This interesting comment was posted on the blog a few days ago by a reader who identify as “Montana Teacher.”

To my dear online friends whom I have never met, the faithful readers of Diane Ravitch’s blog. Like you, I felt sick all last night and much of today. I am hoping Biden will win, of course. But I am sickened that even ONE person would vote for Trump, after all that he has done.

What I am writing about to you today is this: I am sitting in the middle of a bunch of RED STATES right now. In fact, Montana went completely red after years of a Democratic governorship and other Democratic officials. It is a sad, sad day for us. Our beautiful public lands will be desecrated and potentially sold off. We don’t have charter schools yet, but we will. A sad, sad day.

But here is the deal: Not all Republicans are racist. And by calling them that, we stop all conversation with them. To understand why they vote the way they do, we must listen. To win in the elections, as Democrats, we must understand our opponents who, actually, are our neighbors.

Many Republicans certainly are racist. But if you analyze the U.S. voting map, the main difference between blue and red states is the URBAN/ RURAL difference. So when people say Republicans are racist, they are indirectly saying that RURAL people are racist. That is a generalization.

We need to understand why there is such a major difference between urban and rural voters. Here are my theories:

Have you ever visited Jordan, Montana? It’s in the middle of nowhere. It feels like you’re on a different planet. It’s just sky and grass and cows. To live there, you have to be fiercely independent, and you need a gun, for food (hunting) and for protection (you might be the only one around for miles). There are no black people, there are no Latinos, there are no people from India or Korea or China, but there are Native Americans on the adjacent reservation.

You go to church on Sunday. Your kids are in 4-H. You say the Pledge of Allegiance. You have traditional values. This doesn’t mean you are racist. These people rely on themselves and on each other, and they don’t like to be told what to do, like “don’t shoot prairie dogs in order to save black-footed ferrets.” I don’t agree with that; it’s just we need to understand them more.

Many rural people feel THREATENED that their way of life is being taken away from them. They like their traditional values. Now, in my opinion, Trump does not support those values (church, family, community, agriculture, independence, freedom). But somehow, he has convinced them that he supports them. He has reached out to them in ways that the Democratic Party has not.

These folks LOVE their post offices! They love their local, public schools with locally elected school boards! They love their community hospitals and nursing homes! They want their Medicare and Social Security. They want their agriculture trade deals with foreign countries. Democrats need to show them who actually supports them. But, of course, guns, flags, and abortion get in the way. And they are worried about their towns drying up and blowing away, so the economy is a big deal for them.

Anyway, my point is this. We need to listen, observe, understand, think about, analyze, and reach out to these citizens if we’re ever going to win over the rural states of America. I think this is possible. For example, climate change will ruin their livelihoods. How can we help them understand this?

I’m writing a lot today because I’m desperate to figure out how we save Montana and other rural states and the country. But think about it–cowboys in Texas, Mormons in Utah and Idaho, pioneer stock in North and South Dakota, farmers in Iowa, etc. Somehow, these people think that Trump represents their values more than Biden. I don’t think that’s true. But how do we talk to them?

Picture of the cemetery near Jordan, Montana: