The Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia, is a typical American strip mall, with more than 120 tiny restaurants, beauty salons and electronic retailers. Most of the stores in this mall are run by Vietnamese Americans. In the middle of the parking lot hang two gigantic flags — one American, and the other of South Vietnam, a country that ceased to exist with the fall of Saigon in 1975.
The political views of many Vietnamese Americans are shaped by the loss of their country. After communist forces from North Vietnam captured the southern region, many with close ties to the South Vietnam government feared reprisal and fled to the US.
At present, more than 2 million Vietnamese Americans live in the US, and approximately 1.3 million are eligible to vote in the country. Many have been loyal Republican supporters for decades and believe the party is a stronger force against communism. Even after President Donald Trump’s defeat in the November 3 election, they have not lost faith in him.
“We love him,” Amy, who owns a hair salon in the Eden Center, told DW. “You won’t find many people here who have a different opinion,” she added.
In the middle of the parking lot at the Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia, hang two gigantic flags — one American, and the other of South Vietnam, a country that ceased to exist with the fall of Saigon in 1975
James, who has been selling karaoke equipment and shampoos in the mall for 18 years, supports Trump’s hawkish stance on China. Ryan and Tammy, who were playing cards in a coffee shop, back Trump’s measures to stop illegal immigration. Dream, who runs a hair salon, likes Trump’s business-friendly approach. “I work hard,” she told DW. “I pay taxes and I don’t want my money to be spent on the unemployed people.”
The 2020 Asian American Voter Survey showed that Vietnamese Americans are the only major Asian ethnic group that preferred Trump over Joe Biden, who is now the country’s president-elect. According to the survey, 48% of them favored Trump, while 36% backed Biden.
Read more: After Trump’s loss: What does the future hold for Republicans?
Michael, who was a teenager in 1975, told DW that Biden as a senator was critical of Vietnamese refugees — a misconception shared by many Vietnamese Americans.
In the Eden Center, many Vietnamese are convinced that Trump did not get enough time in the Oval Office to accomplish more.
Matt Truong helped organize Trump rallies in Virginia and registered new voters at the Eden Center. He was 12 years old when he fled Vietnam alone, with only two pairs of clothes. After coming to the US, he finished his master’s degree in electrical engineering and became an IT director.
Truong is convinced that Democratic policies on health care, welfare and taxes endanger individual freedom. For him, Trump, who lowered taxes and regulations, represents the idea of a successful businessman.
For Truong, Trump represents the idea of a successful businessman
Growing intergenerational divide
But younger Vietnamese Americans are gradually moving away from their parents’ political views.
“It saddens me that many Vietnamese Americans support Trump to such a degree,” Viet Thanh Nguyen, a novelist and professor of English and American Studies at the University of Southern California, told DW.
“I think Trump is incompetent and dangerous, both to himself and to the rest of the country, and by extension, to the rest of the world.”
Nguyen fled Vietnam with his parents in 1975. He is convinced that many Vietnamese support Trump because of their experience with an authoritarian system. “The Vietnamese American culture is based on traditions. It is also hierarchical. The young are supposed to listen to their parents and obey them. Trump represents this approach.”
The Eden Center offers a wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine
Nguyen says younger Vietnamese Americans experience racism in the US. “They have friends across the spectrum, and they are more sensitive to the issues of racism than the first generation of Vietnamese immigrants and refugees. When Trump expresses his views about crime, African Americans, Mexicans or immigration, many younger Vietnamese find them racist.”
Nguyen says the older generation drew much of the information from Vietnamese language sources. For the November 3 election, young Vietnamese started a bilingual website with source-verified articles.
Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016, shows a communist spy as protagonist. He said that many Vietnamese Americans refused to read his book. “They say they had nothing to do with communism, even though the novel was not an endorsement of communism but an attempt at reconciliation.”
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