One of the professional hazards of being a national political reporter is most certainly Thanksgiving.
You think political discussions at your holiday dinner are intense? Try coming over to one of our houses!
But professional political observers or not, we are all now living in the era of divisive dinner, a moment when our politics have grown so polarized that they can ruin even the best prepared stuffing.
There’s some data on this: A majority of adults say they “dread the thought of having to talk about politics at Thanksgiving dinner,” according to a poll conducted in 2017 by PBS “NewsHour,” NPR and Marist.
So, I figured, who better to ask for advice on navigating those heated discussions than my colleagues, who deal with divisive politics for a living?
My question kicked off quite the debate on The New York Times politics desk.
There are the Avoiders.
Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day away from work, and some of us have strategies to keep it that way.
“My secret: Rotisserate the bird. You can spend most of the day outside fussing with the grill and out of earshot,” said national correspondent Trip Gabriel, who will spend his holiday in balmy Westchester County, N.Y.
Nick Corasaniti, our New Jersey correspondent turned political reporter and Tuesday newsletter host, wants to distract his family with a Jersey turkey. “Instead of putting bacon on the bird as it roasts, cover it in Taylor ham,” he said. “This will be enough of a conversation starter that we will only talk about how brilliant this idea is.” (Sorry, Cory Booker, we don’t have many vegans on staff.)
Sydney Ember, who has moved to Iowa to cover the caucuses, will be spending the holiday in Massachusetts. She has a simple request: “Don’t ask me about Iowa.”
There are the Regionalists.
All politics is local, right?
National political correspondent Jonathan Martin’s answer? “Football and oysters” are far more “fulfilling distractions” at his New Orleans holiday table.
Jennifer Medina, our Los Angeles-based political reporter, is going to tell her relatives just how important they are. “If politics is mentioned at all, it will be something like ‘Do votes in California really matter?’” she said. “To which I will then stand on my soapbox and talk about how much the West will matter this cycle, both in the primary (Nevada is third! California will start voting as Iowans caucus!) and in the general (Arizona! Texas?! And Nevada, again!).”
And there are the Embracers.
Our political reporter Jeremy Peters, who will be spending the holidays in St. John in the United States Virgin Islands, plans to offer this piece of wisdom: “Stop asking me who’s going to win. Do you think we learned nothing last time?”
“Vote for who you like, not for who you think a mythical stranger you invented might like,” senior politics editor Johanna Barr plans to counsel in Saugerties, N.Y.
“I’m sure the words Joe Biden will be said within five minutes,” said national political reporter Astead W. Herndon, who will be in Flossmoor, Ill. “I truly don’t get what people talk about for that much time without talking about politics.”
Then there are the real pros.
To resolve all these conflicting views, I went to a true political professional: Senator Amy Klobuchar, whom I happened to see over the weekend in New Hampshire. She plans on spending the holiday in Iowa with her husband and daughter.
Unsurprisingly, she’s fully supportive of political debate at the Thanksgiving table. (And of yam casserole, her favorite holiday dish — though she was careful to note that it’s not a Minnesota “hot dish.”)
“I’m saying go for it, and maybe mention that there is a senator from Minnesota,” she said.
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Obama on 2020: Your responses
Last week, we asked for readers’ reactions to former President Barack Obama’s comments about the 2020 race. Mr. Obama stirred the pot, after all, when he cautioned the Democratic presidential candidates not to move too far to the left on policy, saying that “the average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”
And wow, did you have thoughts! Nearly 800 of you wrote to share your views of Mr. Obama’s remarks, and the reaction was, shall we say, fiercely divided.
Here’s what some of you had to say:
“He misunderstands how many people, including those of us who like him, still see his signature achievements as half delivered. … We didn’t just want hope. We wanted him to fight for us. And now, living in Trump’s America, we want someone who will fight for us.” — Diana Wynne, San Francisco
“I am a Democrat who thinks that President Obama’s remarks were spot on. I am terrified that Democrats will lose the next election if we have a left-wing candidate in 2020. I think some Democrats and most independents will not be willing to vote for someone on the left wing of the Democratic Party. They just might decide to not vote at all.” — Julia Gibson, The Woodlands, Texas
“I think he was wrong. People know much of what politicians say when running for office is aspirational. We know they can’t waive a magic wand and make it so. We also know that on several fronts, including the environment especially, we are running out of time. This is a time for bold policy ideas, not incrementalism.” — Mark Burnham, Cranston, R.I.
“I’m here in rural Wisconsin. I think he’s right that people aren’t ready for such dramatic change. It does not seem timely to expect voters to swerve so dramatically left now, when they need to be coaxed back into trusting a Democratic Party that will show up for an average American who is neither far left or far right.” — Sharon LaCour, Amery, Wis.
“Obama’s not reading the country. Maybe too busy hobnobbing with the rich and famous to see that America is losing its innocence. People want change, real change. Not the porridge they were fed during his administration.” — Wanda Gumm, Los Angeles
“Clearly he is giving his best advice — and I agree 100 percent. … Our extended family is 24 voters — 20 registered Republicans, all of whom will vote for Biden and who all voted for Gov. Kasich [John Kasich of Ohio, a 2016 Republican primary candidate], not Trump. They will never vote for anyone left of Biden,” — Susan Martin, Cincinnati
See you next week
Nick Corasaniti is taking the helm tomorrow, and then we’ll be back after the holiday week. I will be indulging in the traditional pastimes of eating, Black Friday shopping and, of course, the requisite viewing of “Frozen 2.” (I felt very seen by this reporting.)
Whatever your plans may be, from all of us at the politics desk, may your dinners be satisfying, bellies be full and political conversation be warm — or, at the very least, civil.
What to watch tonight
Over several months, “The Weekly” embedded with a team of creative young engineers developing the perfect deepfakes — ultrarealistic videos that will have you questioning reality. But they’re not doing it to manipulate markets or game an election. They want to warn the public about the dangers of technology meant to dupe them.