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5 Ways to Deal With Your Conservative Relatives This Thanksgiving

How does one deal with the conservatives at the family table while avoiding a massive food fight? Stay calm and relaxed, and follow these simple guidelines.


Maybe your brother-in-law works on Wall Street and declares he wants to see the Bush tax cuts extended indefinitely as he scoops himself a generous portion of mashed potatoes. Or perhaps your aunt mentions, while checking on the turkey, that Sarah Palin is her role model and she can’t wait to follow her Rupert Murdoch-sponsored book tour from city to city. Or maybe, over a slice of pumpkin pie and coffee, your grandfather suggests that the Tea Party’s ideas aren’t half bad, and he likes that Rand Paul fella because he’s really getting the government out of people’s Medicare.

Given this month’s volatile political climate, chances are someone’s going to break the no politics/no religion rule and say something to make your blood boil as you sit around the table this Thanksgiving. When that cringe-inducing moment arrives, whether it's over appetizers or dessert, you want to defend the honor of progressives and their ideas without coming across as snotty, snarky, or out of touch. And without letting the situation devolve into violence. (You’re a pacifist, right?)

As tempting as it will be to ask sarcastic questions about teabagging and what kind of scones are served at Tea Parties, that will only get you so far. And you don’t want to ruin your appetite. It’s Thanskgiving, after all.

So how does one deal with the conservatives at the family table while avoiding a massive food fight? Stay calm and relaxed, and follow these simple guidelines.

1. Brush up on Obama conspiracy theories. There’s a good chance you’ll need to defend the president against some of the more outrageous claims being circulated by Fox News--especially the claim that he hasn’t done anything useful for the country. Now, if your relatives are of the “Obama is a Marxist, Satanist, Islamic fundamentalist who wants to put our children in re-education camps” persuasion, you should probably just invest in a hip flask or three and plan on getting out of there ASAP. But assuming you’re dining with nominally reasonable human beings, you should brush up on what the heck Obama has done so far. Conveniently, you can gather some key facts and stats at the Web site What the Heck Has Obama Done So Far (or its raunchier cousin, if that’s more your style). “Yes, cousin Billy, Obama does support our troops; he’s helped provide crucial services like transportation for families of fallen soldiers to Dover air base and counseling for veterans,” you might say. And don’t forget to remember credible sources in case they don’t believe you.

2. Point out the infighting on the Right--and keep yourself out of it. Aunt Daisy’s a big fan of that “spitfire” Sarah Palin, huh? Perhaps just mention that Susan Collins, Aunt Daisy’s very own Republican senator from Maine, thinks Palin is a joke; for the rest of the country, there’s former First Lady Barbara Bush’s recent zinger about how Palin is best left in Alaska. You could go on and on this way: GOP Sen. Richard Lugar thinks Republican stalling on the START treaty is disgraceful, former Republican Rep. Sherwood Boehlert is appalled by all the climate-change denial in the incoming Congressional class. Whatever the issue, there is probably some Republican infighting going on that could test your relatives’ allegiance to party members (just watch your stepmom squirm as she has to choose between supporting Karl Rove or Sarah Palin). Just make sure you stay out of the fray. Sample script: “I’m not saying anything myself, but I think it’s really interesting what X Republican senator had something so trenchant to say about Y Republican darling. What was that all about?”

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