Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Why Do Republicans Really Support Russia over Ukraine?

Ronald Reagan famously hated the Soviet Union and called it "The Evil Empire." On stage at the Republican debate, Vivek Ramaswamy was positively fawning over Russia, and Ron DeSantis didn't think Russia's invasion of a democratic country was a big deal. He has called it a "mere territorial dispute." Some of the other Republicans are closer to Ramaswamy than they are to Reagan. What happened?

Well for one thing, Donald Trump regards Vladimir Putin as his best friend. But with Trump, one always needs to look for ulterior motives that benefit Trump directly. He would no doubt regard a deal in which he traded America's most closely guarded nuclear secrets for permission to build a 100-story Trump Tower Moscow (with the top floor being a penthouse gifted to Putin) as FANTASTIC. To some extent, other candidates are just parroting him. Tucker Carlson is also a loud pro-Russia voice and has been for years.

In contrast, most Republicans dislike China intensely with the same fervor that Reagan reserved for Russia. Why the hatred for China and love for Russia? Neither of them has the U.S.' best interests at heart. Both are dictatorships. The underlying reason may actually be straightforward: racism and bigotry. For all its many failings, in the end Russia is a white, conservative, Christian country. China is not. Putin embraces the Russian Orthodox Church and vice-versa. Xi Jinping despises Christianity and vice-versa. Even worse, China is officially an atheist country, although a small amount of religious practice is tolerated provided it is low key and doesn't threaten Xi's power (it's also worth noting that most traditional Chinese religions aren't theistic, anyhow).

Even without Trump or Ramaswamy saying it explicitly, many Republican voters understand what is going on. When they see images of Putin, they see a powerful, white, Christian man. If he had been born in St. Petersburg, FL, instead of St. Petersburg, Russia, he could have been a Florida senator. Xi does not evoke that kind of image.

The attitudes toward Russia and China are very partisan. A Gallup poll in March showed that by 23 points, Democrats see Russia as a greater enemy than China. Republicans, by 64 points, think China is the bigger enemy. A 2021 study showed that white Americans who exhibit a high degree of racial resentment are more likely to see China as a military threat than those who don't. This wasn't always the case. In the 1940s and 1950s, conservative white Christians supported Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. A study by the Pew Research Center showed that white non-Latino evangelicals were 25 points more likely to hold a "very unfavorable" view of China than religiously unaffiliated Americans.

So the bottom line is that for many conservative white Christians, the rise of China is not only a threat to American power, it is also a threat to conservative white Christian power. Russia does not threaten conservative white Christian power. It supports it. (V)

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