Democratic congressional candidate Rob Quist talks with supporters in Great Falls, Montana. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
I’ll forgive you if you’ve forgotten the reason for the Montana special election, which takes place today. It’s for a single congressional seat—the state has only one House representative due to its population—which was vacated earlier this year by Ryan Zinke when he was chosen by Trump to become the Secretary of the Interior.
The special election may seem like a tantalizing chance for Democrats to turn a red state blue—56 percent of voters swung for Trump. “But that same election, 50.2 percent also voted for their Democratic governor, Steve Bullock,” Petersen reminds us, and “in 2012, 48.6 percent voted for Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat.”
Signs of the resistance were everywhere. Strolling Central Avenue, I spotted blue paper menorahs in dozens of windows — the same menorahs that had first surfaced in Billings six years earlier. Same goes for the Love Lives Here logo. Picking up a local paper, I read about the bipartisan team of top Montana politicians —Democrats Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Steve Daines and Gov. Steve Bullock, and Republicans Rep. Ryan Zinke (Trump’s nominee for secretary of Interior) and Attorney Gen. Tim Fox — who had recently joined together to declare that “those few who seek to publicize anti-Semitic views … shall find no safe haven here.”
A cashier at Amazing Crepes, one of the targeted businesses, recalled how her boss had refused to serve Richard Spencer, and how he continued to refuse even after Spencer, seeking to capitalize on the exchange, began to record it on his smartphone; a bartender at Tupelo Grille told me how her mixed-race friend had confronted Spencer at a local coffee shop. “Who picks fruit in your white state?” he’d asked.
Elsewhere, Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial — who served as an officer in Skokie, Ill. back in 1977, when another band of Nazis famously tried to march through town — kindly explained that if any of their descendants were “going to protest in our city, I want them to understand they’re going to do it our way … or we’re going to kick their a**.”
Every week, Syracuse University professor Aileen Gallagher helps Longreads highlight the best of college journalism. Here’s this week’s pick:
If only all universities had someone like Jesse Flickinger to explain their research projects to the masses. Flickinger takes his readers on an intellectual adventure that begins in a Kabul café and ends in a library in Missoula. He describes the problem of creating a legal system for emerging nations and how the University of Montana became a home base for the solution: Legal Atlas. “Legal Atlas is a fusion of Wikipedia, Google Maps and tomes of law knowledge offered in a slick interface freely available through the internet,” Flickinger writes. A local company developed the platform and students research and input data into the atlas. It’s an ideal research project for a university. There are hundreds of similar activities going on at schools all over the country. We’d know all about them if they had a better explainer.