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. 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.
In Minnesota, the issue dividing Jake Loesch’s family is 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.Loesch is a conservative, like his huge family. He had difficult conversations with some relatives 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, there’s hope that the political discourse 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.”