An Idea For A Thanksgiving Question

[ Posted Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 – 17:43 UTC ]

This may be an incredibly naive idea, but at this point it's certainly worth a shot. Call it my offering in the "how to talk to your Republican relatives on Thanksgiving" genre, if you will.

Thanksgiving is a time for family, with all of both the positive and negative connotations that implies. You're supposed to love these folks because they're kin, but at the same time you don't exactly see eye-to-eye on politics -- never have and likely never will. But you don't want to have a big shouting match over the dinner table or around the television, so what do you do when the conversation drifts into politics?

My suggestion: avoid all the Trump drama, and ask your conservative relatives how they see the Republican Party after Trump leaves the stage. Be nice, and concede the possibility of a second term, while pointing out that after eight years, he's going to have to go. What happens then? What would they want to see happen as well as what they think is likely to happen are both areas to explore.

Will Trump forever change the party into a mirror image of himself? Will the GOP become nothing more than the Trump Party? Will Ivanka and Donnie Junior be groomed for a true political dynasty? Or will Trump just be replaced with another party leader who is just as Trumpy as ever?

Conversely, will the party attempt to redefine itself post-Trump into something resembling what it was pre-Trump? The chances of this happening are most likely greater if Trump is defeated in 2020, of course, but again be respectful when offering this suggestion. If Republicans get beat bad across the board in 2020, would that be the catalyst it needs to do some soul-searching, or will they just double down on Trumpism anyway?

By directing the conversation away from Trump himself, perhaps it is possible to get a glimpse of what conservative voters really think about what he's been doing to the party. It is entirely possible -- especially if he does win a second term -- that the party will never look back and be permanently redefined by the Trump era. But it is also possible that at least the worst of Trump's excesses may be left behind when he leaves the party.

I would be curious to hear what people think, because at the heart of it any political party is a reflection (to some degree or another) of the voters who support it. In other words, if the Republican base truly does want Trumpism to continue, then it likely will for at least some period of time. Republican candidates will vie to outdo Trump's extreme positions and may actually be a lot more successful at implementing his ideas than Trump has been. That's certainly a possibility. But for the party to be successful at doing so, it will have to have the support of the base.

At the heart of this question is really how Trump supporters feel about Trump himself, but you certainly don't need to point this out when posing the question to your relatives. It's a question of whether they support Trump just because of who he is -- his outsized personality, his ability to get under the skin of people like you, his flair for the dramatic, etc. -- or whether they really support his policies and are just thankful that someone like Trump came along to push them into the spotlight. I suspect there are a lot of people who revel in Trump's antics and his ability to annoy tree-hugging liberals but don't really have a whole lot invested in how he goes about doing so. In other words, the outcome (apoplectic progressives) is more important than the journey -- any route would do, really, as long as the end result is the same.

I will give Trump credit for this, because he does indeed annoy liberals no end. He's the absolute champion of doing so, in fact, at least in recent memory. The only Republican who even came close to having the same power was Newt Gingrich, when I search my own memories. Democrats considered George W. Bush to be a fratboy in over his head, but he always retained the ability to poke fun at himself, which humanized him a great deal. Dick Cheney was the equivalent of Darth Vader to the coastal elites, but his evil was pure -- he was truly doing it because he believed in it; he wasn't doing it just to watch Democratic heads explode. There were gadflies in Congress who revelled in liberal-baiting (Trey Gowdy, Michele Bachmann, Joe Lieberman, just to name a few), but they were minor figures who didn't have enough power to be front-and-center all the time. But Donald Trump resonates in a way that even far surpasses the bomb-throwing days of Newt Gingrich. So it's understandable why Trump's followers are so gleeful at his success in getting under liberals' skin, since he does so in ways that no Republican ever even attempted before, and to a much greater degree than anyone else has ever achieved.

But put all that aside, or at least make the attempt. After a few volleys of snide jokes about Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic presidential field, and Adam Schiff -- countered with incredulity that anyone who says they support the troops could ever love a draft-dodger who pardons war crimes and other such zingers from your side -- try to get a little more serious and ask Uncle Bubba or Cousin Marylou how they see things after Trump exits the stage. Sure, they'll miss his antics, but he'll still likely be on Twitter railing against all and sundry, so they'll at least have that for a few more years. But how do they see the party itself, post-Trump?

Again, try to separate where they want the Republican Party to go from where they predict it'll go. Because in the end, the Republican Party is eventually going to have to deal with this question. The pro-Trump base is likely going to have a very big role in whichever way they do decide to orient themselves, so it's worth taking the time to hear from members of that base.

Oh, sure, it may end in a gigantic fight anyway -- I'm not so naive as to realize that. But maybe this question can at least defuse that fight for a moment and get your conservative relatives thinking about the party's future beyond Trump. At the very least, it should be fascinating to hear what they have to say, as you pass them the potatoes.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


15 Comments on “An Idea For A Thanksgiving Question”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, in the spirit of this column, I'll begin.

    Michale -

    Where do you want the party to go? Where do you think it'll end up?


    PS. I wrote that paragraph about Trump making liberals' heads explode just for you!


  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    You really need to read yesterday's comments.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    and i thought i was cynical about the intelligence of the american people.

    "No one in this world, so far as I know ... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people."
    ~H.L. Mencken

  4. [4] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    What this "Republican relative" hopes is that the other guys (YOU guys) never again nominate a candidate anything like the one you nominated that resulted in the country being afflicted with the Orange Moron.

  5. [5] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I lost all respect for the intelligence of the American electorate when they rejected Goldwater in '64 because the Democratics told them he was a warmonger, which resulted in LBJ and, you guessed it, the Vietnam war.

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    The 64 election was indeed a big turning point in u.s. politics. How many people even know that it was Kennedy who got us into Vietnam and Nixon who got us out? I wonder sometimes whether lbj's victory in 64 was what started the arc of the Republican party away from goldwater and toward Donald trump.

  7. [7] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    I don't even see that "arc" - Goldwater was a classic capitalist/conservative, Trump is an idiotic self-pomoter/narcissistic/moron/failed reality TV host. The only thing they have in common is the Rep. lable.

  8. [8] 
    John M wrote:

    [6] C. R. Stucki

    [7] nypoet22

    At least Kennedy prevented the Cuban missile crisis from turning into a general nuclear war.

    I seriously doubt the same could have been said if Richard Nixon had been president instead, since the head of the Strategic Air Command at the time, Curtis LeMay, kept forcefully advocating for the bombing and invasion of Cuba, against both president Kennedy's and Defense Secretary McNamara's wishes.

    Unknown to the US, the Soviet field commanders in Cuba had been given authority to launch nuclear weapons under their control. They had at least 20 nuclear warheads for medium-range R-12 Dvina (NATO Code SS-4 Sandal) ballistic missiles capable of reaching US cities (including Washington DC), each carrying a one megaton warhead (equivalent to 50 Hiroshima bombs), and nine tactical nuclear missiles.

    A Soviet submarine flotilla in the area commanded by Kapitan (later Vice Admiral) Vasili Arkhipov had nuclear torpedoes. Because a US Navy surface flotilla was harassing the Soviet submarines with small depth charges, both the flagship's captain and its Zampolit (political officer), believing that war had started, voted to fire a nuclear torpedo at the flotilla. But Captain Arkhipov, a veteran of the K-19 disaster, voted to wait and see, thus averting World War III. (It required a yes vote of all three, just one man of the three voting no averted war.)

  9. [9] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Great idea for having these conversations with the family over Thanksgivings. Will let you know the results if we make it back alive!


  10. [10] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Nixon only “got us out of Vietnam” because it was Nixon’s campaign that kept the war from ending until he could take the credit for ending it! Republicans love keeping a crisis alive until THEY can get the spotlight on them for putting an end to it! (See also: Iran Hostage crisis)

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Reagan and Iran i knew about. Vietnam is more complicated because a lot changed on the ground between 68 and 73

  12. [12] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Nixon and Republicans had made arrangements that caused the South Vietnamese government to stall the peace talks. LBJ got word of it, but it was too late. The phone call between LBJ and Nixon was recorded. Very interesting story!

  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Yes, that certainly sounds like Nixon. Nonetheless, i would still distinguish that episode from the rank hypocrisy of Reagan in 1980 and trump now. In retrospect it's very unfortunate, but at least Nixon's dog-wagging coincided with his actual policy goals at the time.

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:


    Nixon and Republicans had made arrangements that caused the South Vietnamese government to stall the peace talks.

    At the time, the FBI had SIGINT/intercepts of Anna Chennault scuttling the efforts of LBJ to end the war but couldn't tie the intervention to Nixon, but time -- as it almost always does -- revealed the extent of Nixon's involvement being "all in" and pulling the strings.

    Nixon's "getting away with it" at the time did nothing to curtail his illegal intervention into American democracy, which continued unabated and culminated with the Watergate affair... and the rest is history.

  15. [15] 
    TheStig wrote:

    None of my immediate family (out to the level of aunts uncles and cousins) support Trump. Still, I think CW's initiative has merit and I'll give it try with some Trump supporting friends that are, for practical purposes, family.

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