‘Tis the season. Thanksgiving is upon us, bringing gatherings of long-lost relatives and, in many cases, awkward political conversations. (Because of course the holidays aren’t about spending time with people you like—they’re about being with your family.)
Many liberal publications take this opportunity to advise their readers about “How to Talk to a Conservative.” A few years ago, Vox ran a typical “explainer” piece giving liberals tips on how to thrust and parry conservative arguments on topics ranging from immigration to Common Core. Another Vox piece told liberals not to avoid political arguments come holiday time, because “progressive values are worth standing up for”—even if it means ruining a family gathering, presumably.
But I’ve got news for the publications running articles about how to survive Thanksgiving dinner if you have to spend it with diehard Trump supporters: I have those types of conversations with people every day. Believe it or not, I don’t end up ruining meals—or relationships—in the process.
Red Politics In a Blue Place
As a conservative living in the District of Columbia, I’ve considered applying for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Just consider the 2016 presidential election results, in which Hillary Clinton won at least 85 percent of the vote in each of the city’s eight wards. Donald Trump received a whopping 4.09 percent of the vote—little more than the 2.1 percent of the vote given to write-in candidates.
Even in 2012, when the Republican Party ran a more traditional candidate in Mitt Romney, Barack Obama still received nearly 91 percent of the vote, and Romney won only 21,381 votes in a city of more than 600,000 residents.
Suffice it to say that the conservative presence in the city remains confined to those with political jobs—whether in lobbying, on Capitol Hill, or in the administration—and few others besides. That means that when I’m having conversations with individuals in my daily life, I can all-but-assume that those individuals disagree with me politically, unless and until they tell me otherwise.
And people do mention their political beliefs, in ways large and small. For instance, I play bocce in a league at the Hotel Washington, located on Pennsylvania Avenue just across from the Treasury and White House. If a ball on our outdoor courts caroms past the patio area, someone might joke about how it should fly across the street to hit the current occupant of the Oval Office on the head.
Or consider my alma mater, American University. For alumni weekend last month, the university hosted former attorney general Loretta Lynch and would-be senator Susan Rice, both Obama administration officials. The week previously, the university hosted several students from Parkland high school for a forum on social justice. No word yet on whether the institution will petition Congress to change its name to Woke University, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.
Then there’s the dating scene in Washington. In an article about appointees in the Trump administration, Politico noted the lengths some administration officials will go to mask their identity from would-be suitors. The article claimed that “‘Trump supporters swipe left’—meaning ‘don’t even bother trying’—might be the single most common disclaimer on dating app profiles in Washington.” I don’t know the accuracy of that claim but, anecdotally, I’ve seen it a fair number of times myself.
Agree to Disagree
Given the way my environment naturally lends itself to loaded political conversations, I don’t understand the gnashing from those who feel “triggered” by discussions around the Thanksgiving table. I generally try my best to tune out the virtue-signaling and snide comments I get from people around me. As a resident of the District, I have to ignore much of it. Otherwise I would go mad.
As someone with libertarian instincts, I understand people’s right to their own opinions, and don’t automatically try to convert someone who has no interest in a political conversation. (I also understand liberal objections to the president’s style and tone, even if I can’t always justify their overwrought reactions.) I would happily date, and have happily dated, liberal females, even if some have little interest in dating people with whom they disagree ideologically. I just wish everyone would realize that while we’re all entitled to our opinions, that doesn’t mean everyone necessarily wants to hear them, or that it’s always an appropriate time to share them.
Last fall, I wrote about how people needed to spend more time listening and less time talking. As a conservative living deep in liberal territory, I spend no small amount of time listening to liberals’ views—in many cases, whether I want to or not. Perhaps folks on the left—indeed, people of all political persuasions—could spend more time listening and less time talking around the table this Thanksgiving. It would lead to fewer family arguments, and maybe, just maybe, a little more understanding.