5 Tips for Talking about Politics this Thanksgiving

Author Jason Brooks outside on campus.

Today senior Political Science major Jason Brooks shares with us tips for talking about politics this Thanksgiving. Jason is from Monroe Township, NJ (Middlesex County). He is the assistant Vice President of Student Affairs for SGA, one of the executive chair for the Student Alumni Association and an Admissions Ambassador.

When millions of Americans gather around the dinner table on Thanksgiving this year, they’ll be doing so during a national climate that is more toxic than ever before. We’re in a time in which a global pandemic, an election in doubt, race relations are at a tipping point, and so much more are taking over the airwaves everyday.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I just want some potatoes and pie, man.” Well, in order to get to the good stuff, you may have to get through the bad.

I am of course talking about discussing politics at the table with your loved ones. Everyone does it, but this year I am here to provide you with some tips to discuss politics respectfully so you leave Aunt Leslie’s house feeling better than years prior. 

Focus on Ideas

We all have different visions for America, that’s what makes us the greatest nation on planet Earth. Candidates aren’t forever, so stick to the ideas and facts. Instead of focusing on how great President Trump is or how President-Elect Biden is the change we need, focus on what they have done or plan to do that will make America better for future generations of Americans. 

Don’t Try to Persuade

Let’s face it, those who are digging in to discuss political topics at the Thanksgiving table have their minds made up long before they sit down. Take the opportunity to listen to each other and reflect on what they are saying. The holiday dinner table is not the time for a Presidential debate. Unless you are writing policy or lobbying on behalf of an organization to your family members, it’s best to use your eyes and ears, not your mouth. 

Denounce Comments, Not People

It is important to remember that on Thanksgiving, you are not engaging with people you have never met on Twitter or Facebook. The people you are sitting with are your loved ones. There is a difference between heated political discourse and comments rooted in hate and bias. If you hear something problematic, address the comment head on. Do not engage in an attack on the person who uttered the comment. If you put up with something you do not like, you are just as guilty as the person who said the comment. You do not have to put up with hateful and divisive rhetoric, even if they are members of your family. 

Redirect the Conversation

Don’t be afraid to pivot. Everyone at the table is a stakeholder in the conversation. If you hear something you don’t like, don’t just sit there and take it. There are countless items in the political world that can be discussed, some sexier than others. If you don’t like where the conversation is going, you have the power to respectfully redirect it. Again, avoid any personal attacks and stick to the ideas.

Jason standing outside of the library.

Avoid it altogether!

Let’s be honest. We know why we’re at Thanksgiving dinner. If you answered to spend quality time with your loved ones, you’re partially correct. It’s the food of course! So if you don’t feel like talking about Joe Biden’s tax plan or Donald Trump’s toupee, don’t! Grab a piece of pumpkin pie, drop some Reddi-wip on top and head over to the living room. But hurry, you’ll want to catch the end of the Cowboys game, even if they’re in the lead, they’ll lose. 

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Story by:
Jason Brooks, senior political science major

Photography by: 
Stephanie Batista, sophomore music industry major

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