Last Updated:December 1 @ 07:16 am

Turkey and Politics: How do you handle holiday family dinners?

By Jocelyn Noveck

(AP) - Ah, Thanksgiving. A little turkey, some cranberry mold, maybe apple pie with ice cream, some football on TV. Getting together with the cousins. Catching up beside the fire. Togetherness.

On second thought: Scratch that. What were we thinking? This was an election year.

"The Thanksgiving table will be a battleground," says Andrew Marshall, 34, of Quincy, Mass.

Like many extended families across the country, Marshall's includes Democrats and Republicans, conservatives, liberals and independents. And so, like many families that count both red and blue voters in their ranks, they're expecting fireworks. Things had already gotten so bad on Facebook, the family had to ban political banter.

"It was getting brutal," says Marshall.

And now, it will all play out in person. In this family, the older generation is more liberal, the younger more conservative. So Andrew, a conservative, particularly expects friction with his aunt, Anne Brennan, 57. "She firmly believes in what she believes in, and we'll go head to head with it," he says.

As for Brennan, she's looking on the bright side: the wine they'll drink. "You always bring a good bottle," she told Andrew at a family dinner a few days ago - perhaps softening him up for the holiday. No dice. "What are you talking about?" Andrew replied. "The wine just amplifies it."

But the Marshalls seem to be relishing the occasion. Not so the Davidson family in Alabama.

In fact, things have gotten so tense over politics between Brian Davidson, a 40-year-old attorney in Helena, and his father, 130 miles away in Russellville, that they've changed plans, forgoing their usual gathering.

"We're not even going," says Brian, who voted for Barack Obama, and describes his father as "a little to the right of Glenn Beck." Better to skip this one, he says, than suffer "a non-recoverable blowup."

Davidson, a Boy Scout leader and the father of two school-age sons, once was firmly conservative, even serving as an officer in the Young Republicans Club at the University of North Alabama. His parents - particularly Dad - always taught him and his brother to think for themselves, he says.

And so he did. Davidson eventually realized he no longer fit in with the Republican Party, which he saw as moving rightward, and now considers himself a political moderate with liberal positions on issues like gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana - he supports both - and conservative positions on foreign and fiscal policies.

Each Thanksgiving, Davidson typically loads up his family and makes the 130-mile drive to his parents' house. This year, Davidson will take the kids to wife Kim's family instead, but even that could be tricky: They are conservative as well. So Brian and Kim will try to avoid any topics that could lead, they say, to "an Obama rant" around the table.

"Anything can cause it," Brian says. "We're just going to suck it up."

For some families, it's not necessarily the presidential race that divided them. The Cox family in Colorado has long been split over the legalization of marijuana - ever since Diane Cox first caught her son, David, trying to smoke the drug when he was 14.

David, now 31 and a peach farmer in Palisade, Colo., has volunteered for years on efforts to legalize marijuana. Diane, meanwhile, has spearheaded several successful protests to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in nearby towns - even waving "BAN THE POT SHOPS" signs on the side of the road.

Colorado's recent vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use again divided mother and son, who served as regional coordinator for the legalization campaign. Discussion of the vote is likely at the family Thanksgiving, but David Cox doesn't seem TOO worried. "I don't think awkward's the proper term. The proper term is more, dissentious," he says with a chuckle.

After all, Cox says, some things are more important than politics. "They can see that I'm a successful, hardworking person," he says of his parents, "so they have absolutely nothing to say because I'm doing fantastic and they know it."

In Minnesota, the issue dividing Jake Loesch's family isn't marijuana but gay marriage. Voters defeated a proposed amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in the state, and Loesch, 24, of St. Paul, was deputy communications director for Minnesotans United for All Families - a group that fought the gay marriage ban. (It remains illegal under state law.)

Loesch is a conservative, like his huge family. He had difficult conversations with some aunts, uncles and grandparents when he took his recent job, and as the political season heated up, he tried increasingly to avoid the subject: "Having those conversations is healthy for the political process, but sometimes, when it's with family, it can be really, really hard."

But he found common ground with his grandmother, who is 85. She disagreed with his stance, but after the election, she posted on his Facebook wall: "Congratulations, Jake - even tho I didn't agree with your stance on the issue I will have to say you really put your heart and soul into your convictions - and I must say I'm proud of you!!!"

"Our family is very understanding of everybody's opinions," says Jake's grandmother, Bunny Arseneau. "We know where everybody stands because we're a very open family. Your opinion is your opinion and we respect you for it."

And so, Loesch says, he is hoping for the best at Thanksgiving - after all, they're still family. Adds his grandmother: "My father was of the old school. You never leave the house mad at each other, and you never go to sleep mad at each other."

As for the Marshalls in Massachusetts, there's hope that the political discourse, however charged, may at least carry some levity as well.

Last Friday night, some family members gathered at the home of Andrew's parents, in Hingham, Mass., for homemade pizza and wine - a dry run, maybe, for the bigger Thanksgiving dinner.

As a fire crackled in the fireplace, so did the political discourse.

"I did vote for Obama," noted Rebecca Malone, 27, Andrew's sister.

"Oh my God!" replied Andrew. "I didn't know that! You're out!"

But the family did find a few areas of agreement - for one thing, they all agreed on medicinal marijuana.

And though some voted for Democrat Elizabeth Warren for Senate, who won, and others didn't, they all agreed that outgoing Sen. Scott Brown was good-looking.

As the wine flowed, Andrew waxed philosophical.

"If we didn't care, we wouldn't sit here and battle," he said.

Added Anne, his liberal aunt: "And it's all so much more interesting than the Kardashians."


Associated Press writers Amy Forliti in Minneapolis, Bridget Murphy in Boston, Jay Reeves in Helena, Ala., and Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.

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  1. nickster99Comment by nickster99
    November 21, 2012 @ 7:48 am

    Most of the members of my family have no clue about politics. Most dont vote but they do complain about who is in office. I tell them if you don’t vote then you have no right to complain. You didnt voice your opinion’s when they counted the most so sit down there and take it! They are the “uniformed voters” or non voters. I remember my mother telling me once many years ago that she voted for president Kennedy because he was soooooo handsome and Catholic! I have to admit that he was our best Democratic president since Truman. I am the only staunch conservative next to my educated sister-n-law so they all pile on us and we do the best we can.

    I will do my best to avoid political discussions tomorrow but I am sure it will be brought up by clueless uneducated louts after a few beers or glasses of wine! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! God bless us all we will need it in the next 4 years!

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  2. capricorn1Comment by capricorn1
    November 21, 2012 @ 9:27 am

    well as long as i am holding the really big and sharpe carving knife,i suspect th peanut gallery will be quiet.

    happy thanksgiving everyone!

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  3. lakeworthcaneComment by lakeworthcane
    November 21, 2012 @ 11:20 am

    I find that because leftists are content to remain within the “reality-as-dictated-by-leftist-media” phenomenon that has skewed politics and political discussions for nigh on four decades now . . ..

    Because leftists, for all their purported “liberalism,” are at least unwilling and seemingly unable to even acknowledge other perspectives and facts that contradict the mythological homilies to which they blindly cling . . .

    And because leftists–including Obama–love more than anything else to mock and insult those who disagree with them, rather than engage in intelligent, factual discussions . . .

    That it’s impossible to have a fruitful political conversation, or even a heated argument or debate, with a leftist.

    My cousin–with spit flying from his mouth–says George W. Bush was “responsible for thousands of deaths,” and I “can’t see it” because I’m “stupid.”

    Never mind that I’ve a gifted IQ, ten years of college and a few graduate degrees, and I actually do my research.

    My sister whines Obama wasn’t able to improve the economy “because the republicans were blocking him.”

    Never mind that for the first two years of his presidency he had a leftist mandate, got everything he wanted, and none of it worked.

    Never mind that Obama and the political left have screwed “millions of hard working Americans everywhere”–the ones whom Obama says “deserve a fair shot”–by doing everything necessary to keep the job market tilted in favor of employers, thus removing the working person’s primary leverage: quitting and getting another, better job.

    Never mind that, as an attorney, Obama defended slumlords–and his close personal friend and confidant Valerie Jarret was such a slumlord–and won cases for them that got the poor African-Americans who worship him kicked out in the streets in January, in Chicago, when it was 11 degrees.

    Never mind that while Obama questions the CEO of Wal-Mart’s $11-million salary, his wife makes a half-million a year “consulting” for a food processing corporation that’s one tenth the size of Wal-Mart, pays its CEO $38 million, and routinely abuses its poverty-stricken, under-paid, illegal-immigrant workers.

    Never mind about Frank Marshall Davis, or Bill Ayers, or Jeremiah Wright; never mind about the pot, the cocaine, the fraudulent social security number or the sealed transcripts.

    Never mind that Obama’s healthcare reform bill doesn’t provide free healthcare to anybody who didn’t already have it; it provides health INSURANCE, and those who got free healthcare (even when they could afford to pay for it) before Obama came to office–via the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, signed into law by Ronald Reagan–will now have to pay for it, and if they can pay for it and still refuse to, the government will force it on them and take money from their bank accounts for it; never mind that, like every other health insurance provider, the federal government will closely scrutinize the care it pays for and will deny care it deems unnecessary or too expensive.

    Never mind that Obama hasn’t really done anything concrete for anybody other than those who contributed money to his campaigns, and he’s repaid them with borrowed money that the taxpayes must repay.

    Never mind that the single greatest boost Obama could’ve given the economy was to open up the domestic coal, oil and natural gas markets, and he’s done everything in his power to keep those markets minimized.

    Never mind that Obama has shown a refusal and perhaps an inability to lead half the country–the half that opposes him–with statements like, “we’re going to reward those who supported us and punish those who opposed us”: a sentiment echoed by South-Side-Chicago redneck girl Valerie Jarrett.

    Leftists can’t answer for any of this. They don’t even want to know about it, and when confronted with it, they become mocking, offensive and insulting, and they delight in the anger and offense they create. They care not for “peaceful coexistence,” compromise or the good of the country from which they feed like so many parasites.

    Gay marriage? Legalized pot? BIRTH CONTROL? WHO CARES!? Our ship of state is sinking, and we’re supposed to fight tooth and nail over sex and drugs while it goes down?


    But political leftism in the United States is on its last legs. While the leftist media still largely control the flow of information, that’s changing with technology. While ignorant people still blindly believe in leftist mythology, that will change as younger generations become better educated. While the current generation of immigrants holds out it hands for public-sector benefits, their children–better educated, business owners and the like–will call themselves Americans and shun those who bleed their country dry.

    So . . . better Thanksgiving family meals are coming.

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    • nickster99Comment by nickster99
      November 21, 2012 @ 11:29 am

      I sure hope so!

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  4. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    November 21, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

    And the purpose of this commentary by AP writer Jocelyn Noveck was what? To remind us that families have disagreements? How very enlightening.

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