By Ross Sherman
Media Relations Manager

Updated November 18, 2022

It’s that time of year, folks – Thanksgiving! You’ve got the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese with a little side of your uncle going on and on about some partisan nonsense he watched on the news.

Look, we all know that this holiday is centered around thankfulness. Yet somehow, political chatter has its way of creeping in. With hyperpartisanship and division at an all-time high, the thought of discussing politics at Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends sounds daunting – to say the least. That said, talking about anti-corruption reform is a really good place to start.

Here’s your comprehensive guide to engaging loved ones in conversations about anti-corruption and encouraging them to take action.

Why start with anti-corruption?

Democrats, Republicans and independents rarely agree on anything. But the majority of Americans – from the left to the right – can agree on one thing: We the people should control our government. Not political parties or special interests.

Only 4% of Americans have confidence in Congress, which means a huge majority of people agree our government isn’t working as effectively as it should. And a whopping 94% agree that we have the right to know who is funding our elections, including shining a light on dark money and donations to super PACs.

So this Thanksgiving, if politics does come up, start a conversation around these shared values! If the midterms come up, forget about politicians. Talk about how democracy won while corruption lost. The anti-corruption movement has achieved at least ten victories (so far) to take power away from politicians and give it back to the people.

Want some examples of progress? Voters transcended partisanship to pass Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) nearly everywhere it was on the ballot. Nevada, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Fort Collins, Colorado and Evanston, Illinois all passed measures to ensure politicians secure a majority to win elections. That’s more than 4.8 million people who could soon be living in places that use RCV.

Elsewhere, voters in Arkansas rejected a power grab by state politicians who tried to take away citizens’ ability to pass ballot initiatives. South Dakota voters defeated a similar attempt earlier this year. Oakland, California passed a Democracy Dollars program, while Arizona voters approved increased transparency for large political donations.

RepresentUs and the anti-corruption movement have now scored more than 170 victories. Those are tangible improvements in our electoral system that prove when we work together, we win.

Tips for engaging loved ones in politics

1. Focus on solutions.

There are many ways we can fix our broken politics. We can pass laws that crack down on corruption, empower voters, and protect our elections. While there are many solutions, they all put power in the hands of the voters and make our government do what it’s supposed to do: represent us. In this year’s election, voters supported many of these changes to reclaim power from politicians.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a simple change to elections that gives voters better choices at the ballot box and better representation in government. In RCV elections, voters rank candidates in order of preference, rather than choosing between the lesser of two evils. If no candidate receives a majority of the first choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and their second-choice votes are redistributed to other candidates.

This process continues until someone wins a majority. RCV ensures that electoral winners are the most broadly popular and helps to reduce negative campaigning. This is especially true when RCV is combined with nonpartisan primaries – which allows all voters to participate in the primary process.

WATCH: Ranked Choice Voting vs The Establishment

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Cracking down on dark money in politics will also help rein in the power of special interests. No one should be able to spend unlimited, untraceable money to influence our elections. Ending the deluge of dark funds will let people make informed decisions about the crucial issues facing our nation – and feel more optimistic about the effectiveness of our government in the process.

Finally, we must protect our rights as voters. Across the country, self-interested politicians are attacking the ballot initiative process. Also referred to as “direct democracy,” ballot initiatives give voters, rather than politicians, the ability to write and change our laws. Many important laws in this country’s history have been passed via ballot initiatives. But threats to the initiative process are on the rise recently as politicians attempt to rein in alternatives to their own power. By fighting back on these threats, we can protect and even strengthen our democracy.

The good news is that voters made progress in all of these areas across the country, but there's still a lot of work to do! Congress also has a role to play here as they can take critical action to update the Electoral Count Act and lay the groundwork for smooth elections in 2024 and beyond.

2. Listen and ask clarifying questions.

If your friends or family members still seem unsure about RCV, direct democracy or transparency, there are a few ways to make sure your conversations remain positive and productive.

Listen to their opinions before getting into your own ideas. Ask clarifying questions. Try to understand the root of their political beliefs—what led them to think this way?

Think about how you would like your loved one to listen to you, and then try to show them the same courtesies. Repeat back what you heard to make sure you’re understanding their points. Thank them for sharing, especially if they divulge a personal or emotional concern. Once it’s your turn to share your ideas, they will likely be more open if you made a real effort to hear them.

3. Share personal experiences and stories.

Think about how certain policies have personally influenced your own life or the lives of your loved ones. Facts are easy to gloss over, but personal experiences help people relate to you and appreciate why you care.

This is especially helpful if your family members seem uninterested in discussing politics. Talking about corrupt politicians in Washington might seem irrelevant to them, but corruption is at the root of issues like student debt, immigration and the opioid crisis. It’s likely that your loved one is directly impacted by corruption—even if they don’t realize it.

4. Use our videos to get the conversation started 

Corruption is a serious issue, but it can be hard to engage people in a discussion about everything that’s wrong with America.

So, how can you strike up that conversation? First, consider sharing our 2022 victory video about the hard work that went into improving our elections from coast to coast. Let this optimistic vision guide your conversation and focus on the things that unite us and the power of working together.

WATCH: Election 2022: When Voters Take Power!

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From there, consider sharing an additional video that details the dangerous and disgusting threats to nonpartisan election workers. These workers are selfless volunteers who deserve our praise and admiration, not threats and violence. Talk about why it’s important we all denounce this rhetoric and how we can stand up for those who help run our democracy.

WATCH: Election Workers Deserve Better Than This

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5. Encourage involvement.

No matter where you land on the political spectrum, you deserve the right to have your voice heard. A great way to keep your conversation positive is to empower your loved ones and remind them how much each person matters in a democracy.

Not only is it our civic duty to vote in every election and put pressure on members of Congress, but it also has a huge impact on policymaking. If you notice that your friend or family member seems particularly disheartened by politics, emphasize the importance of every individual in a democracy.

If they’re on board with ending corruption in government, here are some things they can do:

Let’s do this.

Look, I’m the type of person to avoid political talk at family gatherings, especially Thanksgiving. That said, conversations about anti-corruption don’t have to be divisive and they sure don’t feel like your run-of-the-mill political discussions.

So when your uncle brings up that news story he read about “those crazy partisans” and you can’t seem to get him to stop, try shifting the conversation to anti-corruption. And maybe pour yourself an extra glass of wine. You deserve it.

Contributors: Ilana Foggle, RepresentUs Writer; Nolan Bush, RepresentUs Writer

RepresentUs is America’s leading anti-corruption organization working city-by-city, state-by-state to fix our broken political system.