How to Avoid Talking Politics With Your Family ... And Survive the Holidays


Disclaimer: To all my family members — remember that you're really very lovely and intelligent people, and yes, I do think the drones are really bad, and yes, you're quite right that the earth faces a massive water shortage, and yes, your point about how Lincoln should have let the South secede is quite interesting, really. No, let's not start talking about it again. Yes, I think taking a Christmas cookie break is a great idea.

The holiday season is upon us, and millennials across the nation have begun, once again, to converge upon their hometowns and reunite with friends and family. A joyous time of year, marked by thoughtful gifts, religious and secular celebrations (Solstice party, anyone?), and general good cheer — plus, avoiding that one drunk uncle who really wants to talk to you about the fiscal cliff. I mean, really, do you even realize what they're doing in there? In Congress? Do you? Or do you just spend all your time on Facebook? Kids these days ...

Whether you and your family had to delineate which political poster belonged to whom or you've all voted on the same party platform for years, negotiating talking about politics (or, sometimes, anything) with your family can drive you batty enough to think you're living in an animated holiday TV special. Except instead of the happy ending, you're forced to lock yourself in your room, muttering, "I do believe in rape-induced pregnancies. I do. I do."

For those of you facing the prospect of tense dinner tables when someone brings up Iran's nuclear program, here are the top 7 ways to diffuse that familial bombshell.

1) Claim that the recent Google crash has left you entirely without access to the news.

Everyone knows that we millennials learn everything we know from the internet. You can't expect us to not be shaken when we can't access Gmail, Gcal, Google Map, Google Drive, Google Hangout, just plain Google... The trauma was just too much for you to keep up with what's going on. And who could blame you? You couldn't even Google other ways to get your news!

2) Bring up a fake news item, and then sit back and relax while people debate about it, before you reveal that they've been Punk'd.

Congratulations. You just landed yourself a job at the Onion. Of course, you may have lost a few holiday presents in the process, but employment's way more important, right?

3) Say anything about a third party candidate.

They're obscure enough to most that you can evade pretty much any question about a major Democratic or Republican politician or policy measure by prefacing your remark with, "Well, as Robert 'Naked Cowboy' Burck once put it..."

4) Start gossiping about some other family drama.

Preferably, your tidbit of choice should have to do with second or third cousins with whom you recently reconnected over Facebook, but who never actually bother to visit. Or that great-aunt that sends you cards with your name misspelled. Or that brother-in-law who divorced with your dad's sister via text message. Ouch.

5) Turn the conversation towards actual policy.

You'll need a binder for this — but only one filled with women if you want to talk about employment, health care, or other real issues important to all Americans. (Am I right, ladies?) Whenever someone starts going on about something they don't really understand — say, the Affordable Care Act — open your binder, flip to an appropriate passage, and start reading directly from the text. Then ask your family to explain what you just said to you. Guaranteed to stump even Nancy Pelosi.

6) Insist on having a fact-checker present at all family meals.

Your conversation will be dictated by fact-checkers, dammit! Better yet, invite Nate Silver to calculate the statistical likelihood that the conversation will end well. (Hint: It's close to 0%.)

7) Rally everyone to go watch The Hobbit in 3-D instead.

Just avoid talking about the allegations of animal abuse, and you've got three solid hours of conversation-free family time. To make the mystical movie magic last even longer, insist on hosting a Lord of the Rings marathon ahead of time — director's cut.