The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan reveals that Russian-American Jews strongly support Trump.
“I don’t like big government,” Sundeyeva said. She made two circles with her thumbs and forefingers and pressed them against each other so they touched, like binoculars. This Venn diagram represents the interests of people and government, she said. “They don’t have very much in common.”
Today, she’s not a registered Republican, but like many of the readers of her newspaper, she said she’s starting to lean toward supporting Donald Trump for president. The other self-styled outsider in the race, though, holds no appeal for her. The only Bern she and many other Russians here are feeling is the one in the banya.
Although American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, spearheading socially progressive initiatives like gay marriage and reliably voting for the Democrats, this absolutely does not apply to Russian-American Jews.
Actually that entire Atlantic article pretty much confirms everything I wrote in my popular 2012 article The 5 Types of Russian American, in which I called this particular demographic group “Sovok Jews” – an ironic reference to their retention of conservative Soviet habits while flip-flopping 180 degrees from the Communist internationalism espoused by their grandparents under the early USSR to the libertarian and Israeli Firster outlooks they harbor today.
Furthermore, the USSR’s early philo-Semitism reversed from later Stalinism on, with rhetoric about “rootless cosmopolitanism” and “anti-Zionism” even as the US became highly pro-Israel. In a neat ideological reversal, Soviet Jews in America whose parents had sung Communism’s praises turned to libertarianism and neoconservatism, and in the 2000’s, most became hardcore anti-Putinists. …
Yet while they harbor little love for Russia, Jewish Russian-Americans continue to speak Russian among themselves, play durak and eat borscht, and recite Radio Yerevan jokes. They remain stuck in the Soviet attitudes and tastes that they brought with them to American shores; arguably, far more so than ethnic Russians (who have co-evolved with post-Soviet Russia).
Menaker and Sundeyeva are part of a small circle—indeed, they know each other. Like with any immigrant group, the political views of Russians in the United States range widely. Ilya Strebulaev, a Russian-American and a finance professor at Stanford, said the left-leaning Russians he knows outnumber the right-leaning ones.
That is correct. Moreover, I would point out that as an academic, the type of Russians Ilya Strebulaev knows would be mostly fellow Egghead Emigres: The academics who fled Russia in the 1990s when scientific funding collapsed. Most of them are moderates, with little interest in and no talent for politics – I suspect Bernie Sanders would come first and Donald Trump second amongst them – which in practice puts them well to the left of Sovok Jews:
While they are now almost uniformly well-off, the Egghead Emigre lacks the Sovok Jew’s entrepreneurial drive, and as such there are very few truly rich among them. But on second thought this ain’t that surprising. Academia is a very safe environment (in terms of employment) and guarantees a reliable cash flow and career progression but it won’t make you a millionaire. The truly entrepreneurial Soviet academics have long since abandoned academia and made big bucks in the business world. …
As you may have deduced, the Egghead Emigre shares many similarities with the Sovok Jew. Nonetheless, many of them still retain a few patriotic vestiges; and politically, they are considerably to the left, with social democratic, socialist, and even Communist leanings being common (whereas Sovok Jews are right-leaning, ironically, unlike purely American Jews who tend to be more leftist). Though not many are still much interested in Russian politics, those who are typically vote for Prokhorov/Yabloko or the Communist Party.
Still, some researchers have found that Russian Jews tend to be both less religious than their American counterparts and more conservative. According to preliminary data from a survey being conducted by Sam Kliger, director of Russian-Jewish Community Affairs at the American Jewish Committee, between 60 and 70 percent of Russian-speaking Jews will vote Republican in this election. About that same percentage of American Jews backed Barack Obama in 2012.
Many of them are torn between Cruz and Trump. “Cruz, I like that he’s conservative,” said Shkolnikov. “But what is not appealing to me is that he sounds like he’s preaching all the time. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but I don’t like when Christians are preaching too much.”
But Trump makes up with his entrepreneurial charisma, and any shortage of enthusiasm he might exude as regards support for Israel, he mores than makes up with his surfeit of opposition towards Islam and general ‘Murica! can-do attitude relative to the other candidates.
I would note here that Sovok Jews are highly nationalistic. I wouldn’t even call most of them neocons. Of course neoconservatism for all intents and purposes is Jewish nationalism, but its adherents hide it behind nauseous rhetoric about American exceptionalism and the necessity of spreading democratic values to every last mudhole on the planet. First generation Sovok Jews – at least, those who don’t go into politics or journalism – don’t care for appearances and are much more honest about their outright hate for Palestinians, Hezbollah, Iran, Islam, and anyone and everyone else that threatens Israel.
Others at the party seemed more conflicted, particularly when it came to abortion, which was widespread and normalized in the Soviet Union. “We have become successful and comfortable within capitalism,” said Gina Budman. “On the other hand, I really am adamantly pro-choice. And I would love to see education that is less expensive. I am for gay rights.”
They are lured, though, by the GOP’s more vociferous support for Israel, a country where many Russian Jews have friends and relatives. For some, this was a source of hesitation about Trump, the Republican front-runner, who said he’d be “sort of a neutral guy” on Israel.
A couple of weeks ago I was meeting with a Jewish Russian and his Putin’s Expat (Russian) Russian wife. Although they had some major political differences – essentially, she is a pro-Putin Russian nationalist, while he is an anti-Putin Jewish nationalist (which I suspect causes no shortage of friction between them) – they were both conservatives and strong Trump supporters and both said they’d vote for Hillary out of spite if the Republicans were to cheat Trump out of the nomination.
But their views provide insight into the rise of Trump, a phenomenon that has bewildered many liberals. Several of the guests said they appreciate Trump’s tendency to “say what people are thinking”—a definite plus in a culture not exactly known for being timid.
The one child of Sovok Jews whom I know quite well emigrated from Belarus at an early age and is a socialist who has been involved with Occupy Wall Street and has spent a good part of his time these past few months designing a slick website purporting to demolish “corporate media lies” about Bernie Sanders.