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For A Happy Thanksgiving Discussion, Start Where Everyone Can Agree


It started on free writing sites like Medium. In the days after the election, a slew of posts documented the sudden realization that the Thanksgiving family visit was extra-fraught with peril this year. On election night, costal bubble dwellers discovered that Donald Trump support existed in heretofore uncontemplated numbers in flyover country. When Americans crisscrossed the country after a few weeks passed, things might get dicey around the turkey and the carving knives, and there would be no new Adele release to save us this time.

Soon after came the advice columns. Those migrated to news sites, which are still looking for the trending story feed to the audience. The Wall Street Journal was first out with a “how to talk to relatives this Thanksgiving” piece, although I may have only seen it there first because it’s on my News app alerts. (Not many options for alerts, frankly, unless one wants to go completely leftist with The New York Times. But what to do about news production is a problem to discuss another day.)

Now as the big travel day is here, there are many advice columns from which to choose, though they all smack of “How to Make Nice with Your [Happy Racist or Grieving Elitist] Relatives.”

The best advice in the post-election era has called for us to understand each other. Listen. Don’t gloat. Don’t wallow. Branch out. Have empathy. Recognize on the one hand that a large segment of the population has been forsaken for decades. Recognize on the other hand that the other segment is afraid of President Trump’s rule and now afraid of becoming forsaken.

The Good News Is

But I bring happy news! No one needs to be forsaken. Government isn’t supposed to be as consequential to our daily lives as this last one has been. Our Founders did not design a system of flipping power and influence from one favored group to another and back again. In fact, our Founders designed our government to do the opposite.

For the young, who make up a large chunk of Americans worried about a Trump presidency, their confusion is understandable. The first federal administration they really remember is the Obama one. For his entire term, President Obama has taken shortcuts through a pliable Congress. When Congress wasn’t pliable enough, he just did their job for them, issuing executive orders and memoranda and unilaterally negotiating treaties. He did all this while enjoying a judiciary that didn’t want to interfere and by spinning tall tales to a media that has forgotten about journalism.

Those of us on the constitutional Right know that a government powerful enough to grant things is a government powerful enough to take them away. We can see, for example, if the office of president possessed all the powers young progressives assumed under His Benevolence, then those progressives would be quite reasonable to worry about birth control availability.

The first big-power administration that realizes entitlements are ultimately dependent on birth rates above 2.1 will at least take contraceptive coverage away. If nothing else, after years of mandatory coverage, the price would have risen, and pills would be harder to come by in another government manipulation of supply and demand by cost. This isn’t crazy speculation. Related examples are easy to find.

We Can All Give Thanks

Progressives notoriously and mistakenly have assumed that progress always moves forward — and that their definition of forward is the objective one. For young progressives this is the first time they’ve had to consider what happens if an executive does not agree with their enlightened ways.

It is demoralizing, depressing, and flat-out scary to face that kind of rule. Here is where Americans can agree. We can have civil, productive, and blessedly thankful discussions over our fall feasts if we start with the agreement that there are limits to what the government can do, the executive branch included.

The executive enforces law. It doesn’t make it. This is true whether we are talking definitions of sex or immigration policy. (Specifically, our system is “federalism” and it can be progressive or conservative, as a local citizenry pleases.)

This Thanksgiving, liberals can give thanks that the last eight years were an anomaly in American governance. Our president does not actually have the kind of power Obama wielded. If President-elect Trump tries to rule as his predecessor did — and the indicators are a mixed at this time, but we will know soon enough — then he will also face staunch resistance to his executive overreach.

Conservatives can give thanks that because of Obama’s extra-constitutional methods, many of his proclamations will prove easy to undo. Conservatives should also take a note of caution. We either insist that the Trump-Paul Ryan-Mitch McConnell triad reassert the executive limitations that President Obama violated or risk another, and much angrier, round of turnabout is fair play in 2020.

Perhaps this Thanksgiving, we will remember that the forgotten majority in the United States comprises the people who do not wish to be ruled by others’ creeds. Maybe we will remember, and give thanks that we don’t have to.