Written by Ilana Foggle, Opinion Writer, Redistricting & Political Analyst
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 making it to the center stage. 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 all fronts. But, the majority of Americans – on the left and the right – can agree on one thing: We the people should control our government.
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. Plus, a whopping 94% of Americans agree that we should know who is funding our elections, including shining a light on dark money and donations to super PACs.
So, this Thanksgiving, start a conversation to encourage action! In the past month, the Senate filibustered and blocked two crucial pieces of legislation – the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The Freedom to Vote Act wouldn’t just ban partisan gerrymandering and dark money, it would also increase access to the ballot box by setting baseline standards for early and absentee voting nationwide while protecting our elections from foreign interference. Meanwhile, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore critical provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that have since been gutted by recent Supreme Court decisions.
So, why were these bills blocked? Hyperpartisan, obstructionist Senators are putting their own self-interests over their voters and our democracy. The truth is, everyone who wants a government by and for the people should support these pieces of legislation. With a people-powered movement, we can pressure the Senate to reform the filibuster to pass crucial anti-corruption, pro-democracy bills. We do that by staying informed, having difficult conversations, and taking action.
Tips for engaging loved ones in politics
1. Focus on solutions.
The Freedom to Vote Act is one of the most comprehensive anti-corruption bills in a generation and offers solutions to some of the biggest threats to democracy.
Protecting voters, cracking down on lobbyists and dark money, and unrigging gerrymandered districts are all critical changes that would help fix our broken political system. These reforms put power in the hands of the voters and make our government do what it’s supposed to do: Represent us.
The Freedom to Vote Act is a once-in-a-generation bill that your whole family deserves to know about. Here’s everything the Act would do to protect our republic:
- Make Election Day a holiday
- End gerrymandering
- Combat anti-voting laws working their way through state legislatures
- Requires states to allow 15 days of early voting (including 2 weekends)
- Massively expands voting access through automatic voter registration and election day registration
- Increase election security by creating a national standard for voter-verified paper ballots
- Implement a national voter ID standard with reasonable alternatives like utility bills or bank statements
- Require voting machines be made in the United States
- Protect nonpartisan election officials from partisan interference
- Shine a light on dark money
- Make it harder for billionaires and special interests to buy elections
2. Listen and ask clarifying questions.
If your friends or family members still seem unsure about the Freedom to Vote Act, 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 video to get the conversation started (with a little bit of humor).
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? This video – starring actor Mark Ruffalo with appearances by actors Jake Johnson and Jonathan Scott – is a surefire way to spark some laughter. The ad campaign hilariously compares problems in the bedroom to our political system as the window to pass landmark voting rights legislation and deliver more satisfying elections is closing in the Senate. Try showing this video to your friends and family to strike up a conversation about congressional gridlock and anti-corruption with a little bit of comedy to spice things up. Oh yeah, and maybe avoid playing this video in front of children.
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:
- Call your senators and urge them to pass the Freedom to Vote Act
- Join a phonebank and flood our lawmaker's offices with calls about The Freedom To Vote Act
- Make a donation to fund anti-corruption victories
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.