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, Marshall says.
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.
As for the Marshalls in Massachusetts, there’s hope that the political discourse, however charged, may spur humor 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, said 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.