allows Iran to “self-inspect.” And that’s the relatively “moderate” ones. I’m not even getting into those who embrace birtherism or who defend Trump’s claims about Mexicans. None of these are stereotypes; they are accurate descriptions of what most American conservatives believe, and it is equally accurate that these beliefs are a load of BS.

    I’m not saying that because their philosophy differs from mine, but because the empirical evidence objectively disproves these beliefs. There is plenty of room for reasonable, legitimate discussion over competing philosophies of government. But people who believe these things simply do not have the credibility to make such a judgment.

    So my distaste for conservatives has nothing to do with turning them into some ridiculous character type, as they’ve done to liberals, it has to do with seeing with my own eyes that the vast majority of conservatives in this country believe things that are demonstrably nonsense. So while I can and have maintained close relationships with conservatives, many of their beliefs do detract from my ability to respect their judgment and wisdom. And it’s a situation I find terribly depressing.