This week at Auburn I taught Chinese. It came as a surprise, really: when we checked our belongings in at the front desk I noticed a fellow tutor holding what looked like worksheets that were written in Chinese. She explained to me that she taught a small Chinese class and invited me to join her in administering a quiz for her class. It turns out the entire Chinese class that night consisted of three people. The five of us sat around a single table in a classroom filled with other students who were there for study hall.
I’ll be 36 years old when he gets out of prison in 2030. It occurred to me that scientists have been saying that by that year all the polar ice caps will have melted. Across the street from Auburn, there’s a small gas station with a convenience store that sells Marlboros and sodas and lottery tickets and bite-sized snacks. Upon my first visit, I found it odd that a string of local businesses would situate themselves so near to a maximum-security facility. I guess Auburn prison has been around for so long that it’s merged into the landscape like a wall in the city.
The one-hour car ride back to Cornell from Auburn Prison is a time for tutors to talk about how the night went. On my last trip, a few of the tutors in my car observed a voting poster inside a classroom. They found its presence ironic: after all, felons can’t vote. According to New York state law, no one who is currently incarcerated or on parole can vote. With the election less than two months away, efforts to register voters are ever present on Cornell’s campus.
When the cart rolled into the classroom, several of the students immediately left their seats and walked over. I followed suit. It was a steel double-sided cart, the kind that librarians use for shelving books. A few titles caught my eye: a complete encyclopedia of African American culture, Drown by Junot Díaz, and Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The students and I shuffled about the cart to get a closer look at the selection.
Auburn Correctional Facility is less than an hour’s drive directly north of Ithaca, in a city whose population is comparable to that of total enrollment at Cornell. Sitting atop one of the Finger Lakes, it looks like any other town to pass by on the rolling hills of Upstate New York. But if obscurity has different degrees, Auburn is not a place without a name. It’s where Underground Railroad heroine Harriet Tubman lived and died. It’s also home to one of the nation’s oldest prisons, one that pioneered the practice—the “Auburn system”—of daytime penal labor followed by solitary confinement at night, all under enforced silence.
Everyone has something to say about Donald Trump. People tell me that Trump is winning because Americans are angry. Political pundits on both sides of the partisan aisle agree on this point. But why are people angry? Like Trump, some of them are racist, xenophobic, sexist, nativist and many other unpleasant things.
There was a time when the title of this piece stated the obvious (nonexistent) relationship between Donald Trump and evangelical Christians. To say it would be like declaring: “I’m a liberal, and I don’t support Fox News”. Today, that man boasts of winning the evangelical vote. And strangely, it’s true. Donald Trump won big on Super Tuesday, claiming decisive victories in seven out of 11 states.
What a race it’s been for both parties. Ted Cruz won Iowa with 27.6 percent of all votes. According to the CNN entrance poll, 34 percent of self-identified evangelicals voted for Cruz, 22 percent voted for Trump and 21 percent voted for Rubio. Donald Trump won New Hampshire with 35.3 percent of all votes. CNN’s exit poll shows that 27 percent of self-identified evangelicals voted for Trump, 23 percent voted for Cruz and 13 percent voted for Rubio.
This blog will follow the evangelical vote in the 2016 presidential election. I write about it because I am fascinated by the GOP field and the competition between its candidates to draw the blessing of the evangelical electorate. I also write about it because I consider myself an evangelical Christian. I may not speak for all evangelicals, but I have a say as someone who belongs to this ravenously courted demographic. I use the word “ravenously” because, as a general rule, no Republican candidate in recent memory has won the presidency without strong evangelical support.