Even during times of strife, Americans can give thanks

Even during times of strife, Americans can give thanks
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From inside the Washington bubble, it can be hard to think that there is much to be thankful for today. Politics is noisy and divided. That noise once stayed in sleepy marble halls and the black and white pages of the newspaper. Now that we are constantly surrounded by politics in our everyday lives, what in all this rancor is there to be thankful for?

Politics even wades into what should be the “purest” and “safest” time possible, time with family and friends. There are countless blog posts, podcast segments, and taped filler on the morning news shows about how to deal with political disagreements at Thanksgiving dinner. Early imbibing followed by sitting at cramped dinner tables will heighten any sense of intergenerational strife. Discussions about hot button issues may descend into an exchange of tropes about millennials, met with eye rolls and “okay, boomer.” While everyone is with their phones, there could be that aunt or uncle or niece or nephew who posted a meme about, say, immigration, that came from, depending on your inclination, either a Russian internet factory or an astroturfer funded by George Soros.

All the big topics we talk about inside the Beltway can find their way to Thanksgiving dinner. The intergenerational tension plays out during the debates on how to pay for a range of debts without overwhelming the potential of the future. We see this in climate, education, infrastructure, criminal justice, and the rapidly growing deficit. Culture wars divide us at home, while we debate our approach to a more interconnected world, paradoxically one healthier and more enlightened than ever before, yet also seeming so unstable and precarious. All of this comes through an inescapable news cycle, with reports delivered through a combination of personally selected partisan news outlets, precisely targeted algorithms, and social media platforms vulnerable to both foreign disinformation and everything in between from mere group think to total mob mentality.


Take a moment to think about all those things. In a strange way, each of those issues that divides us is tied to something for which we can be thankful. The many news outlets we can choose from, as partisan as they may be, are the result of a free press. Social media exists because we live in an era defined by technological innovation that previous generations could never imagine. We can have heated debates about our role in the world and openness to trade, immigration, and military posture because we are a prosperous and strong nation, one that is a beacon of hope to not only dreamers and thinkers but also those who seek freedom.

Indeed, those significant issues are the results of decades of prosperity and growth. No generation leaves big debts like that to the future out of malice. Rather they reflect the social, cultural, political, and technological limitations of their times. Therefore, we can be thankful not only for the advances we have made and the prosperity we have enjoyed but also that we have driven, engaged, educated, and globalized young Americans ready to take up the mantle of leadership for the next generation.

We can be thankful as Americans that we have this bounty. Our politics, like any family, can be messy. But like any family, we are stronger together. Just as we want a family to be healthy, happy, and growing, we want the same for our country, despite our partisan leanings. This Thanksgiving, let us take some time away from politics, however, let us remember that our shared experience gives us much for which we can be grateful for.

Dan Mahaffee is the senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress in Washington.