This past Thanksgiving came and went, with many millions of Americans enjoying a time of family, kinship, prayer, delicious meals, and an increasingly virtual Black Friday shopping spree.
However as the first Thanksgiving in “Trump’s America”, partisan politics seems to have inevitably crept in as part our nation’s recent worrying trend towards the politicization of nearly every aspect of our daily lives.
With Senator Chuck Schumer suggesting bringing a talking points card to Thanksgiving dinner to talk about the GOP tax reform plan, the DCCC releasing a “guide to surviving Thanksgiving with your Republican family”, among many other politically-marinated Thanksgiving messages from both sides of the aisle, it appears politics is at risk of dividing our communities and even families more than ever at this hyperpolarized time in American history.
Indeed last November this already was evident, as studies showed that family members on opposing political sides spent on average half an hour less time together and 53% of Americans dreaded the thought of discussing politics at Thanksgiving, increasing to 58% this year, according to a NPR/PBS poll.
Research has shown that DC’s deep polarization is not a figment of our imagination, but is almost certainly the highest it’s been in our lifetimes and even maybe in history. It seems DC’s hyper-partisanship has now started to seep down to the lives of Americans across the nation.
Among the many things to be thankful for this season, ranging from a booming stock market, the lowest unemployment rate in 17 years, and a military that has successfully shattered Daesh in the Middle East, is that Americans seem to be by and large trying to ignore this political noise and focusing on family, community, and commerce.
With so many contentious public policy issues seemingly revealing sharp divides between us, and with some on both sides of the aisle at times pushing it to hysterical extremes, it is worth reflecting this Holiday season how blessed of a time and country we live in.
We live in an era that sees the highest life expectancy in US history. While there are deficiencies that need addressing, large majorities of Americans have reliable access to basic necessities such as housing, food, and healthcare, as well as to the most extraordinary selection of recreation and entertainment ever available.
With Internet services in full maturity, and only a few clicks on our computers or smartphones separating us from an order for every product imaginable, countless hours of video, music, and reading material, and communications with nearly anyone, it really is quite a time to alive.
Perhaps even more important, we live at a time of extraordinary liberty. With enormous freedom and mobility to choose everything from our living location to our lifestyles and occupations, nearly every American has the ability to craft a life to their choosing in ways unimaginable to previous generations.
Lastly, despite the seemingly hostile world environment, we in fact live in one of the most peaceful times in all of human history. While there are still very real challenges from both state and non-state actors, the fact remains that compared to nearly every other time in history we are required to shed less blood and sacrifice in comparison.
In contrast, it is worth noting that we are a time when the American Dream is also being challenged in many ways by how technological advancement is fundamentally transforming our economy.
While we are still on the early edge of this change, as data science technologies further become integrated into the economy we will see this trend accelerate with serious public policy questions to resolve.
In the meantime, despite the seemingly endless daily torrent of degradation, pessimism, and hostility in our national discourse, it is worth taking a moment to remember our blessings, what we have in common with one another in our communities, and our existence as free citizens in the greatest country in the world.