As a political science student who wants to write about politics for a career, Thanksgiving (and any family event) is a minefield for me. Not only do I have to tell my family (again) that I am still single, but conversations about whether I have a job plan for after I graduate automatically link to politics and vice versa.
Like it is for many people, talking about politics with relatives is really hard for me. Some of my family members voted for Trump or didn’t vote at all, and as a very vocal liberal, this makes for some… difficult conversations. As easy as it will be this year to get in a drunk screaming match over Zoom with your relatives or to just hit “end call,” a big part of practicing allyship is talking about important issues with people who disagree with you. That said, here are some tips for staying chill when politics comes up over the holidays.
Do: Listen To Them Speak
If there’s one thing that everyone hates, it’s being interrupted and feeling ignored. Many Trump supporters tend to say that they like Trump because he understands that, and they think that he gives them a voice. That said, interrupting your relatives and calling them stupid (no matter how badly you want to) will not lead to any sort of calm or productive conversation.
Listening to them also gives you the chance to collect your thoughts and form an appropriate response. I’ve found that the people in my life who vote for Republicans or support Trump tend to either say that they like him because he is “real” or they grasp at the same four or five reasons for supporting him. When you actually pay attention during these conversations, you’re in a better position to point out to the other person why they’re wrong or misinformed.
Don’t: Talk Down To Them
“Are you f*cking stupid?” is kind of my go-to catchphrase, so this is a hard one for me. However, using incendiary language puts you in the position to both stoop to their level and makes it so that they’re way less willing to communicate with you. Some alternatives to asking this question are: “I read something different about that, where did you get that information?” or “I could see why you would interpret x that way; however, here’s what it really means.”
Do: Debate Belief Systems, Not Individuals
When someone starts using language or saying things that you’re uncomfortable with, it’s essential to stand up for yourself and explain why they’re in the wrong. What I’ve found, though, is that you very rarely will have a productive conversation after calling someone racist/xenophobic/sexist/etc.
You’re more likely to actually make progress when you question the belief and say something like, “What you just said is actually founded in a racist belief and it really upsets me to hear you say that.” While your relatives are still going to be super defensive about that, it’s even more likely that they’ll be open to a conversation if you go this route.
Don’t: Start Yelling Back At Them
I was an overnight camp counselor for three years, and one thing I quickly realized (but still haven’t totally mastered) was that my campers were significantly more likely to listen to me if I spoke quietly than when I was screaming at them to just get the f*ck in bed.
As someone who is sometimes known for having a ~bit of a temper~ and also cries when I’m mad, this applies to almost every argument I’ve ever been in. There’s nothing worse than being called crazy or overdramatic, and even if you’re rightfully upset, this is a common tactic that (mostly male) older relatives love to resort to.
When you sense that tensions are rising and you’re trying to avoid bringing the energy to a 12/10, just start talking quieter and more slowly. I know that I just said to not talk down to them, but I literally love explaining things to Trump supporters like they’re in kindergarten because, at the end of the conversation, I’m the one who keeps the higher ground.
Do: Know The Difference Between Policy Disagreements And Fundamental Differences When It Comes To Values
In the weeks leading up to and since the election, I saw a wave of “moderates” in my life post Insta stories that said, “We can disagree on politics and still be friends.” Like, at face value, that’s an excellent point. However, it seems like there may be some misunderstanding about what qualifies as politics and what qualifies as, like, necessary empathy and respect for human dignity.
I’m all for talking through policy disagreements, and I can totally respect people challenging my beliefs. When I say that, though, I’m talking about issues like local tax levies, infrastructure proposals, zoning laws, etc. However, most of the time, when we think about family fights about politics, these aren’t the issues we’re talking about.
If it gets to a point where you’re arguing with a family member about systemic racism, discrimination, LGBTQ+ rights, and health care access, you’re no longer talking about politics. You’re now in a debate over fundamental beliefs about human rights; this is where things get complicated, especially after half of a bottle of wine.
Do: Know When To Draw Boundaries
Whether you’re planning a Zoom call with your whole family (good luck) or are keeping it to just your household, this holiday season will likely be a little tenser than ones in the past. If you know that a political argument is likely to break out during dinner, coming in with a plan is really important. Know your sh*t and have some essential facts at the ready, but also know what topics will get too heated and should stay off-limits. It’s also beneficial to talk to relatives that you know have similar views to make sure you’re comfortable defending each other and on the same page.
With the clusterf*ck that is 2020, the silver lining of a Zoom Thanksgiving is that you can hit “end call” or fake a poor network connection at any time—especially if you’re being disrespected and invalidated by people who say that they love you. However, a big part of allyship means having these hard conversations with relatives. Even if you can’t change their mind, half of the battle encourages them to second-guess their own beliefs.
Image: David Todd McCarty/ Unsplash
While the government isn’t technically open for biz at the mo, we are still gearing up for what the government will be like in the future. Sure, we’ll take it. In case you’re as bad at math as I am, I will point out that it is currently 2019, which means the 2020 presidential election is…next year. *Has a flashback to the 2016 election and breaks out in nervous hives*
Trump has got to go, but the question of who exactly will be the one to take his lumpy ass down is still up in the air. Our girl Elizabeth Warren recently announced that she will be running, and more are following her lead. In fact, Julián Castro just announced on January 12th that he too will be seeking the Democratic nomination for prez. Castro isn’t quite as well known as Warren, so his potential nomination begs the Q: new candidate, who dis?
Who TF is Julian Castro?
Wow, amazing question. Julián Castro was formerly the youngest member of the Obama Cabinet, where he served as the 16th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. There was speculation about whether or not our gal HRC would choose Castro as her running mate for VP in 2016, but she ended up going with that boring, old white guy who was so boring, white, and old that I literally can’t remember his name rn. (Okay so it was Tim Kaine and I think he plays the harmonica or some sh*t?) Castro is a native of San Antonio, Texas, where he served as the youngest city council member and as the mayor. Okay, damn, we’re listening.
Julian Castro attended Stanford University where he majored in Political Science and Communications. He has been vocal about the fact that he got into Stanford because of affirmative action, and cites this as an example of how affirmative action works. Okay, love that. After Stanford, he went on to attend Harvard Law School. He then interned at the White House during the Clinton presidency. After that, he worked for a law firm before opening his own firm with his — wait for it — twin brother. That’s right. He has a twin brother. And like, not to be a bitch, but they are both certified snacks. MAGLA (Make America Good Looking Again).
Okay, So What Are The Pros?
Castro is a very progressive candidate, which is so hot right now. He has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, which he was very vocal about during his time as Mayor of San Antonio. He stands firmly against the way Trump is dealing with immigration and condemns family separation at the border. He is very pro Black Lives Matter and has described the killing of African Americans by police as “state violence.” He wants to raise the minimum wage, as well as rejoin the Paris Climate accords. He is also pushing for greater funding for education. During his time as mayor of San Antonio, Castro successfully increased the city’s sale tax in order to fund a Pre-Kindergarden program, which was a risky move. This proves his willing to fight for what he believes in, even if it means he could lose popularity. Very chic.
Okay, Now Hit Me With the Cons
As previously mentioned, Julian Castro isn’t that well known, which means his chances at winning are a bit slim. He’s also from Texas, and if fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke stops Instagramming his root canals and gets in the race, it could be hard for him to stand out in the race. And the debate is still on re: are v progressive candidates the ones Democrats will nominate and elect, or are the older members of the party too stubborn and unwilling to do so. He’s also never been a governor, senator, or vice president. But like, our current president has never been a person who knows how to spell ‘border’ so who knows. In short, the question is whether or not backing such an unlikely candidate is worth it in the end.
Because I am a v professional journalist I will not say one way or the other. But I will say he’s young, he’s the grandson of immigrants, he’s progressive…and he has a hot twin.
How Do I Learn More?
Want to read more about Julian Castro? You can check out his website here, read a NYT write up on him here, and check out a Politico opinion piece on his candidacy here.
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