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Worried About Thanksgiving Fights with Right-Wing Family Members?

How to counter 10 of the most common myths conservatives believe about progressives.

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And then they'll sit there over the second helping of candied yams and loudly insist that they made everything they had, all by themselves, with no help from anybody and especially not from the government.

All you can do is laugh. And then, because they're family, go back to 1945 and start re-telling the family story -- this time with Uncle Sam's forgotten role in the drama front and center.

6. Liberals are against "family values."

This is one of the biggest disconnects between us. As George Lakoff has pointed out, conservatives and liberals have very different ideas about what families look like, how they function, and what rules they should run under. The problem is that liberals are quite willing to recognize the conservative model as a legitimate and valid way to do family, even if we don't always agree with it. But when conservatives look at liberal families and their patchwork of made-up arrangements, they see a chaotic free-for-all that doesn't follow any of their strictly mandated rules of family organization -- and thus doesn't qualify in their minds as any kind of "family" at all. We think it's creative and flexible. They think it's unstable and scary.

So it comes as a considerable shock to conservatives when you point out that progressive areas of the country have significantly stronger families, by almost any metric you can imagine. They have lower rates of divorce, teen pregnancy, infidelity, drug abuse, domestic violence, and juvenile delinquency than the more conservative areas do. Massachusetts -- the first state to offer gay marriage -- also has the lowest divorce rate in the country. They like marriage so much there they think everybody should have a shot at it.

Looking at the statistics, it's possible to conclude that the conservative obsession with "family values" may reflect the fact that families in Red America really are beset by devastating problems that aren't nearly as common in Blue America. Rather than admit that maybe we know something about creating healthy families that they don't, they'll usually try to fix the blame for their family chaos on us and our crazy anything-goes family arrangements. (If there are Bible readers at your table, you might suggest they re-read Luke 6:42 before holding forth.)

Liberals believe in family. We take our marriage vows just as seriously as conservatives do. We love our children just as much. Our families are at least as successful and happy as theirs. This shouldn't be a matter of debate; but it will continue to be one as long they refuse to believe that our families are just as healthy, valid, and sacred to us as theirs are to them.

7. Liberals want to raise our taxes.

It all depends on who is the "our" in this scenario.

If your dinner companions are well-off enough to be bringing in over $250K a year, there's no point in finessing this. Their taxes probably are going up. The only comeback is that between Clinton-era tax cuts, the housing bubble, and the hot stock market of the past 15 years, they've probably made so much money that it's time to start giving some back to the nation that made their boon possible. (Refer back to #5: they almost certainly didn't make that pile without at least some government help.)

If 's nobody at the table fits that happy description, then according to Obama's plan, they're going to get a tax cut. Sure, they're not going to believe it until they see it (and, quite possibly, not even then); but it's not an argument they even want to have until after an Obama tax plan is passed and the actual results are in.

 
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