Talking About the Election (Without Talking About the Election)

Knee-high boots and North Face jackets have emerged in 60º weather, your Facebook feed has been reduced to quotes from Love, Actually, the radio exclusively plays the song Sweater Weather, and your friends who work in retail have a certain air of dread about them. All this can only mean one thing. Thanksgiving break is just around the corner! Once again, you’ll find yourself at the dinner table, grimacing through your favorite home-cooked dishes while your extended family shares anecdotal opinions that will inevitably give you heartburn. This year, however, is a special year because Thanksgiving falls merely weeks after the presidential election. You get the added bonus of passing the green bean casserole to your racist uncle as he tells you what he really thinks of the election results. Navigating through a conversation like that while your mom’s elbow is sinking deeper and deeper into your arm might be trickier than you’re anticipating. Consider this your comprehensive guide on how to talk to your relatives about the election, without talking about the election.

Every person going through a midlife crisis is equipped with the question, “why don’t young people get involved?” Be sure to have a few good reasons up your sleeve. Some acceptable ones include: we were all blindsided by Frank Ocean’s new album, still grieving over the end of Brangelina, too busy standing in line to buy a Kanye shirt at a Pablo pop-up shop, or still processing after watching Suicide Squad. It’s very distracting being a twenty-something these days. Assure your relatives that using social media as a platform for political discourse and sharing memes is, like, impossible.

Despite being a college-educated individual well-exposed to politics and social issues, you have to keep in mind that every opinion you have is wrong. Forget your poli-sci classes and in-depth understanding of social infrastructure. Despite having only taken an Intro to Macroeconomics course in 1986, your uncle is the most credible expert on domestic spending at the table. Repeat after me: my thousands of dollars’ worth of education is meaningless in this alternate limbo. Go ahead and say it out loud in the middle of the aforementioned conversation about domestic spending. Your family will find your candor refreshing.

Many of you might find that it really aggravates some of your adult family members that you have educated opinions that make theirs sound invalid. Because of this, the conversation might steer toward a tense, uncomfortable fight. Nothing ruins a pumpkin pie like knowing your parents are going to murder you for telling your aunt’s fiancé that he’s delusional. To avoid this kind of spectacle, you need to learn how to dodge hostile questions directed at you; but you have to be subtle. If you ignore the question, you might come off as rude. One way to get out of this is to respond to every ill-disguised hostile question with Hamilton lyrics. For example, if you’re asked “what do you even know about Reaganomics,” reply with: “Well… I’m just like my country… I’m young, scrappy, and hungry.” Punctuate this line by shoving a large helping of stuffing in your mouth. Congratulations, that’s good theater!

A particularly grating kind of relative is the one who believes in absurd conspiracies with an almost pathological sense of conviction. The only way to handle this kind of thing is to be fully prepared. By this, I mean you have to out-conspiracy theory your conspiracy theory aunt. Before the day in question, get on top of your theories by poring through conspiracy threads in the dark underbelly of Reddit. Brush up on your episodes of X-Files. “What was that, Aunt Carol? You say that the voting booths are rigged? Why would they need to be rigged when the voters aren’t even human beings? Have you ever heard of the Martian Initiative?” If you need to one-up a particularly kooky theory about the election, pick any CNN buzzword from the last few months (e.g. Clinton, Trump, servergate, birtherism, etc.) and make a connection to the Illuminati.

A beloved holiday tradition among the family is to overreact to some of the endearingly disgusting things that the younger kids spew. Usually it’s just them parroting what they hear their premature-brained seventh-grade friends say. Perhaps, they’ve discovered the ugly part of YouTube where gaming vloggers with a raunchy non-gender-friendly sense of humor flourish. Indubitably, cousin Ben is going to want to offer his two cents on the election. Adhering to the normal pattern of his thought process, it’s going to be wildly sexist and nonsensical in nature. In the interest of making it through the meal without murdering cousin Ben, apply one of the following tactics. You can compliment his colorful input on the debates that he was forced to watch in seventh-grade history class. He did, after all, write an enlightening D-minus essay highlighting his thoughts on what animal each candidate resembled the most. Comment on the vivacity of the youth of today when you witness him inhale a turkey leg and then joke about which candidate belongs in the kitchen.

Sometimes, despite all of these highly effective methods to keep the peace over the plate of peas, tensions can spike and you can find yourself in a confrontational situation. It’s important for you to remember – like painstakingly important for your sanity – that no matter how much you try to talk sense into your problematic family members, literally none of it will go through their heads. You can spend hours debating race relations with your least favorite blood relative; when all is said and done, you’re going to be scrolling through your Facebook feed in a couple days and see some grossly racist post about the BLM movement shared by that same relative, who learned nothing from your thoroughly explained arguments. So, just enjoy the democratic process, eat some turkey, and remind everyone as they’re leaving that if you get rich somehow, none of them are making it onto your will.