How to ruin your holiday dinner with politics

James Wigderson apparently doesn’t like the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but …

Unfortunately, the non-traditional Thanksgiving is an argument I lost long ago.

Perhaps I should use the process Karin Tamerius, a psychiatrist and the founder of Smart Politics, created for the New York Times. In “How to Have a Conversation With Your Angry Uncle Over Thanksgiving,” Tamerius creates a bunch of no-win (if you’re a conservative) conversation paths similar to the “build your own adventure” books for children. At the end of the process, everyone at the family Thanksgiving table will be in favor of nationalized health care, higher taxes, forced unionization, and even rooting for the Detroit Lions.

You start with a choice.The “Angry Uncle Bot” allows your leftwing family members to practice their bumper sticker psychology and new talking points before actually trying it on a real human being. The “Liberal Uncle Bot” helps conservatives recognize that their facts and figures don’t matter as much as liberal feelings.

No, really. Your liberal uncle will say, “We need Medicare for All. Health care is a human right.” You, as the conservative, have three options:

Of course, choosing either of the first two options are “wrong.” Your only correct response is, “O.K., can you tell me more about that?”

My favorite part of the game was the liberal uncle’s statement, “Many people can’t even afford medications or primary care. If we expand Medicare to include everyone, those people can get the help they need.”

If you respond, “National health insurance is a disaster where it’s been adopted,” you’re wrong again. But not because of Sweden.

“Not a good choice. This response will turn the conversation into a debate over facts and figures,” Tamerius wrote. “Debate is problematic because people tend not be persuaded by evidence and may even end up believing more strongly in their original position.”

Bad: “debate over facts and figures” and “people tend not be persuaded by evidence.” Because why have a factual debate?

Instead, you’re supposed to choose, “So, you think the government has a responsibility to make sure every person has basic health care, is that right?”

Why? “…it’s important to show your understanding by reflecting what you heard. Good reflections paraphrase what the other person said and highlight emotions. Truly exceptional reflections are met with, ‘Exactly! I couldn’t have said it better myself.'”

I know what I could say better myself to the annoying liberal relative who says, “We need Medicare for All. Health care is a human right.”

“Great, we’re going to take your portion of today’s dinner bill and set it aside for the $32 trillion in higher taxes that you want. And just to show that there are no hard feelings, we’ll let you walk home so you don’t have to feel guilty about the burning of fossil fuels. No, don’t take any turkey with you. Meat production contributes to global warming. I want you to feel really smug and warm on that ten mile hike home. The rest of us are going to enjoy our dinner while thanking the Pilgrims for coming to this country, bringing Western civilization with them.”

There will be more dessert for us, and a whole lot less acrimony.

Or you could ban politics from your table and discuss a nice, safe, uncontroversial topic, such as whether Packers coach Mike McCarthy should be fired.


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