Ammunition for settling—or starting—holiday political spats.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Nov. 25 2008 7:49 PM

Do You Want Gravy on Your Palin?

Ammunition for your holiday political spats.

Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving Dinner

It happens every year, and this Thanksgiving will be no exception. Someone in the family will start talking politics. (Given the historic, wacky, pervasive nature of the campaign just past, this time it may not even be your blowhard know-it-all uncle.) And since politics is a volatile subject and family gatherings are fraught with tension, the ensuing discussion will lead to discord.

John Dickerson John Dickerson

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

If you want to avoid such conflict, you may want to inquire after the young ones, busy yourself with doing the dishes, or ask the host about his grill or golf swing—topics that will tie up conversation until daybreak. But if you can't shake free of a political debate, you may find yourself embracing Loudon Wainwright's Thanksgiving prayer: "If I argue with a loved one, Lord, please make me the winner." In that case, here's some help: Slate's guide to this year's political arguments.

The Election

Obama won: He played a great hand well. He was disciplined, focused, and turned the Internet into a fundraising and voter-organizing machine.

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McCain lost: So long as it didn't have an (R) after its name, a wooden post could have won this election. Bush was unpopular, the Iraq war was unpopular—and yet McCain was nearly even in the September polls. Despite the hype, Obama didn't raise any more from regular folks who gave small donations than Bush did. If it hadn't been for the financial crisis, McCain might have won.

The Financial Mess

Blame the Democrats: Robert Rubin started the deregulation that led to this mess. Bill Clinton supported and signed key banking deregulation, and Obama's incoming economic adviser, Larry Summers, was also a big champion. Democrats were relentlessly blind to the dangers at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Blame the Republicans: Bush and the Republicans deregulated even more than Rubin did. Greenspan played a role, too, pushing the deregulation of derivatives. Their response has been indecisive at best and ineffective at worst.

Bonus argument:The party is clearly beholden to Wall Street.

The Detroit Bailout

Help 'em:Sure, the auto companies screwed up, but the economy can't afford to lose so many jobs right now. You can bail them out and make them restructure.

Screw 'em:Did you see that the Big Three CEOs all flew private planes to testify in Washington? As for restructuring, it will happen only if they know they won't get any help; as for the job losses, those workers will be better off in more viable industries. Did you see that the Big Three CEOs all flew private planes to testify in Washington?

Economic Stimulus

Against it:Our deficit will go through the roof, which will make us beholden to foreign creditors. A stimulus plan will delay needed behavioral changes among both individuals and companies. We're becoming a socialist country.

For it:Most economists say it's essential. Yes, the deficit will grow, but the alternative is widespread business failure and job loss. Here's the definition of socialism.

Obama's Mandate

Yes, he does:He won the biggest share of the popular vote of any Democrat since LBJ. He won nine red states, four of which a Democrat hasn't won since 1964. With seven new Democrats in the Senate and 24 in the House, it's the largest partisan mandate since FDR.

Not so fast:They might have elected the man, but there's no evidence people signed up for his policies. A lot of voters picked him because he wasn't Bush. (See McCain lost, above.)

Obama's Cabinet

No change:It's all Clinton people. The lobbying rules aren't as restrictive as he promised. He's hiring a replacement for Karl Rove.

He's the change: Change comes from the leader. He's picking competent people to execute change. His economic team is not excessively ideological, and he's likely to keep current Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Hillary at State

Great idea: She knows the issues, won't be afraid to tell Obama what she thinks, and is the perfect embodiment of American ideals of opportunity and service.

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