For many Americans, the holidays are synonymous with three things: food, family, and bickering about politics. The stresses of the latter can be a lot to bear in a normal year, but now that Donald Trump has been elected president in one of the most polarizing elections in memory (and with the Southern Poverty Law Center reporting a spike in hateful incidences in the days following the election) many of us are in for some very rough days ahead. Also, talking with relatives over the holidays can be particularly difficult in the era of fake news.
If your relatives still think Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim and Hillary is — well, take your pick from the various, sexist conspiracy theories that have floated around certain circles for years — how can you even have the illusion of a productive conversation?
Whether you aim to convince your Trump-supporting uncle to vote another way in 2020 or just to win over relatives who sat this election out, it's critical to have facts on your side. The only way to combat the tide of misinformation that has submerged America is to understand where that misinformation is coming from and to be prepared to answer with the truth. The problem of fake news can't be understated: the biggest fake news stories of 2016 saw more engagement on Facebook than the biggest true stories, according to a BuzzFeed News analysis.
With that in mind, I've compiled a list of common arguments in defense of Trump and why I think they're wrong.
"The Pope Endorsed Donald Trump!"
Nope. Not even a little bit. This was the biggest fake news story of 2016, according to that BuzzFeed New Analysis, and has since been taken down at the original website that hosted it. Pope Francis and Donald Trump actually had a bit of a clash earlier this year, when the Pope said that building border walls "is not Christian." In October, Pope Francis advised Catholics to "choose in conscience" but did not endorse a candidate.
"The Silent Majority Turned Out for Trump in 2016!"
While Trump won the election, he did not win a majority of votes, or even close to a majority, despite reports to the contrary circulating online. As of Tuesday morning, Clinton's popular vote lead is past 2 million, according to the Cook Political Report. Literally, millions more Americans have voted for Clinton than for Trump.
"Immigrants Are Taking Our Jobs!"
While many Americans believe that immigrants — legal and otherwise — are taking their jobs, recent research actually indicates that immigration has "little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers," as Francine D. Blau, an economics professor at Cornell University, who lead a report for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine on the issue of immigrants and jobs, told the New York Times.
Furthermore, under President Obama, unemployment in the United States has plummeted to 4.9 percent, which is under half of what it was in 2009.
"You Young People Need to Accept the Election Results and Move On!"
Okay, this is an opinion, but several of the assumptions it makes are wrong. Firstly, refusing to accept the election results was arguably a key component of Trump's playbook. Trump said he'd keep the country "in suspense" when asked at the third presidential debate whether he'd accept the validity of the results of the election. While I am not advocating the behavior that Trump exhibited, protesting is not the same as not accepting the validity of the election. To be a Trump supporter and then offended by civil disobedience — a perfectly legal exercise of a constitutional right — is hypocritical, to say the least.
Secondly, protesters are opposing more than just the president-elect himself. There has been a significant increase in reported "hateful harassment and intimidation" since Trump won, and people are worried about the overall future of the country.
Your relatives may tell you horror stories of children dying in ambulances that couldn't reach the hospital because Trump protesters blocked a highway. According to fact-check website Snopes, versions of the ambulance story frequently recur during times of controversial protesting and no such story has been documented by reliable sources.
The Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year for 2016 is "post-truth," because of the ease with which modern voters ignore facts during decision-making. If you do decide to engage with your Trump-supporting relatives this Thanksgiving, hold them accountable for the facts.