We are on the brink of a new Civil War, where family will fight family … okay, no, that’s dramatic. Let’s call it a Civil Kerfuffle, where muskets and Gatling guns are replaced with Tweets and passive-aggressive Facebook posts. If we don’t course correct, we could be entering into an icy period of domestic strife. A Cold Spat, if you will.
The culprit is partisan politics, a disease that’s infecting every American home and making it even more of a chore to pretend to you give a crap about what your parents/kids/cousins/etc. have been up to in the years since you were guilted into spending time with them last.
If you thought you were the only person in the United States to start planning your early escape from the family dinner the last few holiday seasons, you are far from alone. A study from Washington State University found that Thanksgiving dinners in 2016 were 30 to 50 minutes shorter on average among politically divided families — as though there were actually such a thing as a family that agreed universally on politics. Show me that family and I’ll show you a cult.
Half an hour per family may not sound like a lot, but analysts estimate that American family time was as much as 34 million hours shorter in 2016 than in 2015.
The Goodlatte’s: The United States’ Favorite Dysfunctional Political Family
For the time being, Bob Goodlatte is an immensely powerful representative and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. As a prominent member of his party, Goodlatte has repeatedly played the partisan politics game and come under fire for his ill-fated support of Donald Trump. It was Goodlatte who crafted two failed immigration gills, led a disastrous charge on Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and then, perhaps most publicly, embarrassed himself and his party in an attempt to make a fool out of then-FBI agent Peter Strzok.
Perhaps sensing a sea change in Virginia, Goodlatte has decided to call it quits and not run for re-election. That’s good news for America, but it’s also good news for one unlikely political activist: Goodlatte’s son, Bobby. Just one day before the Strzok snafu, Bobby Goodlatte proudly declared that he had donated the maximum amount to the campaign fund of the Democrat running to replace his father.
Taking a look at the Democrat in question, Jennifer Lewis, it’s not hard to see why Bobby, Jr. is in favor of her candidacy. How many flaws can you find in a woman who has refused to accept support from PACs, whose campaign platform includes universal health care and environmental overhauls, and whose day job involves counseling at-risk youth?
For anyone thinking that this could possibly be a case of friendly family competition, just consider that the very next day, when the Strzok story broke, Bobby Goodlatte put his dad directly on blast, tweeting, “I’m deeply embarrassed that Peter Strzok’s career was ruined by my father’s political grandstanding.”
I don’t care who you are, that is some bitter lemonade.
It May Not Be as Bad as All That
The whole situation sounds dire; perhaps even irreconcilable. But, you’re wrong. Just as it’s a historical fact that visiting your family is a gigantic pain in the ass, it’s also true that U.S. politics is extremely combative. To be quite honest, we’ve actually come a long way in terms of our political discourse.
You’ll hear jokes that make it seem like we’ve gone backward in time. And sure, when you compare the eloquent verse of our founding fathers to that one time Trump said global warming was created by the Chinese, it’s easy to draw that link.
However, consider the case of Brooks and Sumner. On May 22, 1856, U.S. Senator Charles Sumner gave a speech in which he advocated incorporating Kansas into the Union as a free state (as opposed to a slave state). In his address, the Senator took the time to insult his Democrat opponents personally. He called Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas a “noise-some, squat, and nameless animal.” Sumner compared Douglas’ cohort, Andrew Butler, as the equivalent of having taken a mistress, “who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight—I mean the harlot, Slavery.”
Admittedly, that’s a pretty sick burn, but it’s still not language that’s conducive to compromise. Especially when, as in Sumner’s case, Andrew Butler had a relative in the Senate who didn’t appreciate his kin getting trashed in the official record.
South Carolina representative Preston Brooks heard every word from Sumner. When the Senate adjourned for the day, Brooks took it upon himself to snatch up a “light cane of the type used to discipline unruly dogs,” (that detail came directly from senate.gov, by the way) and throttle Sumner. For a full recorded minute, Brooks chased Sumner around the floor of the Senate, whipping him with the cane. When he’d gotten his aggression out, Brooks spun on his hill and moseyed calmly out of the Senate. No other Senators made a move to intervene until Brooks was gone.
The point is, as divisive as things get, we have yet to see Elizabeth Warren chase Mitch McConnell while screaming obscenities and waving a brick in the air. Not that a scene like that wouldn’t be fun for the whole family.
Remember, We’re All Tired of This Crap, So Keep it Breezy
Unless you’re lucky enough to be an orphan, or you hit the jackpot, and your whole family died in a bus crash, you’ll inevitably be forced to share a meal with your blood relatives. As much as you hate your political rivals and you’re foaming at the mouth in hopes of dropping that new fact you learned that will TOTALLY change their minds, remember that 71 percent of U.S. citizens are sick and tired of talking about freaking politics.
It may also bear mentioning that on election day in 2016, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had a combined negative approval rating of more than 100 percent averaged across several polls.
Sure, you may not want to listen to your Dad talk about his latest craft brewing experiment this holiday season, but isn’t getting a yeasty buzz better than creeping into the pantry so you can scream into a pillow between dinner and dessert?