Thanksgiving follies: Go ahead, talk politics at the dinner table.


By Cara L. Gallagher, weekend contributor/holiday survivalist

Gaming the table talk at Thanksgiving when the participants include long-lost, rarely seen family members and friends requires much the same strategies as one’s approach to eating that day: Take control of the situation. Go in with a plan. Never attack. Take it one bite at a time and digest a bit before going farther.

Talk of the Republican candidates, the debates, and/or Hillary’s emails are the assumed political traps this Thursday. If those are the topics your turkey table is doomed to dwell on, consider switching the conversation to the no-less controversial but more scholarly topics: Supreme Court and its new term.

This is risky too, yes I know. “Obamacare!” “Gay marriage!” “Texas housing!!” – all are treacherous if you change the topic from the election to the third branch of government. Listen, there’s a good chance your tablemates have forgotten the details of those first two cases and why they were mad back in June (and if your family is talking about the third case, can I come over?). I’m not saying this idea is for the ardently risk-averse, but if you want to get control of the night so as to avoid Trump talk and sound informed/smart, heed my suggestions.

[Sigh] Ok. I really hate talking about the presidential candidates, so I’m in. What do I have to do?

As I said, go in with a plan. Read a little, commit one or two cases to memory, maybe read a little more, and you’re set.

Below you’ll find cases the Court has already heard this term and cases the Court will or might hear soon. Impress Uncle Pete, your mother-in-law, or Grandma by taking one of each. But – and DEAR GOD pay attention to this ‘but’ – pick your topics knowing your audience. Hate talking about Trump and Ben Carson with that mildly racist and easily provoked cousin? Don’t pick the gun case. Not interested in hearing the catalog of services Planned Parenthood provides to women? Stay away from the abortion case.

Noteworthy cases the Court has already heard this term:

Prison sentencing: Montgomery v. Louisiana

Do minors deserve second chances? Henry Montgomery asked the Court to reconsider his sentence of life in prison without parole for shooting and killing a police officer when Montgomery was 17. His request comes in light of a 2012 decision in which the SCOTUS ruled that minors could no longer receive such punishments. Montgomery committed the crime in 1963 so he’s asking the Court to decide if old cases like his qualify for this new standard in hopes of getting a parole hearing. During oral arguments, the Justices focused much attention on whether the Court or the states and appeals courts have the power to decide this matter. If you want your dinner discussions to be more about government powers than Republicans and Democrats, pick this case.

Death Penalty: Hurst v. Florida, Kansas v. Carr

Two cases have been argued so far this term resurrecting the question of whether or not capital punishment will survive. (Zing your guests with that one!) The two cases ask complex questions about the role of juries in sentencing criminals, but they call back attention to a bigger question about the possible end of capital punishment was raised in a controversial dissent delivered in June by Justice Breyer in Glossip v. Gross. The use of lethal injection was upheld in that case, but Breyer reflected on the decision saying “I believe that it is now time to reopen the question,” adding that the past 40 years of the death penalty in America have led him to believe “that the death penalty, in and of itself, now likely constitutes a legally prohibited ‘cruel and unusual punishmen[t].’”

He’s not the only judge who has recently articulated constitutional problems with the application of executions. Justice Ginsburg joined his dissent in Glossip and former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens writes and speaks regularly advocating for the abolishment of capital punishment.

Noteworthy cases the Court will hear or might hear this term:

Abortion: Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole

This is that Texas abortion case you probably heard about. It’s the first case since 1992 that challenges the legality of statewide restrictions on accessing abortions. Texas passed legislation in 2013 that required two things: clinics must meet ambulatory surgical standards and doctors must have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles. The 1992 case said some restrictions are legal however they must not place an “undue burden” on patients. The question in this case is whether the Texas laws, when applied, are undue burdens. You might remember this was the legislation state Senator Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours in 2013.

Affirmative Action: Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin

Abigail Fisher asked the SCOTUS to take another look at their decision to remand her case in 2013. She was denied entrance and claimed the University’s use of race as a factor in its admissions process violated her 14th Amendment rights. In the first Fisher v. UT, the Court sent warning flares to the University and lower courts giving the school another chance to prove it passed the test of strict scrutiny. This test requires schools demonstrate no other race-neutral way of creating a diverse student body is possible making a factor like the use of race a necessity in admissions processes.

On remand, the University didn’t change any of its admissions policies and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold the policies. Interesting fun fact to drop on your guests – Just like in Fisher 1.0, Justice Elena Kagan will recuse herself leaving you the chance to challenge the constitutional knowledge of your guests by asking them what happens if there’s a tie (4-4 decision)?

[Answer: The decision of the lower court stands, Fisher would lose.]

Guns: Friedman v. City of Highland Park

Dr. Arie Friedman from the city of Highland Park, Illinois is hoping the Supreme Court will take his case this term about a citywide ban on the possession of semi-automatic weapons and clips that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the city’s ban which Friedman believes violates his 2nd Amendment rights.

Two Supreme Court cases recently affirmed an individual’s right to bear arms, specifically hand guns, in 2008 and 2010. The question in this is case is 1) will the SCOTUS take yet another gun case and 2) if they do, does the 2nd Amendment protect an individual’s right to own a semi-automatic weapon.

What’s a holiday without a little political discourse? Good luck out there, holiday survivors!

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.




10 thoughts on “Thanksgiving follies: Go ahead, talk politics at the dinner table.”

  1. At Tanksgiving Dinner I am going to discuss the topic of Originalism and the views of the present bench on the Supreme Court. Our guests are all dogs. Four legs good, two legs baaaad! I am going to discuss what the Framers would have thought about the background both ethnic, race, religion and geographic of the present nine members. Would the Framers approve of women, Jews, Blacks, or Catholics? No geographic variety hardly. All nine went to Harvard and Yale and think their itShay don’t stink.

  2. I live on Elizabeth Avenue in Ferguson and I have an automatic weapon with lots of ammo.

  3. The gun case in ChiTown: The right to bear arms. When the Framers framed that Second Amendment they were framing it so that the “arms” would compete with the British arms at that time and intended for the term to apply to progress in arms work so that we can conclude now that the intent of the Framers was to allow for automatic weapons if they ever evolved. I do not expect the Brits to come back but I do think that we might need to clear our nation of the Koch Brothers coalitions some day and will need to be able to form a well regulated and well armed militia. Those terrorists in Paris were not walking around with one round muskets but had automatic weapons. Our militias need to be able to confront terrorists if need be. Like in Ferguson when Al Sharptongue brings in his looters and arsonists from outside Ferguson to burn the convenience stores on W. Florissant Avenue. Ferguson needs a well armed civilian militia independent of those so called National Guard folks who were ordered to “stand down” on the night that the No True Bill came in from the Grand Jury on the Officer Wilson case. First they told the cops to stand down in Ferguson, then they told the cops to stand down in Saint Louis County so the National Guard could control things, and when they told the National Guard to stand down there was no one to stand up for me. Sounds kind of like the Holocaust. You guys recall that statement: First they came for the Gypsies, etc.

  4. We leaned our lesson one year when my husband and I got up in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, which we had driven 7 hours to attend, packed our sh*t and left. My family is all far left liberals and we had already requested that we not discuss……or rather be lectured at……politics.

    But noooooo. They couldn’t leave it alone and consistently if indirectly insulted almost everything about us and our lifestyle. Conservative and rural. According to them, we….not directly…but by obvious default were knuckle dragging, racist, war mongering, stupid buffoons. I don’t think they even made the connection between their insults and that fact that we were actually sitting there. SO….after about a half hour of being insulted it was..adios. We told them what they were saying was insulting and why it was insulting…….and don’t expect to see us again…..unless we make a pact to avoid these topics.

    Since that big blow out, our family get togethers have been fine with everyone carefully avoiding the conversational land mines and recognizing when we (us too, not just them) are going too far.

    Although. I think we could discuss the Fisher case regarding college and affirmative action and even the Friedman/Highland park issue without coming to blows……..I think 😐

  5. I always look forward to your posts. The Fisher case is most interesting to me. There is always a chasm between the university culture and the general culture here in the US. But, as we have seen all too often recently, the victimhood snowflakes have taken over the Administration buildings, not literally like back in the 60’s/70’s when I was in school, but virtually. Kent Sate proved the radicals of the Baby Boomer generation were not willing to die for their cause. The movement collapsed after that incident. With this group of pansies, I think you could break their resolove by simply taking away their cell phones for a week.

  6. Most families are described as dysfunctional in bible scripture.

    Anointed King Saul invited future King David to a feast, but became angry and threw a javelin at him during friendly food & drink conversation.

    1 Samuel 18:11

    And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will pin David even to the wall with it. And David escaped out of his presence twice.

  7. With my dysfunctional family, there is not one of these cases that would not having us going out back and duking it out.

  8. I think you could discuss Supreme Court sperm and the dialouge between Ginsberg and Scalia on a daily basis.

  9. I haven’t followed cases on AA, so I’m curious about Fisher. In that SCOTUS apparently interpreted the strict test as requiring the college to prove that “no other race-neutral way of creating a diverse student body Is possible making a factor like the use of race a necessity in the admissions process.” So the U.S. Constitution requires “diversity”? I thought it only required a lack of discrimination……How is “diversity” determined? That each racial and ethnicity group and gender be admitted in proportion to that group’s representation in the US population, or the population of the state where the college is located? And is diversity only required in the university as a whole, or is it broken down by major as well? Just wondering…..

Comments are closed.