Surviving Thanksgiving: 9 ways to avoid getting mired in political debates on turkey day

Posted at 7:00 AM, Nov 21, 2016

Contentious. Nasty. Divisive. Polarizing.

They’re all words that could describe this year’s presidential election. They’ll also describe something else for many people as a result of said election: Thanksgiving with the family.

Yes, the Thanksgiving dinner table will be where red and blue collide in some epic knock-down, drag-out debates and surely many are dreading this opinionated battle royale.

Where conversation should be centered around thankfulness, who’s winning the Cowboys game and how good Meemaw’s au gratin potatoes are, it will instead be focused on email servers, Stephen Bannon, the electoral college, fake news, Benghazi and grabbing women where they should never be grabbed. None of it will be pleasant.

So how do you avoid getting sucked into the negative abyss that could destroy your turkey day? Here are nine ways that maybe, though not likely, you can avoid the Thunderdome that is 2016 political discussion.

1. Don’t be the instigator 

It’s going to be tempting to lob the first bomb, especially if you supported the winning side. But at some point as the debate rages on, someone will try to think back to who started it. You don’t want the additional animosity that follows. Let gun-loving Uncle Darrell or tree-hugging Cousin Ethan get it started because they’ll show up ready to rumble anyway. You just need to figure out your strategy once the war begins.

2. Change the subject early and often

Remember Meemaw’s au gratin potatoes? Keep referencing them. And the delicious pie and turkey and cornbread. You need to tout this as the best meal you’ve ever had, even if the turkey is drier than dirt and the stuffing it like eating a shredded Nerf football. At the very least, you’ll flatter Meemaw into not picking fights with you. Bring up movies, restaurants you like, the darnedest things your kids have said, the mannequin challenge – anything to change the subject.

This is the best thing you’ve ever eaten, even if it’s not. (Thinkstock)

3. Know you can’t change anyone's mind

Much like senseless back and forth on Facebook comments, no matter how strongly you feel about your stances you’ll never convince Uncle Darrell that he’s with her or Cousin Ethan that he should make America great again. If anything, you’re just smacking a beehive with a Wiffleball bat. The more you agitate, the more aggressive they’ll get and nothing will change other than your blood pressure.

4. Don’t get cornered

There’s safety in numbers, so stay close to your like-minded significant other. You’ll want to wander into the den to look at Peepaw’s war medals, but if you get stranded in the wilderness alone, you’re sure to get pounced on like a young wildebeest that’s wandered from the herd. You really don’t want to get one-on-one counseling on why you’re wrong and should switch teams. At least if your significant other is there, they can do the aforementioned subject changing, fake an injury or in the worse case, help you gang up to fight back. You don’t want it to end up at that point, but better to have two of you fighting the fight than going solo.

5. Mind your words

It’s likely that Darrell or Ethan will get the rumble going as soon as they step foot in the house, but let’s say everything is going smoothly and everyone is adhering to peaceful interaction. It might seem safe and good, but anything anyone says can be the catalyst for the fight to begin. You’ll have to navigate the minefield that will include you saying anything about race, immigration, taxes, Putin, tremendous taco bowls, bad hombres or the word deplorable. For instance, you say, “We went to Haiti (Clinton Foundation) after the hurricane (climate change) and the conditions were deplorable (election campaign).” See what happened there? It’s not clear what you can talk about, but most of it will likely be a gateway to disaster.

6. Pets are your friends

If Meemaw and Peepaw have a cat or dog, hang out with them. They’re fun and they don’t judge. Well, cats judge,

Stick with this guy, if you want to live! (Thinkstock)

but not in any political way. You could stare at fish, but that will get boring pretty quickly. And be careful with birds. You might be inclined to spout your thoughts to them and the next thing you know, those back-stabbing jerks are repeating it. It’s the one potential drawback to the pets strategy.

7.Focus on football

Football will be your friend on this day. Let it be known that you’re really into the games and don’t want to be

”Tell me more about this amazing Jay Ajayi move,” is what you need to say. (Mike Ehrman | Getty Images)

interrupted by anything else. You will bond with the football fans and distance yourself from the non-football fans, regardless of political affiliation. And nobody ever wants to hear about your fantasy football team, but if there was ever a time to bring it up, this is it. If nothing else, it’ll open the door for others to talk about theirs and they’ll forget they were lecturing you on the pros or cons of building a wall. They’ll be too busy bragging about how they got Jay Ajayi off the waiver wire at the perfect time.

8-Hang out with the kids

If the kids have gathered in the basement for video games, watching cartoons or building Legos, you absolutely need to get in on that. They have no desire to talk politics and they’ll think it’s cool that you’ve shown interest in what they’re doing. Plus, if they have cool Legos, you might get to build the Death Star. If they have ordinary ones, building a crude airplane is still better than having a 99 percent tax debate.

Legos have never been so awesome. (Thinkstock)

9. Make Christmas plans wisely

If you should survive this, you’re still only a month away from another potential family feud when Christmas arrives. The good thing is, you’ll get to gather intel on who the worst family members are to deal with in the Blue vs. Red battle. Maybe find a way to align yourself with those who will make for a nice Christmas experience. It might not be possible though since you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. At the very least, you can use your turkey day experience to be ready for round 2 which you’ll need since more political firestorms are sure to arise between now and then.

Best of luck, you’re gonna need it.