There is an interesting article in The Atlantic this week examining the voting patterns of older Russian-American immigrants who escaped the Soviet Union. It’s titled, “Why Russian Immigrants Hate Bernie Sanders and Love Donald Trump“. Naturally, it piqued my interest given my family history and parents’ similar journey from Soviet-occupied Lithuania to the United States 30 years ago. So I read the article and did my best to absorb the subject matter.
This voting bloc, though small, inclines themselves to conservatism given how skeptical they are of big government, unwarranted 24/7 surveillance, high taxes, and anti-life measures. Those who’ve lived under tyranny–my parents included–refuse to support anyone (Left or Right) who seeks to resurrect this here in the United States.
The article gives an interesting glimpse into Russian-Jewish immigrants currently residing in the Bay Area, who echo similar sentiments to their compatriots residing in New York City. The majority of those profiled in the article were fiercely anti-communist, non-religious/religious, or politically conservative. They didn’t offer positive words for either Clinton or Sanders. When pressed about whom they supported for president on the Republican side, there responses were more mixed. Several expressed support for Ted Cruz, while others expressed support for Donald Trump.
The article did a decent job of demonstrating this group’s generally conservative inklings, but fell short on a few things:
Not all refugees from the former Soviet Union are Russian-Jewish but most are skeptical of tyrannical policies
While it’s easy to paint all Eastern European folks with the same broad brush–an egregious offense if applied to non-Russians–it failed to make this differentiation clear. Not all those who lived in the Soviet Union are ethnically Russian. Yet, a good portion of those who fled the Soviet Union, including Russia, generally vote Republican and identify as conservatives, libertarians, or anti-communists. Remember–the former Soviet Union occupied 15 different autonomous countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. The Kremlin imposed the Russian language on those it occupied, which is why many Americans assume every Eastern European person is Russian. (That’s not the case.) The Soviets notoriously oppressed all ethnicities, religions, or individuals deemed enemies of the state. Not all those residing in the Soviet Union were Russian, but had to reluctantly adopt the Russian language and culture to survive. This point should have been communicated better.
American voters from the former Soviet Union aren’t politically uniform, though they generally vote Republican
While most voters comprising this group are generally anti-communist and skeptical of big government, it’s not uniformly conservative. As stated above, those who are more religious and conservative tend to prefer candidates like Ted Cruz. Those who generally aren’t religious nor politically active feel inclined to support Trump. And a good chunk of Soviet émigrés, especially those who had black market dealings or were part of academia, vote Democrat. Several interviewees lamented their children succumbing to “brainwashing” from American higher education–an alarming trend that immigrant children are becoming more removed from their parents’ experiences behind the Iron Curtain. While this voting bloc isn’t uniform, they generally pull the leaver for Republicans given their past experiences in the Old Country.
Soviet refugees (and their children) dislike big government statists and crony capitalists equally
Both big government and crony capitalist entities thrive off of government to survive and exist at the expense of taxpayers–but through slightly different means. The former wants the destruction of free enterprise, while the other system seeks to exploit free enterprise through government means. Bernie Sanders is an avowed student of Eugene V. Debs, a 20th-century era politician who ran for president under the Communist Party banner. Hillary Clinton is an avowed Alinskyite. Alternatively, “anti-establishment” American oligarch Donald Trump has been funding Democrats for 40 years, employs mob tactics, and doesn’t have one genuine once of conservatism in him. All three candidates have left a bad taste in Soviet refugees’ mouths (and millions of other mouths), politically-speaking.
Conrad Mazeika, 32, is a realtor based out of Orange County, California, who is skeptical about the Democrat candidates and Donald Trump. His family fled Soviet-occupied Lithuania prior to the USSR’s collapse. His great-grandfather Mykolas Biržiška signed onto Lithuania’s first Declaration of Independence on February 16, 1918.
“”Vienas velnias joja kitas velnias vairuoja” which translates to one devil comes in by horse and other devil comes in by car. This was in reference to the Nazi and Soviet political propaganda during World War II,” said Mazeika. “Lithuanians knew the game of both Socialists and Communists.”
Given his family history, he supports and plans to vote for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in California’s June 7th primary.
Washington, D.C. area resident and Russian-Jewish immigrant Lena Kirochko-Murray came to the U.S. with her parents from St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1989 at the age of 19. She founded an art school in New York City in 2001 called Bridgeview School of Fine Arts, which is primarily led by other Soviet immigrants from Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Russia, and Estonia. She, too, expressed doubt in all three candidates.