Don't Win Arguments, Win Elections

And other answers to questions you didn’t ask.

Image: Basheer Tome via Flickr

“Man, this Thanksgiving is going to be brutal for family political talk. What can I do?” —Ronnie Red State

Thanksgiving is great because of food. Thanksgiving is lousy because of relatives. Although they are generally all well-meaning and nice people, relatives are the friends you can’t even tell to shut up during dinner. You have to swim for your life across waves of terrible opinions that will touch, no doubt, upon Harvey Weinstein, Hillary Clinton, Robert Mueller, Ray Moore, and, if you’re lucky, Louis C.K. At some point it will be socially acceptable to always wear headphones. At family dinners, in church, after death. Always. We won’t even need actual headphones, they will install speakers inside everyone’s head for better fidelity. How much better would the world be if we never had to talk and instead had Queen songs as the background for everything in your life. You are the champion, my friends.

If we’ve learned anything from the current political climate, the best policy is to always answer the questions you want to answer rather than the ones you’re asked. “Jimmy, don’t you think the media is being unfair to our President?” “Uncle Louie, I’d rather talk about the fact that the United States is the only country not committed to the Paris Climate Accord. Even fake countries from shows like “24” are committed to the Paris Accord.” If people do bring up politics, you have to shut it down hard and ugly, so someone’s mom will step in and say “Not at the Thanksgiving table, please!”

If it helps, pretend you have gone completely religious. This will freak your family out. “I am praying to Satan, my lord and savior, for guidance. Only when I hear back, Father, will I have the wisdom to respond to you.”

You can refer to articles there’s no way they’ve ever read. “Well, did you read the piece in The Economist about the dissonance between what people think they heard on TV and what was actually being reported?” There’s no way they’ve read that article, I just made that up. They will shake their head grimly and probably go back to working on their mashed potatoes. Or even better, they will say they had read that article. Then you can go back and forth the whole night making up blog entries and scientific studies and Thanksgiving will have been extremely amusing for you. At parties I make up a band called “The Swingset Pinkos” that I will casually drop into conversation. Everyone will admit to knowing them, having seen them play and liking their early stuff better than their late stuff. I bullshit bullshitters for a living.

There is no reason to correct your Fox News brainwashed family members. To even attempt to engage them in meaningful exchanges will probably just harden their terrible opinions. People don’t want to be wrong. And very especially do not want to be proven wrong. Even if Trump blows up the world, his approval rating will probably still be around 33%. Because 33% of people are stubborn, stubborn people. Nothing you say can save these people from their own misinformed, ridiculous opinions. Simply ignore them. 

Staying drunk all day is a really big help. And escaping for drinks to a bar with your real friends while everyone is sleeping off turkey naps is a great way to break away from the waves of nonsense. In bars you can drunkenly plot the revolution. It will make you feel better. The revolution may never come. But at least you tried to drunkenly plan one, that’s all you can ask for.

In this dismal age, words are meaningless. You can tweet whatever you want, they can tweet whatever they want. What really counts is who wins elections. The GOP won some big ones last year. The Dems picked up a few symbolic ones the other day. The real big ones will be next year around this time. How many gerrymandered districts can be unraveled? Whether you win arguments or not with people now is meaningless. You need to enlist the youth, get them on your side. Old people cannot be reasoned with, cannot be argued with. They need to be ignored. They will matter less in the elections to come.

Cycles in politics come and go. What never changes is how right you are. In the past, we used to have to endure other people’s terrible political opinions. We do not have to. It is not in the Constitution or anything that we have to listen. Only that we have to let them talk. Go right ahead, Fox News is over that way. Blabber away with them about who’s 14 years old or not.

Don’t win arguments, win elections. While they want to gloat, focus all your energy on a plan to get those dudes out of office. That’s all that matters. And that the Lions beat the Vikings. I bet the house on it.

Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ.