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Happy Conflict-Free Thanksgiving

by Caitlin Peartree

Throughout this year, we have talked about the declining state of political discourse and current mood of the electorate. About half the electorate (49%) says that they keep quiet about their political views online to avoid conflicts with family and friends, with this number being particularly high among Republican women (63%) and independent women (52%). From a Winning the Issues survey at the end of July, 47% of the electorate described themselves as “definitely frustrated” over the state of politics and issues in the country; one-third (34%) were “definitely angry” but a similar percentage (33%) described themselves as “definitely interested.” On top of that, the newest survey for Winning the Issues (November 21-22) shows that over half the country (55%) watched at least some of the impeachment hearings. 

With the electorate’s current emotional mix of frustration and anger combined with an interest in politics, many of this year’s Thanksgiving family gatherings are likely to be more politically volatile than ever before. Even the large percentage of Americans trying to keep quiet to avoid conflict may find things getting out of hand if certain subjects come up while trying to enjoy their turkey and pumpkin pie. But as Linus reminded everyone in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, “Thanksgiving is a very important holiday. Ours was the first country in the world to make a national holiday to give thanks.” In the spirit of keeping the upcoming holiday focused on its original intent, this Thanksgiving edition of Discussion Points highlights four resources that might help you and your loved ones have meaningful discussions with less political conflict and more giving thanks. 

  1. Myra recently gave a TEDx talk “Is Your Voice Heard” at TEDx Foggy Bottom about the decline of civility in public discourse, its impact on institutions, and most importantly, the impact on people’s everyday lives – including political conflicts over Thanksgiving dinner. The 8-minute talk includes four ways to help avoid conflict and division in political discussions with others so that we can all enjoy our Thanksgiving dinners once again. 
  2. The Bipartisan Policy Center has developed a bipartisan Thanksgiving family survival guide with discussion tips, interesting facts and quizzes to promote engaging yet peaceful bipartisan conversation. 
  3. Last week, Speaker John Boehner’s official portrait was unveiled in Statuary Hall. There were gracious remarks and humorous tributes from leaders of both parties: Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and McCarthy. As Speaker Boehner referenced at the ceremony, one of his famous sayings is that “we can disagree without being disagreeable.” Here is the link to the full ceremony and his speech. 
  4. Also last week, Democratic Representative John Lewis was among several Members paying tribute to retiring Republican Senator Johnny Isakson. After his remarks praising Isakson for his “reputation as a bridge builder,” Lewis walked over to the Republican side of the aisle to give Isakson a hug, saying “I will come over to meet you, brother.” Following Lewis’ moving tribute, Representative Austin Scott said, “I wish all of America could be here to see that…two icons from Georgia embracing. What a wonderful sight that I think is representative of the days of the past and the days to come and how we should work together,” he said.

Happy Thanksgiving.