This week, American families will gather around the table to break bread, give thanks for their blessings, and take a respite from life's many distractions. There will be football games, family gossip, and relaxation, although those who cook up turkey dinners and those who clean up afterward may not get too much of the latter.
For me, the holiday is an opportunity to thank the Lord for my family and friends. My son's in-laws adopted my wife and I years ago for the holidays, to use just one example of a blessing for which I owe profound thanks. Most of our extended family lives almost 2,000 miles away from Minnesota, in California. I try to return the favor by refraining from talk of politics on these occasions, which is not really that great of a sacrifice on my part, but for which I believe my adopted family is most thankful.
I'd bet that most people would agree that the holidays should focus on what brings us together rather than what divides us, even if the divisions are on necessary and significant policy issues. That is, most people — except for the political activists to whom politics is the highest value in life. If there is one group of people who sorely need perspective, it's those preparing talking points for their causes for Thanksgiving-table discussions.
Pity those who have to set the Thanksgiving table with a follower of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, as one example. After a stinging defeat in recall elections in Colorado, MAIG has cooked up a recipe to recover their relevancy — with a placemat that they want supporters to print out and stuff under the stuffing-filled plate titled, "Talking Turkey About Guns." "This Thanksgiving," they urge, "help set the table straight." The placemat features a quick quiz on MAIG's talking points, and a big pie that the organization claims represents the percentage of people who support their position on background checks. Left unsaid is that the percentage of people who consider guns their biggest policy priority would constitute only a few crumbs of the pie (4 percent). That 4 percent is likely to be a lot lower on Thanksgiving. Expect Grandpa to recall the souvenir placemats from Pea Soup Anderson's.
Another example does have more relevance — and a bit more chutzpah as well. Organizing for America expects a lot more from the president's supporters than a placemat on the table. OFA (at the URL barackobama.com, no less) has an extensive, four-step process designed to force family members into discussing and debating the merits of the Affordable Care Act — better known as ObamaCare, and as a disaster for the White House and Democrats. Millions have lost coverage thanks to the mandates in the individual markets, and at least 14 million more may lose their employer-based coverage by next Thanksgiving.
Given these conditions, urging activists to "have the talk" with family and friends seems almost like a suicide mission. Step 3 provides helpful conversation starters, such as, "Have you thought about signing up for health insurance on the new marketplace?" This suggests that people have a choice in doing so, as though it's a helpful elective for regular folks. ObamaCare forces those not covered in employer-based group plans to enroll through their web portal or directly through insurers by the end of the year, or face a fine. With all of the news about the failures of the front end of the website, most of those who have no choice probably want to postpone it as long as possible — especially since the back-end functions of the site either don't exist or don't work properly yet. In fact, the White House just announced that its December 1 deadline for "full functionality" has changed to an expectation of somewhat fewer periods of "suboptimal performance."
That brings us to the next icebreaker suggested by OFA: "Would you like to take some time with me to sign up right now?" Based on the performance of the HealthCare.gov website, "some time" might mean "we'll miss dinner and dessert and still not get enrolled." OFA then tells its activists to "ask them to make a plan, and commit to it," when the people who had 42 months to deliver a web portal not only couldn't succeed in meeting their own self-imposed deadline, they couldn't stick to the fallback repair date, either. The Obama administration has attempted to defend its abject failure by citing the complexity of the project and its infrastructure. OFA, however, considers complexity for users in the face of all this dysfunction a "misconception," for which it offers activists a scripted rebuttal.
This Thanksgiving, may our readers have the blessing of avoiding such table talk. We have plenty of time to debate the issues of the day. Let's spend one day — just one — appreciating each other for who we are, rather than for our policy positions.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The religious right isn't retreating — it's reforming
- How I lost all my money
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- China's leader is telling the People's Liberation Army to prepare for war
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- 10 things you need to know today: December 21, 2014
Subscribe to the Week