Your loony right-wing uncle will be in fine form at your Thanksgiving dinner. Here is how to handle his ravings about Donald Trump.

Do not assume you are dealing with a rational mind. Be clear, calm, persistent and firm. Show that you are in control. Paper and pen are useful. I shared a house in the Bay Area with a rabid Republican. One day he said, “Obama’s beholden to General Motors.” I produced paper and pen and said, “Let me connect the dots on that.” I wrote at his dictation.

Dot One: Obama appointed a Job Czar. Dot Two: This Job Czar ran GM. Dot Three: GM “makes billions in profit” but pays no taxes. Dot Four: That’s quid pro quo! Obama’s beholden! Dot Five: The media hush it up! MSNBC and GM have the same ownership! That’s why nobody knows about it!

So I asked: What ownership? How ownership? Who ownership? He fudged; they had the same “big major shareholder.” OK, what major shareholder, pray tell? No answer came the stern reply. He went off topic in a torrent of drivel.

I let him simmer down and then asked why it was wrong to bail out GM. It is a success story and almost all the money was repaid. In fact, President Bush Junior did its first bailout. So a major industrial company, employing millions directly and indirectly, was rescued and now enjoys record output. Mitt Romney wanted it to go bankrupt. But isn’t it better to make cars here, with millions of people unemployed? No answer.

As to “quid pro quo,” I asked him for his reasoning. If you get a bank loan and pay it back, nobody’s “beholden” to anyone. It’s fair dinkum each way. I continued: “By your logic, I’d say GM’s beholden to Obama. Its survival was in doubt. His wasn’t.”

I persisted: “There are plenty of profitable companies that don’t pay taxes. Why are you singling out GM? Obama didn’t write the tax code. Republicans did.” Here followed a further tirade. As with the best nonsense, it had a grain of truth — nobody need pay more tax than necessary. OK, yes, fine, I said, but why are the rules so perverted that super-profitable companies not only pay no taxes at all, but actually get subsidized by you and me?

Here I pulled out my Sharper Focus article entitled “Picking Caesar’s Pocket” (published 5/14/15). I read verbatim:-

  • “Verizon made $19.3 billion in profits from 2008 to 2012 yet paid no taxes. Instead, it got $535 million in rebates, for a tax rate of minus 2.8 percent.
  • “FedEx made $6 billion over the last three years yet paid no taxes. Instead, taxpayers subsidized its purchase of new aircraft, costing Uncle Sam $2.1 billion.”

He brushed it aside: “I’m not interested in reading anything.” Translation: “I’m not interested in facts and logic.” We had reached an impasse. So I allowed him a second chance to explain his “reasoning.” I referred to the paper with the “dots” (I still have it) and asked him again to connect them. He saw my firmness and backed down.

This is tragic. The Founding Fathers understood that a democracy depends on an informed citizenry. America’s citizenry once attempted to understand civic and economic matters. There was general agreement as to facts. But around 1980 a trend started whereby facts and logic were replaced with “feelings” and folksy “stories.” We can put this down to laziness and ignorance. People simply do not want to think and prefer gut reactions.

Hysterical talk radio shows began to manufacture lies wholesale. Then a more pernicious trend started, with politicians pandering to low-information voters proud of their ignorance. We saw this with Sarah Palin. We certainly saw it during the Republican primary “debates.” They were contests to find the loudest and stupidest.

Tragically, millions of Homer Simpsons vote at elections to cut their own throats. But their ignorance cuts everyone else’s throats since it puts Republicans into power. And it destroys families. While canvassing door to door for Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village), I noticed many households where the wife was a Democrat and the husband a Republican. I know cases where this difference has led to separation and divorce.

To preserve goodwill in your family, simply bring paper and pen to the Thanksgiving gathering. Let him ramble on about Obamacare, Muslims, immigrants, etc., then seize on something obviously insane. Ask him to “connect the dots” and jot them down at his dictation. Read them back to him. Do not hesitate to prove they are insane, like a Trump “speech.”

But I recommend you avoid telling him, in President Obama’s advice to Trump, to “stop whining.”