Family Christmas

My favorite time to discuss politics with my extended family is never.

This has become my holiday motto over the past few years as the political divides in this country grow ever deeper. We now have the ability to tailor our friends, news, and opinions to reinforce what we already believe to be true. Family is the one connection most of us still have to people who might not necessarily agree with us, and the holidays are sometimes the only times during the year relations are all in the same place.

It's perfectly fine if you don't want to argue politics with your kin this holiday season. It is very hard to change someone's mind, and you're probably not going to be able to do it over, say, a forkful of Christmas ham.

University of Southern California psychologist Jonas T. Kaplan—along with collaborators Sarah I. Gimbel and Sam Harris—published the results of a study on this exact phenomenon in the Dec. 23, 2016 issue of Scientific Reports.

“We used neuroimaging to investigate the neural systems involved in maintaining belief in the face of counterevidence, presenting 40 liberals with arguments that contradicted their strongly held political and non-political views,” wrote Kaplan.

What they found was that the parts of the brain which ignited corresponded with self-identity.

“The study is limited. But it is intriguing new evidence that we mistake ideological challenges as personal insults,” reported Vox's Brian Resnick on Jan. 23, 2017. “This suggests that to change minds, we need to separate opinions from identities—a task that proves particularly hard with politics.”

But, let's step back from whether this works or not, and think about what the goals of engaging in this sort of debate are: You believe you are right and want to convince those nearest and dearest to you to...what, exactly? Vote the way you want them to? If that's what you're after I have a much easier path to achieving tangible success.

According to the United States Elections Project, the turnout rate for the 2018 midterm elections was 49.4 percent. (Turnout in Indiana was slightly below that at 46.1 percent.)

That is the highest midterm election turnout rate since 1914, when it was 50.4 percent.

Those numbers are historic, and, yet, still terrible! That means over half of registered voters decided to stay home and the numbers were still higher than they've been in a century. It also means there is a whole lot of potential electoral energy waiting to be unleashed.

If you want my advice: Just be the best example of your own values as possible to your family, register as many people who already agree with you to vote, and make sure they make it to the polls on Election Day. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

And your extended family? You can still love them. They are entitled to their wrong opinion. Just enjoy the stuffing and pass on the politics.

Rob Burgess, News Editor at NUVO, can be reached by email at, by phone at 317-808-4614 or on Twitter @robaburg.


News Editor

My background is that I'm the fourth generation in my family to work as a journalist. I also have a degree from Indiana University in Elementary Education. My wife, Ash, and I have two children, Harper, 4, and Emerald, 1.

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