Please, no politics at the dinner table.


Marco Milani

The turkey and pumpkin pie will be on the menu this thanksgiving, politics shouldn’t.

As we head into Thanksgiving season, we start to see some of the old seasonal traditions return. The cutting of the turkey, the stuffing, the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, then NFL football the entire rest of the day, and so on and so forth. There’s one tradition, however, that is always there, despite how much we don’t want it to be.

I’m talking about political discussions at the dinner table during Thanksgiving dinner.

First, let me just get this out of the way: This year’s election was a rollercoaster in and of itself, and had us split like the wishbone you take out of the turkey. This means that there are obvious opinions from everyone that are perfectly split down both sides of the spectrum.

That being said, it is hard to have a civil discussion about politics with family. The line is so thin that it is bound to result in an argument. So why talk about it?

Well, people don’t want to, but it just… appears out of nowhere. Business Insider conducted a survey on topics that are brought up at Thanksgiving, ranking them on a scale of one to 12 from most enjoyable to least enjoyable. The top five topics that were ranked the most enjoyable were TV/movies, family gossip, work, local news, and sports. The three that were ranked the least enjoyable? The 2020 primary, Donald Trump, and religion.

So how do you get around it? An obvious answer would be just to eat in silence. There are definite pros and cons to this, such as the dinner being ominous and awkward, but nobody talking means no arguments. I would use this as a “plan Z”.

Another solution would be to talk about what you are thankful for, and discuss those things. It may not seem like it, especially this year, but we have a ton to be thankful for. If you were to reflect on it, you would probably be able to think of a lot of good things that have happened to your family members this year, despite this year being generally so full of bad — new jobs, promotions, the kids did something amazing, etc. The point is, in a year full of bad, and with all that bad unfortunately having become the focal point for the last six to eight months, there are still good things happening in the world.

Some people do say that talking about politics is good. In 2017, The Atlantic’s David A. Graham wrote an article about why it was okay to talk about politics at Thanksgiving that year, and in the thesis of the article, he mentioned two interesting arguments.

“First, President Trump’s ability to grab the spotlight and inject himself into so many facets of life makes trying to avoid politics practically futile these days,” he said.

His second argument fits in with this.

“Second, the stakes are higher this year,” he said. “That isn’t to say that politics doesn’t affect our lives deeply all the time — If I felt it didn’t, I wouldn’t waste my time covering it.”

These two arguments may be true, but at the very beginning of the article, he contradicted himself. Graham not only cited a poll conducted by NPR and PBS that showed that people dread talking politics, mentioning that “four in 10 say Trump is the most likely spark for a dinnertime fight, six times the nearest rival, according to SurveyMonkey.”

He then mentioned a Jon Lovett article about how to avoid these arguments, with the TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) being “Change the subject shamelessly”.

So, please, try to avoid talking politics at the dinner table. Try to use that time to talk about enriching, fulfilling topics. Try to get to know your family more. If all else fails, and you have to go to that plan Z, then so be it. As long as there are no arguments — because this is Thanksgiving, a time when we are supposed to be thankful, not at each other’s throats.

Misha Berman