Handling Thanksgiving & politics

Joshua Schuetz
Staff Writer

Thanksgiving break is nearly upon us, and two broad feelings are in the air. The first, a sense of elation at finally having some time off from classes, combined with a lovely sense of joy at the prospect of rekindling connections with family and friends. 

The second thought is altogether less pleasant and can best be stated as follows: “Oh, God. We just had a midterm election, the television spouts nothing but politics these days and my family has individuals within it whom I would rather not have to discuss such matters with, for the sake of my own sanity.” 

Most people dread the prospect of talking politics at Thanksgiving.

The idea of ruining a perfectly good turkey with heated arguments over the merits of progressive taxation and immigration restriction is disagreeable to most of us, except perhaps a few political science majors. (guilty as charged) 

Be that as it may, it is better to be prepared for the topic of politics to come up than to be remiss in one’s preparations and be left without a response. 

Do not feel compelled to initiate discussions about politics. If the topic doesn’t come up, don’t bring it up. Better to avoid being blamed as the source of family disagreement and tension. 

If politics does come up, it’s generally best to tread lightly. Try to understand the positions of your family members. If they are rational, well-reasoned people, then you may be in store for a congenial debate about socioeconomic policies. 

But that’s outside of your control. If politics becomes the subject of conversation, and it starts to go sour, try to change the subject. Remind people of the gathering’s purpose and try to make it a point to not allow politics to come up again throughout the evening.

But what happens if the debate is actually okay? Productive, even? Well, in this case, it’s best to defend your views gently and fairly. Avoid joining up with others to “gang up” on someone who has a different opinion on the matter. If you don’t have a lot of opinions about politics, perhaps act as a kind of moderator in the debate, making sure that all sides get their fair shake.

If you have to discuss politics, choose your issues wisely. Avoid discussing social issues. Guns, abortion, and immigration are topics that are likely to stimulate more anger and aggression than debates about marginal tax rates, for example.

Finding common ground is another thing that you can do. If you agree on a few points with someone, start at those points before exploring the issues on which you diverge from them. This will help everyone stay sane.

Finally, remember that you’re not obliged to discuss politics, and you are perfectly allowed to remove yourself from discussions that are upsetting or unproductive. 

Don’t be afraid to reject politics at the table. If you are hosting the event, consider making a “no politics” rule, if you think unpleasant disagreements are likely.

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