December 1, 2020

Navigating the political minefield at Thanksgiving

It’s that time again; Thanksgiving during an election year. For many people, this Thanksgiving is likely to look different than years past. Perhaps you are having a video call with your family or just eating dinner with your immediate family. However you are planning to celebrate this year, we at the Chimes hope you are celebrating responsibly and are conscious of the pandemic. No matter how few people you are celebrating with, there’s always the chance that politics come up. 

Whether it’s your conservative uncle or your super progressive sister, there’s almost always at least one person around the dinner table who you disagree with on political issues. So, how do you avoid a shouting match at the dinner table? The answer is easier said than done: don’t talk politics during Thanksgiving. 

The truth is that unless you are seasoned in the art of persuasion, you are not going to change anyone’s mind in the half an hour at the dinner table. If your goal is to keep the peace this Thanksgiving, the best thing to do is steer the conversation away from politics. Simply tell your family member that you would rather spend this time being thankful for what you have than complaining about politics. 

For many people, they will be in a very different situation than they were during Thanksgiving 2016. Perhaps in 2016 you supported Clinton and now you want to relish in Biden’s win in front of your Republican family members. Or maybe you are on the flip side of that coin and you would like to complain about the future of our country without Trump. Either way, you are unlikely to change anyone’s mind or win any brownie points by doing so. The best thing to do is to focus on family and not on politics.

It is important to recognize that it is not always possible to simply ignore discussions of politics. Whether it be constant pressure from your family to engage in the discussion, or if you simply cannot bite your tongue when it comes to issues that are important to you, sometimes discussing politics becomes inevitable. If that is the case, then you should follow a few helpful steps. 

The first thing you should do when discussing politics is to think of what it is you are trying to accomplish. If your goal is simply to scold someone for their beliefs, then you are going to get nowhere besides a brief moment of excitement. If your goal is to actually change someone’s mind, then you have to be respectful during your exchange. You should also be realistic and note that you are unlikely to change deeply held beliefs with one statement. 

You should avoid logical fallacies. Do not attack the person you are debating with. All this will do is make the person double down on their position. Calling someone names is not going to change their mind about politics, either. Also, make sure you only talk about points the other person has made. Do not attack an argument that you think they might make. Just because someone identifies as liberal or conservative, does not mean that they believe every argument that falls under that umbrella. 

The truth is that there is so much more that unites us than that divides us as Americans. Even when it comes to hotly contested issues like gun control, immigration and healthcare, research suggests we are much closer on these issues than we think . The problem is that we have become so divided, we refuse to talk about how we actually feel about issues. The other side is painted out as monsters who want to destroy America. The other side stands against everything America was built on. That’s just not true.

 In the past few years, Republicans and Democrats have huddled into their respective camps. This country will never unify until people are able to come together. No matter their political beliefs or creed, people must once again believe in the notion that we are all in this together. One nation, united under one cause which is to create a more perfect union. We may have strong disagreements on the best way to become a more perfect union, but we have to believe in each other again. 

It is true that some people cannot be reasoned with, however, most people are reasonable. And at the end of the day, those people might be your own flesh and blood. You don’t have to agree with them on anything and you don’t even have to like them. 

Don’t make it your goal to show up to Thanksgiving and create chaos. Show up to Thanksgiving and encourage love, hope and unity. 

  • J.J. is a Junior Political Science major and a Political Correspondent for The Chimes. J.J. served in the Capital University Student Government and has helped on different political campaigns. You can email him at jprice3@capital.edu.

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