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A wide range of advice on talking politics with family at Thanksgiving

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  • 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. 

ABC News correspondent Dan Harris recommends in
Men’s Health
 meditation before entering the Turkey Day
family maelstrom, followed by a three-step process:

  1. “Don’t try to change minds. … Instead, go in
    with the goal of simply trying to understand where people are
    coming from.”
  2. “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.'”
  3. “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. 

  1. “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.
  2. “Focus on the food.”
  3. “Lay down the law,” by declaring some topics off-limits
    and “starting the night with a toast to civility.”
  4. “Forget about winning.”



Read more: 
How
liberals and conservatives do Thanksgiving dinner


differently


But not all Thanksgiving survival advice is conciliatory. Also in

The New York Time
s, 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.

Amy McCarthy writes in
Eater.com
that “you have an obligation to push back against
harmful rhetoric simply because others do not,” which in
McCarthy’s view includes calling out problematic relatives not
just for odious racism and homophobia, but also controversial yet
mainstream political positions such as support for the Second
Amendment. 

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:

“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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