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Farmer’s Daughter: Respect, don’t revile, rural American voters


I’m so glad today is Veterans Day and we made it past Nov. 8.

If you didn’t notice, the United States just made it through a nasty, dirty, and divisive election. The campaigns were less about thoughtful and meaningful conversations about the important issues facing our country, and more about big personalities, sex scandals, and criminal investigations. Whether your preferred candidate won or not, you probably came out of it with some strained relationships, hard feelings, and perhaps even a dismal view of our country’s future.

But what bugged me most about election night was the blunt and unequivocal disdain for rural America that was on display.

News pundits, journalists and celebrities all expressed their own frustration with the results by blaming rural voters. Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Taran Killam, obviously upset by the vote totals, tweeted “rural=so stupid.” His sentiments were far from alone, as we heard popular news media blasting rural voters over and over again as being “uneducated” and not supporting the candidate of their choosing.

Let’s be clear: Rural America showed up to vote in numbers unseen in recent elections, and they overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump. For example, in Pennsylvania rural and small town voters turned out for Mitt Romney 59 percent to 46 percent. But in 2016, they broke for Trump 71 percent to 25 percent. Michigan and Wisconsin had similar results. With record voter turnout, rural America went to the polls and spoke loud and clear.

Of course, not everyone in rural America voted for Trump, just like not everyone in the cities voted for Clinton. These were two deeply flawed candidates who hardly represented the brilliance, talent, and spirit of the United States. As a diverse nation, we should be able to recognize and accept that others have different viewpoints for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t matter if you liked Trump or his policies; disparaging rural Americans as uneducated hicks is just as bad as any of the racist or sexist comments attributed to him.

Such attitudes have obviously contributed to the divisiveness that we see in our food discussions — why should anyone trust those producing our food if they are seen as stupid, unsophisticated, and hateful?

Not surprisingly, many of my farming friends took to social media to point out the display of hatred toward Americans in the so-called flyover states. Ashley Messing, who blogs about her family’s dairy farm at Messy Kennedy said it well in her blog post about the topic:

“The people in rural America are small business owners, farmers, hard-working blue-collar people. We are the people who are affected every day by the decisions that politics makes. We are the people that watch these news shows every single day. … Yet we are the people that decided this election and then they still continue to demean us and make us feel like we don’t matter.”

Ashley pointed out that even though she was considered an “uneducated” rural voter, she has two degrees from Big 10 universities. Personally, as a rural voter with a law degree, I agree that the condescending tone needs to stop and is nothing but insulting.

Farmer Veteran Coalition
Farmer Veteran Coalition

Those supposedly uneducated rural voters, the same ones that were so quickly dismissed by those with the pulpit, have scarified a lot for our country. In fact, more than 44 percent of the military in 2008 came from rural areas, while only 14 percent were from the city. Historically, this has been the case. Rural America has literally supplied the blood, sweat, and tears of our young men and women to defend and protect this country. Freedom has been served by them and they should never be discounted as something less by those on the television.

We aren’t just small towns — we’re the heart and soul of this country.

I’m so glad it’s Veterans Day. It signifies the opportunity for a new beginning where the flyover states are celebrated as more than that. They are home to those who fought for freedom, they are home to those who make a living growing food for your table, and they are home to so much more than a bunch of uneducated, ignorant people.

It might surprise many, but we have more in common than what divides us.

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