Thanksgiving dinner no place for politics

By Gary Brock -

Can we all just get along on Thanksgiving?

That isn’t a rhetorical question over who gets the drumstick, whether oyster dressing or cornbread dressing is best, or whether the television will be blasting an NFL or a Lifetime movie theme in the background.

Oh no, the Thanksgiving dinner table has apparently become a more contentious place than any of those old family debates.

Last weekend on one of those cable news programs, a roundtable of media pundits were discussing a new survey that claimed that on Thursday, Thanksgiving dinner gatherings were going to be cut shorter than in previous years by an average of about 30 minutes because of … political differences within the family.

It seems that in the survey, some Americans feel that the best way to deal with a divided family is to spend less time with someone of the other politically persuasion.

One survey, a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, found that a third of Americans won’t talk politics at all tomorrow, or at any gatherings through the Christmas holiday, and a majority said that politics was among their least favorite topics to discuss at the holiday dinner table.

I can believe it.

On the cable news program last weekend, economist (and sometimes actor) Ben Stein said that two longtime friends of his, people with whom he had enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner for decades, stopped talking to him last year because he supported Trump. They no longer talk, let alone dine together on the holidays. I think this is really sad, and I would contend that these people Stein mentioned were probably not really “friends” at all.

I must note several things about these surveys on holidays, families and politics.

First, this appears a phenomenon only after Donald Trump was elected president. I don’t remember many surveys or articles after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 debating whether families were having trouble at holidays getting along without fighting over politics.

Perhaps this family story in one of the survey articles sums up the reason:

“If you bring up Trump or something, you’ll get a look from the other side of the table,” said Adrianne Beal, 77, a Trump supporter from Illinois. “It’s like: ‘hup, let’s change the subject.’”

Beal said her family learned this new holiday etiquette after a particularly stressful Thanksgiving in 2008. Obama had just been elected to his first term, and Beal’s niece called her a bigot for not supporting him. “Well that was the end of that,” Beal said. “I decided I’m not going to talk politics anymore. I’m not those things they call me.”

Wow, someone should have told this niece to be nicer to her aunt!

Secondly, as this story illustrates, Republicans learned quickly to kept their views to themselves around the holiday dinner table if there were Obama supporting family members in attendance. I know that was always the case in our family. If we believed Obama was a petty, strident, partisan, divisive and weak leader, we pretty much held our tongues for eight years as not to cause a family riff.

Thirdly, as some surveys have pointed out, a number of families have made “prior agreements” to not talk politics at this year’s holiday gatherings, starting with Thanksgiving. One Indiana man, a Clinton supporter, said he called his brother, a Trump supporter, to agree to keep politics out of the holidays. “We can keep it civil when it’s just us,” the man said. “I’m not sure if the rest of the family can.”

One political commentator, on hearing about the many families who have agreed starting Thursday to keep politics away from the dinner table, decried the idea.

He said it was terrible that people believe they cannot have an open and honest discussion of politics and social issues, even among family members, for fear of offending someone and ruining the holidays.

I could not disagree with him more. He needs to be reminded that it is 2017. There are no “open and honest discussions of politics and social issues” in America, just angry yelling and hatred toward President Trump and those who support him.

Fueled by a national news media bent on attacking Trump at every turn, I’ve seen a disturbing trend that goes beyond just a disdain for the president. That animosity has extended to those who voted for Trump as well. That started right after the election. Not only is Trump a bad person, but those who voted for him are bad people as well because they elected him.

I don’t remember Republicans, no matter how we felt about Obama, placing such a level of blame and anger at the feet of his supporters who elected him in 2008. So I think it is better to have no political conversation at all over the holidays when families gather.

Getting yelled at by some angry cousin or nephew who still has a chip on his or her shoulder over the 2016 election doesn’t sound like much fun. And it makes the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie a little harder to swallow.

For the holiday season 2017, I say let’s all keep politics out of the conservation — on both sides.

By Gary Brock

Reach General Manager/Editor Gary Brock at 937-556-5759.

Reach General Manager/Editor Gary Brock at 937-556-5759.