How To Tell Conservative Relatives This Matters

Are you a progressive person in a family of conservatives? Or, maybe, it's a matter of your extended family, with some those occasionally awkward Thanksgiving dinner conversations? It's a common experience, and it's not limited just to people of one political persuasion ― there are conservatives out there who feel stranded at dinner tables full of liberals, too. But with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton becoming the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee on Tuesday, you might want to be prepared: here's how to make your conservative family see Hillary Clinton's presumptive nomination for the important and historic moment it is.

Obviously, not even all left-wingers would agree on this, much less after a tense primary process that resurfaced old wounds between grassroots liberals and the party's entrenched center-left forces. But disdain for Clinton has been one of the most durable, quintessential tropes of American conservatism over the last 20 years, dating all the way back to her engaged political advocacy on health care while she was First Lady of the United States.

She's been targeted by heinous conspiracy theories, years and years of sexist hectoring, and continuous suspicion and speculation about her ambitions and motivations. When you take all that as the gospel truth, and tie it together with the occasional legitimate criticism ― criticisms not uncommon to countless politicians, past and present ― you get what much of the American right sees Clinton as: a sneering villain of legendary proportions.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As such, it might be hard to figure out how exactly to talk about Clinton with your conservative family members, but the best, first question is probably this: are they pro or anti-Trump? This is actually a crucial question in how you go about engaging on the topic of Clinton, because if they're pro-Trump, you're not likely to find much agreement on anything related to policy or personality ― anybody who's even mildly enthusiastic about him as a potential president is about as far from Clinton's core constituency as possible.

If you're dealing with somebody who's pro-Trump, the best course of action is probably to talk about non-policy reasons you think her nomination and possible election would be so important ― the historic nature of her bid to be the first woman ever elected president is a big, obvious example.

Whether you're a woman who can feel some measure of pride and inspiration at knowing that highest barrier has been broken, or a guy who thinks that maybe, just maybe 43 consecutive male presidents is overkill, you can speak to the cultural and historical importance of Clinton's nomination in terms that nobody can really argue with. They might have specific attacks to lob at her, obviously, but the fact that her winning the presidency would be a landmark moment in American history can't be disputed. Basically, if you know you're not going to reach any agreement on a granular policy level, try to stick to the things that are relatively undeniable.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If they're anti-Trump, on the other hand, you might find an easier go of this. Because if a conservative, typical Republican voter is anti-Trump, that means they're really against him ― it's a minority position for GOP voters right now, as most want the party to come around to him. In other words, if you're trying to discuss why Clinton is so important to someone who's potentially been alienated by their own party, it's worth considering which conservative values they view as important, and where Clinton appeals to those more than Trump.

Public respect for military veterans could be a prime example ― in her excoriating speech this week, Clinton rebuked Trump in no uncertain terms for deriding Arizona senator John McCain's service as a P.O.W. in Vietnam, aligning herself with any conservatives who were galled by the Republican nominee's attacks. It was a cagey move, aided by the fact that beyond left and right, most people don't want to hear an insulated billionaire smeared high-profile American war heroes.


Simply put, if your family members aren't down with Trump or Clinton, you should have a pretty easily time convincing them, at the very least, that Clinton is no worse than him. Her experience in government, even if you're predisposed to mock them, are without a doubt more robust and qualifying than his, and she comports herself with a demeanor far more in the traditionally conservative wheelhouse ― while Trump gets a lot of the xenophobia and simplistic solutions down pat, he does it in some of the tackiest ways possible.

Basically, if your relatives already believe Trump is a problem for the Republicans, talking to them about why you're so afraid of him winning the White House could be a strong a way to move some opinions. Recognizing the existential threat of Trump's candidacy, after all, means that Clinton's candidacy is all the more important ― it's the last chance to stop him. Of course, it's important to try to keep things at least halfway respectful when you're chatting with anybody you have strong political disagreements with, especially if they're family, so use your own best judgement if you're getting into a conversation or argument.