Port: Please talk about politics this Thanksgiving

But remember the fate of our society doesn't not hinge on winning over avuncular cranks in the living room.

Dickinson State University will be offering a community drive-thru Thanksgiving meal from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m Thursday, Nov. 26. Each meal will be free and requires pre-registration by Monday, Nov. 23. (File Photo)

MINOT, N.D. — Articles giving you tips on how to handle political discussions with your family have become a holiday season cliche in the news media.

The proverbial "crazy uncle" has become a stock character in these annual tip-sheets, and the advice on offer can usually be summed up with "don't bother."

Except, we do need to bother. The cultural and political divisions which are at the heart of so many of our nation's problems stem from a growing assumption that the "other side" isn't worth engaging.

That they're too crazy.

Too dug-in.


The attitude is everywhere. Before I began typing this column I was reading another column, in The New York Times , by Wajahat Ali who describes his forays out into fly-over country to engage with Trump supporters.

After describing a number of apparently polite encounters during which he failed to change anyone's mind he gives us this advice: "Don’t waste your time reaching out to Trump voters like I did."

This sort of whining, why-won't-they-just-agree-with-me petulance is typical of modern politics.

We need to get over it.

Part of living in a society like ours, which is predicated on the consent of a governed people who have the constitutional right to believe and say what they like, is that you're always going to be faced with people you don't agree with.


Sometimes it will even be members of your own family at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Deal with it. Be an adult and talk to those people anyway, even about politics.


I can even give you a tip, speaking as someone who makes a living talking about politics: Stop trying to win.

That's it.

That's all you need to know. There is no winning in American politics. I mean, sure, there's winning in that Joe Biden just won the national election and Republicans just won a larger share of U.S. House seats. But that's just the here and now. In two years, there's another election that will award new temporary victories.

Politics makes us all both winners and losers.

As for Thanksgiving dinner, the fate of our society doesn't not hinge on winning over avuncular cranks in the living room. If you want to talk politics, that's great! You should. I'd argue that those conversations are a duty of citizenship.

Just don't go into them thinking you're going to change a mind. You almost certainly will not, though it's more likely to happen if you aren't trying.

Just talk. Explain yourself, sure, but more importantly, listen. Make it clear that you love them and respect them, even if you disagree.

And remember the words of Loudon Wainwright III: "'I'll never win, neither will you, so what in this world are we gonna do?"


Talking like grownups, while choosing to respect disagreement, is what we could do.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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