All posts by Harry Arnold

From Birmingham, Alabama, Harry Arnold is the Managing Editor of the Claremont Independent and a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College majoring in Government. A proud native of Texas, his hobbies include following Houston sports, movies, and politics.

The Real LGBT: Lawyers, Grievances, Briefs, Trials

Lawyers frantically scrambling to appeal court decisions. Plaintiffs citing grievances in state and federal courts. Liberal interest groups filing myriad briefs in support. Trials ending after weeks of costly litigation.

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Sounds like the plotline for an episode of Law & Order. Instead, this is a not-so-inaccurate characterization of what has come to embody the LGBT movement.

Thirty-seven states now permit same-sex marriage. In a whopping 26 of these states, same-sex marriage was legalized via a court decision (either state or federal) as opposed to a legislative action or a voter-approved initiative. This overwhelming reliance on judicial intervention is problematic for a movement that seeks to obtain long-term equality and respect for a group of people.

Nevertheless, LGBT advocates would like to have you think that the country is embracing same-sex marriage with open arms. To some extent this is true, as most polls show a national majority in support of redefining marriage to include same-sex marriage. Despite this support, recent polling indicates Americans are split 48-48 with regard to whether the Supreme Court should legalize same-sex marriage this June in DeBoer v. Snyder. This discrepancy in public opinion illuminates an underlying reality about the ineffectiveness and undesirability of judicial policymaking.

Gerald Rosenberg asserts in his 1991 book The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change? that courts are not effective agents of social change. He uses the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education to substantiate his argument. Rosenberg points to the fact that school desegregation rates remained stagnant throughout the 1950s, and only began to rise following the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which withheld federal funding to schools that did not comply with desegregation.

Rosenberg also points to how public opinion regarding abortion essentially remained the same in the decades following the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. He suggests that, “reliance on the Court seriously weakened the political efficacy of pro-choice forces…the political organization and momentum that had changed laws nationwide dissipated in celebration of the Court victory.” Rosenberg summarizes this effect: “pro-choice forces abandoned the political arena to pro-life forces – and then professed surprise when pro-life forces won important electoral victories.”

Given that proponents of same-sex marriage have almost exclusively relied on the actions of courts as opposed to legislatures, they do risk suffering the same fate as pro-choice advocates. Indeed, many think a Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage would validate the current shift in public opinion and settle the issue once and for all. This could not be further from the truth.

Currently, four Supreme Court justices are older than 75 (Breyer, Scalia, Kennedy and Ginsburg). This means that the president elected in 2016 will likely be able to fundamentally alter the traditional 5-4 balance of power on the Court. In other words, there will be the opportunity for conservatives possibly to overturn a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

Indeed, controversial Supreme Court decisions, especially those that entail polarizing social issues, are often challenged and re-litigated. For example, the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, was subsequently confirmed in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Like abortion, opposition to same-sex marriage entails arguments grounded in firmly held religious beliefs, psychology, and federalism. As a result, same-sex marriage will likely follow the same judicial trend of perpetually controversial Supreme Court decisions.

What further complicates the situation is the fact that the impending Supreme Court decision could legalize gay marriage without necessarily granting sexual orientation heightened scrutiny review. Without getting too deep in the legal weeds, this outcome would leave homosexuals without the discrimination protection afforded to women and ethnic minorities. This would likely catalyze even more litigation relating to same-sex marriage. When 57 percent of Americans currently believe that bakers and florists with religious objections should be afforded the right to deny service to same-sex weddings, this scenario is certainly fathomable.

It is still tempting to think that such a Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage will be met with widespread approval from the public. In a literal sense this will likely be true, as most Americans now support the legalization of same-sex marriage. However, many forget that in 1973 Americans supported the decision in Roe v. Wade by a decisive margin of 52-42. Despite this approval, Roe v. Wade has proven to be one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions of all time.

As Rosenberg astutely notes, one-size-fits-all legal ultimatums usually prove ineffective in catalyzing a larger social movement. If anything, they further polarize the political process, as well as aggravate various political constituencies into enacting retaliatory legislation. Ultimately, shock-and-awe legal strategies have not worked in the past and they will not work for the LGBT movement. The Women’s Rights Movement secured the right to vote via the 19th Amendment, not a court decision. Likewise, the Civil Rights Movement secured tangible equality for African-Americans only after passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. A favorable Supreme Court decision will undoubtedly strengthen the LGBT movement, but it will fall far short of catalyzing the progress desired by advocates.

Using an explicitly legal strategy has pitfalls and shortcomings that the LGBT movement ought to recognize. It must recognize that landmark Supreme Court decisions often have to be supplemented with democratic legislation to have any tangible effect, that contentious social issues are likely to remain contentious no matter how favorable the ruling, and that these types of legal strategies implicitly conflict with American public opinion. To be clear, judicial policy-making is not undesirable for the LGBT movement (it is obviously great for the movement and is helping it achieve its objectives), but it is undesirable for society in general. When courts become de facto policy-making institutions and litigation becomes our default option to resolve contentious issues, we relinquish our ability to be a nation ruled by democratically passed laws and opt, instead, to be ruled by nine justices sitting on a bench.

Why has the LGBT movement almost exclusively relied on the courts to achieve its objectives? If public opinion regarding same-sex marriage is so favorable, why haven’t advocates pursued their objectives in Congress or state legislatures? The answer is that the country is still very much divided on the question of same-sex marriage. Yes, public opinion is starting to shift. But, there are still large parts of the country that staunchly oppose same-sex marriage. This is the ugly truth that many do not want to accept.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Elephants’ Charge: Voters Nationwide Stampede to GOP

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 10.34.09 PMThe February 2014 cover story of the Claremont Independent, “2014: Year of the Elephant,” boldly asserted that Republicans would win big in the midterm elections. The article was met with widespread contempt across the 5Cs. Multiple copies of the issue were visibly ripped apart on the Scripps campus. A columnist for The Student Life publicly ridiculed the “large elephant on the cover.” The backlash was so severe that former CI Editor-in-Chief Brad Richardson even issued an editorial response titled “In Defense of the Independent.”

As it turns out, Republicans have obtained an historic majority in the House of Representatives, will likely pick up nine seats in the Senate, and have even managed to achieve a net gain in governorships by winning in the solidly blue states of Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland. It would be tempting to sit back, write an article telling the 5Cs “we told you so,” and bask in the glory of these midterm results; however, it is perhaps more constructive to reflect on how the Republicans won as opposed to just how many seats they won.

Republican Governor-elect Greg Abbott (TX)
Republican Governor-elect Greg Abbott (TX)

One of the most significant takeaways from the 2014 midterm elections is the fact that voters realized Democrats’ accusation that Republicans are waging a “War on Women” is simply a political tactic, divorced from reality. In the Colorado Senate race, incumbent Democrat Mark Udall made women’s issues the crux of his campaign (so much so he was given the nickname “Mark Uterus”), yet he still lost to conservative Republican Cory Gardner. Feminist icon Wendy Davis lost the Texas gubernatorial election to Greg Abbott by over 20 points, even losing the women’s vote by a considerable margin.

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Republican Senator-elect Joni Ernst (IA)

The number of Republican women elected to office in 2014 is even more indicative of how the “War on Women” is a farce. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia will become the first female senators from their respective states. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, and Susana Martinez of New Mexico all won their gubernatorial re-election bids and ensured that their husbands will remain the First Gentleman of their respective states.

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Republican Senator Tim Scott (SC)
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Republican Congresswoman-elect Mia Love (UT)

The 2014 midterms also dismantled the notion that the Republican Party electorate won’t vote for minority candidates. Tim Scott of South Carolina (where the Civil War began) became the first African-American to be elected to the Senate in the South since the Reconstruction Era. Likewise, Will Hurd of Texas defeated a Democratic incumbent to become the first black U.S. Representative from the state since Reconstruction. Most notably, Mia Love of Utah will become the first black female Republican in Congress.

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Republican Governor Brian Sandoval (NV)

Republicans are also demonstrating considerable success in their outreach to the Hispanic community. Governor Brian Sandoval won re-election in the swing state of Nevada by an astounding 46 points and is considered a potential candidate in the 2016 senate election against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Republican Governor Susana Martinez (NM)
Republican Governor Susana Martinez (NM)

After becoming the first Hispanic female governor in 2011, Susana Martinez trounced her Democratic opponent by 14 points. While many Democratic operatives salivate at the prospect of Texas becoming a blue state (thus dealing Republicans a huge blow in the Electoral College), Republican senator John Cornyn won re-election with 48 percent of the Hispanic vote (compared to 47 percent for his opponent) according to the Pew Research Center.

With its enormous gains in both the House and Senate, the GOP has undoubtedly asserted itself in a forceful way on the national scene. Yet, what is perhaps even more indicative of a nationwide Republican revolution is the GOP’s dominance at the state level. Republicans now control 31 out of 50 governorships and 69 out of 99 state legislative bodies (including complete control of 29 state legislatures). This means that the Republican Party will be setting the legislative agenda at both the state and federal levels.

This unquestionably dominant GOP performance alludes to a more poignant, harrowing reality for Democrats: the strategy of class warfare and race/gender-based division is incompatible with the 21st century. No longer can Democrats use scare tactics and divide the electorate into groups of the “oppressed” (women, minorities, the poor, gays) and the “oppressors” (men, white people, the rich, Christians). This strategy didn’t work for Mark Udall, and it failed miserably for Wendy Davis.

According to exit polls, 70 percent of Americans indicated that the economy and healthcare were their primary voting issues. People simply don’t have time to worry about fictitious oppression narratives when they are trying to find a job or have lost their health insurance. In the hyper-insulated, overwhelmingly liberal 5C environment, it is easy to lose track of these mainstream issues that are foremost in the minds of the majority of Americans.

We realize that most students at the 5Cs will probably scoff at the aforementioned results and disregard the underlying trends. Instead, they will likely attribute the GOP victory to the evil Koch brothers using dark money to corrupt politicians and buy the election (they will want you to ignore the political spending of liberal billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer). They will also complain of angry voter sentiment held by old white people who flocked to the polls out of a personal hatred for Obama (once again, wanting you to ignore the GOP’s performance among women and minorities).

The Claremont Independent highlighted in its Oct. 27 article, entitled “Who’s the Fairest of Them All,” that 71 percent of CMC, 92 percent of Pomona, and 96 percent of Pitzer students prefer the Democratic Party. The Golden Antlers was quick to point out that the Claremont Independent was the “last to see elephant in the room, college students are mostly liberal.” However, we at the CI like to think that our February cover story shows we were in fact the first at the 5Cs to see the real elephant in the room: the GOP is stampeding across the nation.

Elephant Image Source: Earth Touch/Flickr
Politicians’ photos taken from their respective Facebook profiles

You Want Some Plan B With Those Skittles?

On September 18th CMC students received an email glorifying a new vending machine in Pomona’s Walker Hall Lounge. The machine, which is accessible to students from all the 5Cs, is subtly located on the second floor of the lounge. While the machine does offer innocuous items such as Neosporin and aspirin, it also features a multitude of sexual health products, ranging from condoms and KY jelly to male vibrators. Most notably, students now have 24/7 access to the form of birth control known as Plan B, or the morning after pill.

5C students have long been able to purchase Plan B from the Student Health Center without having to schedule an appointment beforehand. However, college vending machines that dispense the morning after pill are a novel concept. Just over a year ago in January of 2013, the FDA permitted Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania to continue offering Plan B in vending machines on campus. Pomona College is very likely one of the few colleges in the country to offer this type of resource to students.

The Claremont Colleges are undoubtedly a melting pot for socially liberal causes. Last spring, Pitzer College Senate seriously debated adopting a resolution to permit public nudity on campus. This fall CMC shed its image as a LGBT “pariah” and now offers a gender-neutral housing option for students. The Queer Resource Center recently sponsored a “Kink 101 Workshop” that was held on September 27th. Suffice it to say that Pomona’s recent decision to institute a Plan B vending machine comes as no big surprise.

As a socially conservative student, I fundamentally disagree with all of the aforementioned policy changes, for both moral and religious reasons. However, this does not necessarily mean that I would blindly impose my personal beliefs on others and call for the abolition of these resources and events. I value individual liberty, and believe people should have the autonomy to govern their own lifestyles. However, I do take issue with CMC’s embrace of this latest liberal crusade.

The email from CMC’s Dean of Students Office introducing the vending machine was filled with bias. Whether it was the opening line of “I am pleased to announce another new resource available to you!” or the proclamation that “Pomona College has graciously opened up this resource to students from all of the colleges,” it was implicitly evident where DOS stood on the issue.

What was perhaps even more surprising was how the email casually included Plan B in the list of products available in the new vending machine. It was as if DOS was completely oblivious to the fact that offering products such as Plan B and vibrators was a drastic change in policy for any college.

The administration’s nonchalant introduction of the new Plan B vending machine is indicative of a larger problem that plagues college campuses: the voice of prudence and reason is too often compromised at the expense of the latest liberal social experiment. We should have a rigorous, meaningful discussion regarding such a drastic change in policy before it is prematurely declared to be a positive force on campus.

When a female makes the decision to use Plan B, she accepts the possibility that she is preventing a fertilized egg from being implanted on the uterine wall. Individuals who believe life begins at conception equate this to abortion, a viewpoint that was recently legitimized by the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case.

The permanent and irreversible nature of using Plan B affords no room for regret. This means that students who view Plan B as a form of abortion (or eventually come to hold this view), yet decide to use it anyway, may potentially subject themselves to emotional distress in the future. This is not an unfathomable scenario, as one’s life-outlook is often radically different at age forty as opposed to age twenty.

Using Plan B also carries serious health considerations. The morning after pill is not a typical over-the-counter medication like Advil or Tylenol. It is a highly concentrated dose of hormones that can significantly alter a female’s menstrual cycle. Dr. David Grimes, who spoke before an FDA advisory committee in 2003, said that, “Repeated use of EC wreaks havoc on a woman’s cycle.”

The 24/7 access afforded by a vending machine is a dangerous proposition. The resulting effect is that students will no longer be bound by the time constraints of having to obtain Plan B from the Student Health Center or a local pharmacy. Assuming that most sexual activity occurs at night, students are usually forced to at least wait until the next morning to obtain and subsequently use Plan B. The instant accessibility of the vending machine will decrease the likelihood that students will consider the aforementioned consequences of using emergency contraception.

Regardless of whether you believe Plan B is morally permissible, the decision to use the morning after pill should not be made lightly. This is why a vending machine that dispenses Plan B is a disservice to students. It inherently trivializes what should be a very serious decision.

CMC’s decision to support Pomona’s new Plan B vending machine is more than just the college taking a firm stance on a highly divisive issue. CMC is compromising its students’ ability to make safe, informed choices regarding a serious health issue. But in the midst of all the kink workshops, calls for public nudity, and efforts to nullify gender classification, who has time to notice?

Best Places to Eat in Claremont Village

Whether is it steak & salmon night at Scripps, Sunday BBQ at Frary, or taco night at Collins, the 5Cs undoubtedly have great solid dining options. Is it fine dining? Obviously not. Does it get a little monotonous as the year goes by? Certainly. However, the ability of students to eat at any of the 5C dining halls pretty much guarantees that one can find a decent meal on any given night.

In the midst of this vast array of dining options it is easy to forget that Claremont Village (or simply “the Village”) offers a multitude of fantastic restaurants only a few minutes’ walk away. While these dining establishments are often on the pricier side, a weekly indulgence or two doesn’t hurt, and is often a fresh reminder that there is a world beyond the 5C’s. Hence, here is a list of the best places to eat in the Village.

 

Best BurgerTie between Eureka! & The Back Abbey

While everyone in Claremont has their own opinion in this so-called “battle of the burgers”, you honestly cannot go wrong with either one. Back Abbey has a better tasting, more succulent burger, while Eureka! offers considerably more burger variety (still at a very high quality). In terms of sides, Eureka! undoubtedly has the edge, as it offers delicious sweet potato fries and onion rings in addition to standard fries. Moreover, Eureka! has a spacious atmosphere coupled with a lively, positive vibe, while Back Abbey is more cramped and low-key.

Ultimately, it is very hard to choose between the two, and your decision will generally come down to what you are in the mood for. Whatever you do, don’t be that kid who settles for a burger from the Hub, unless you somehow enjoy chewing on dry pieces of rubber.

 

Best ItalianTutti Mangia

In addition to offering the best Italian food in Claremont, Tutti Mangia is likely the best overall restaurant in town. While this fine dining establishment is far from cheap, one cannot deny the quality of the food, service and overall atmosphere. A wonderful place to celebrate birthdays, or perhaps to mooch off of mom and dad during parents weekend, this restaurant will not disappoint. Furthermore, while Tutti Mangia offers tasty pasta dishes as any good Italian restaurant should, it also has a variety of top tier steaks.

 

Best Mexican Food: Casa Moreno

There will come a time in everyone’s college career when they are painfully malnourished and just want to enter a food coma. Thankfully, Casa Moreno offers gargantuan burritos stuffed to the brim with rice, beans, cheese and your choice of meat. In addition, this restaurant serves a multitude of other tasty, lighter dishes for those who prefer getting a good night’s rest.

 

Best DessertI Like Pie

Although Tutti Mangia offers a top-notch dessert menu (the apple tart & cheesecake in particular), I Like Pie still wins this category by a long shot. The shop features a stellar array of seasonal miniature pies, all of which can be heated and/or topped with a generous dollop of ice cream. On a nostalgic note, I Like Pie also possesses a welcoming, charming quality as a result of its quaint embodiment of Americana. Although this will be a pricier dessert option, it is still a nice alternative to getting fro-yo at 21 Choices or Yogurtland.

 

Best Lunch Place: Crepes de Paris

This restaurant offers an array of jumbo crepes, ranging from strawberry to decadent Nutella, all of which come with Chantilly cream and the option of vanilla ice cream. However, what makes Crepes de Paris the best place to grab lunch in the Village is the delicious sandwiches. The roasted ham & turkey sandwiches are served warm on a flaky croissant, and are nicely complimented by the fresh salads. Although the restaurant makes an amusing attempt to create an authentic French atmosphere, it has a laid-back vibe and relatively friendly service.

 

Best Hot Wings: Espiau’s

Unless you aced your Spanish placement exam, pronouncing this restaurant’s name will not come easy. Espiau’s serves an odd combination of burgers and “Tex-Mex” food. If you’re smart you won’t order the burgers or Mexican food, as both are mediocre at best. And if you’re really smart you won’t go anywhere near the restrooms (you’ll see why). Despite this restaurant’s numerous shortcomings, the buffalo wings are, for some reason, delicious. This is definitely a great place to watch a football game, as the restaurant has a multitude of TV’s that show various sporting events.

 

Disagree with Harry? Want to offer your own superlatives list – Best Brunch, Best Hipster Coffee Shop, Best Restaurant for a First Date, Best Chain, Best Cost-Benefit Ratio, etc.? Join the discussion in our comments section below.

Lone Star Farce: A Response to the Claremont Port Side

In what will be the most high-profile gubernatorial race of the year, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott looks to succeed the 14-year incumbent Rick Perry, who has led the Lone Star State to the pinnacle of economic prosperity. Abbott’s Democratic opponent will be State Sen. Wendy Davis, who ascended to national fame in 2013 by filibustering a strict Texas abortion bill that ultimately became law. Unless Abbott catastrophically implodes, the governor’s mansion is unequivocally projected to remain in Republican hands. Regardless, liberals nationwide have seized this opportunity to advance their agenda of exposing misogynistic elitism and the oppression of women.

The Claremont Port Side appears to have drunk the Kool-Aid. In an article titled “Lone Star Democrat – Why Texas Can’t Handle Wendy Davis,” published in the magazine’s recent “Feminism Issue,” the two authors embark on a variety of uncoordinated tangents and proffer a series of unsubstantiated claims regarding the gubernatorial race. As a consequence, the article’s account of the gubernatorial race is misleading, and skews political realities to accommodate their narrative of Republicans unfairly persecuting Davis.

Throughout the article, the authors advance the idea that “republicans are desperate to slander Davis’ character” because “an ambitious woman threatens men.” However, this assessment rests on a painfully superficial understanding of Texas politics. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), the first female Senator to represent the Lone Star State, recently retired after a very successful 20-year congressional tenure. Her enormous popularity was exhibited by the fact that she nearly defeated Rick Perry in a 2010 GOP primary challenge for governor.

Other women who have made significant inroads into the Texas political scene include two current justices of the Texas Supreme Court, Eva Guzman (R-TX) and Debra Lehrmann (R-TX), both of whom have been elected with wide margins. Moreover, Nandita Berry (R-TX), recently became the first Indian-American and one of only a handful of women to serve as the Texas Secretary of State.

In an obvious way, these women are all living, breathing examples of how “women can stand up for themselves in Texas.” They are indicative of the fact that oppression of women in Texas politics is neither systematic nor commonplace. As a result, the Port Side’s underlying theme that Davis will suffer in the general election due to an anti-female political environment holds little to no merit. She’ll suffer in the general all right, but she’ll lose on policy – not as a victim of insidious structural oppression against women.

Nevertheless, the authors seek to crystallize on this point, claiming that “by virtue of her being a woman, Davis endures far more scrutiny than male politicians.” Yet the only concrete example provided of unfair criticism directed at Davis is an isolated incident in South Carolina (note: South Carolina), where former state Republican Party Director Todd Kincannon made a series of offensive and ill-advised comments.

I wholeheartedly agree that Mr. Kincannon’s slanderous Twitter campaign was despicable – but one cherry-picked extreme case from another state does not prove a rule. Here’s an alternative narrative that coheres with all the facts: conservatives are critiquing Davis because she’s a liberal progressive, and investigating the accuracy of her personal story because (and let’s be absolutely clear on this point!) she’s playing the game of politics.

Greg Abbott, a paraplegic, has been subject to equally venomous slander from the Davis camp.

Battleground Texas, a liberal group composed of veteran Obama campaign officials, seeks to help elect an increasing number of Democrats in the Lone Star State, Davis included. A recent undercover video exposed members of the organization mocking Abbott for his disability and confinement to a wheelchair. The legitimacy of the video is validated by the fact that it merited a response from Davis herself, who quickly condemned the video’s cruel language.

Wendy Davis has undoubtedly received brash, unwarranted criticism that lacks any possible justification; however, liberals such as those at the Port Side appear to suffer from severe tunnel vision, believing that they are the only victims of political foul play. This is a dubious proposition considering the aforementioned criticism direct at Abbott, which was sadistic and beyond the realm of reason. Remember: this is politics we’re talking about.

The authors conclude their disparate series of observations by offering the prediction that the “conservative backlash against Davis” will be “pervasive enough to significantly impact the gubernatorial election.” Once again, this assertion simply is not grounded within the realm of reality, and is nothing more than wishful thinking.

For months, Abbott has held a comfortable double digit lead over Davis, one that is not expected to dissipate anytime soon. Perhaps the most damning reality for liberals is the fact that no Democrat has been elected to a statewide office in Texas since 1994. In today’s deeply polarized political environment, the chances of Davis upsetting the status quo are minimal at best.

While those at the Claremont Port Side may believe that Davis will be able to remain a “viable political candidate in Texas,” we at the Claremont Independent hold a more rational perspective.

Barring a move to another state, Davis will likely disappear into political abyss following a decisive defeat this fall. This is due to the fact that the current political environment in Texas, coupled with the limited lifespan of political candidacies, will effectively mitigate Davis’s chances of ascending from her state senate seat to any statewide office.

Brandishing the victim card and angrily appealing to the oppression of women, while classic feminist strategies, are ultimately ineffective at securing concrete political outcomes – at least in Texas. In addition to energizing the Republican base, polarizing feminist rhetoric will alienate many independent voters, which are critical in a general election. So don’t be surprised when Abbott sends Davis into political oblivion this November.

2014: Year of the Elephant

In a recent Super Bowl Sunday interview with Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, President Obama essentially proclaimed that he was no more liberal than President Richard Nixon. Although such a comparison should be left to the historians, it appears Nixon and Obama actually do share something quite similar: abysmally low approval ratings. In fact, President Obama entered January with the lowest approval rating after the fifth year of a presidency since Tricky Dick himself, who at the time happened to be embroiled in a little scandal known as Watergate. While it’s all great that Obama joyously sang Kumbaya at his most recent State of the Union address, it is time for the President to accept the reality of his situation. The upcoming 2014 Senate elections are the only thing that can possibly salvage his presidency and allow him to escape the political Armageddon that ravaged President Bush.

Most political pundits assert that the Republicans will very likely maintain control of the House of Representatives in the upcoming midterms. As a result, if Republicans were to assume control of the Senate as well, Obama’s second term agenda is essentially a moot point.

It appears that the President has indeed come to terms with the ominous political landscape, as a recent Politico report notes that Obama recently met with vulnerable Democratic senators, reassuring them that one of his primary goals is maintaining Democratic control of the Senate. On an embarrassing note, a CNN report states that Obama has even vowed to distance himself from races in states where his approval rating is anemic.

It is true that Democrats have a phenomenal grassroots operation, and recent Republican Senate candidates have consisted of individuals who have made downright idiotic comments that cost them seats once thought to be locks; however, the political calculus for Democrats is undeniably grim.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats in order to assume control of the Senate. Currently, there are two legitimate opportunities for Democrats to take control of a Republican-held seat.

In Kentucky, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will face tough opponents both in the primary and general elections. But considering that in 2012 Obama didn’t even eclipse 40 percent of the vote in Kentucky, a Democratic victory is a dubious proposition at best. Moreover, given the magnitude of this particular race, the Republican establishment will funnel millions of dollars into the reelection campaign.

The second opportunity for Democrats to flip a seat comes in Georgia, where a heated Republican primary is expected to take place and a burgeoning Hispanic and African-American population is quickly turning the state purple. Although we won’t be able to forecast this race with much degree of certainty until the candidates are more set in stone, the Peach State still voted Romney by nearly 8 points in 2012, so a slight edge still has to be given to Republicans.

The best opportunities for Republicans to pick up the necessary six seats are in the following states: Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Alaska, South Dakota and Montana.

Arkansas is widely projected as an unequivocal slam dunk for Republicans. Incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor is taking on Tom Cotton, a Harvard Law-educated Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who is beloved by the Tea Party and establishment (and interestingly a Claremont Graduate University alumnus). Already trailing in the polls, Senator Pryor is scrambling to avoid any associations with the President as well as disavow his 2010 vote for Obamacare. Regardless, his chances are slim at best, especially in a state where Obama failed to garner even 40 percent of the vote in 2012.

Incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is also in grave danger of losing her Senate seat. Given that the Bayou state voted for Romney by a margin of 17 points in 2012, Landrieu’s recent reaffirmation of her 2010 Obamacare vote will likely not bode well with voters. Despite the inherent advantage of being an incumbent, Landrieu is already trailing her likely Republican foe, U.S. Representative Bill Cassidy. However, as the sister of the current Mayor of New Orleans and someone who has held her Senate seat since 1997, Landrieu is no political amateur. In fact, she is currently seeking to score some major political capital by spearheading a flood insurance bill that would especially benefit Louisianans. In the end, despite her politically savvy efforts, it is doubtful Landrieu will overcome the vast anti-Obamacare sentiment, which to date has claimed the Senate seats formerly held by Ted Kennedy and even Barack Obama himself.

Kay Hagan rode the coattails of Obama’s 2008 election grandeur into her current North Carolina Senate seat. However, it looks like what goes around comes around, as Hagan is now seeking to distance herself from the toxicity of Obamacare, which already has her trailing her Republican adversaries in the polls.

Senator Mark Begich of Alaska is in a similar predicament, as he finds himself defending his Obamacare vote in a heavily red state where the President has dismally low approval ratings.

In West Virginia, retiring Democrat Senator Jay Rockefeller (the only elected Democrat from the Rockefeller family) is essentially rolling out the red carpet for a Republican successor. President Obama’s less than 30 percent approval rating in West Virginia, which he can attribute to his administration’s assault on the coal industry, is certainly ominous for any Democrat seeking the seat.

In South Dakota, former Republican Governor Mike Rounds is projected to waltz into the Senate vacancy created by another retiring Democrat, as he currently leads potential Democrat opponents by wide margins.

In nearby Montana, U.S. Representative Steve Daines is leading his Democratic challenger for a Senate seat vacated by Max Baucus, who was recently tapped as the U.S. ambassador to China.

In addition to these seven races, there are several other legitimate opportunities for Republicans to pick up additional Senate seats or make up for any unforeseen mishaps (which are not uncommon in the Republican Party). In New Hampshire, Republican Scott Brown (who famously won the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat) is already tied with the incumbent Democrat in the polls, despite not even announcing his candidacy. Moreover, the Senate races in Iowa and Michigan, where incumbent Democrats are retiring, are projected to be competitive races.

The potential consequences for Democrats in the upcoming Senate elections are monumental. Should Republicans takes full control of Congress, the President would be viewed as the primary source of partisan gridlock, as he would find himself daily vetoing GOP bills aimed to reduce our annual deficits and national debt. Given that Obama rammed through Congress numerous bills in his first two years without an ounce of bipartisan support, don’t expect Republicans to succumb to the President’s half-hearted attempts for compromise. More important, the upcoming elections could provide the infrastructure for a quasi-Reagan Revolution in 2016, should a Republican assume control of the White House (or, in a worst-case scenario, mitigate a Hillary Clinton presidency).

Liberals need to brace themselves. Say goodbye to the New Deal gravy train and hello to fiscal responsibility. 2014 is the GOP’s for the taking.

Conservative Television Icons

If Walter White of AMC’s acclaimed show Breaking Bad were to campaign for mayor of Albuquerque, would he run as a Republican or Democrat? Syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg has an opinion that might be unsettling for loyal fans. In the Aug.19 issue of the National Review, he asserts that, as someone who makes his own choices, Walter embodies the ideal of personal freedom. Goldberg points, for example, to Walter choosing his own course of cancer treatment against the advice of others. Furthermore, Walter exemplifies a remarkable sense of self-reliance by using his skills as a chemist to pay for his treatments and refusing charity from a former colleague. Freedom of choice is central to conservative thought and serves as the pillar of conservative proposals on issues ranging from healthcare to education reform.

Expanding the scope of Goldberg’s argument, it becomes evident that Breaking Bad is not the only contemporary show with conservative tendencies. It would be easy to label Mad Men a liberal show since it chronicles the social change of the 1960s. However, the show’s main character, Don Draper, is the antithesis of a liberal. Draper ascends from the poverty of the Dust Bowl Midwest to the executive ranks of Sterling Cooper due to his creative prowess and not as a result of any entitlements from the New Deal. During the 1960 election, Draper scolds JFK for his “silver spoon” and for “buying his way into Harvard,” a stark contrast to his characterization of Nixon as the “Abe Lincoln of California” and “A self-made man from nothing.” A reserved Korean War veteran, he often exhibits contempt for the apathetic laziness of his younger, liberal counterparts.

At this point one could make the case that the right-leaning Draper is simply meant to serve as a stark contrast to the 1960s political mainstream, with his numerous hardships representing the incompatibility of conservatism with the changing world. However, as the show now prepares for its seventh season, it is evident that Mad Men has routinely shown the darker side of liberalism, with Draper instead representing the nostalgia for the Golden Age. A major theme in season six was the violence and chaos associated with the nationwide protests of 1968, which paved the way for Richard Nixon’s “Silent Majority” speech and subsequent victory. For example, Peggy, Sterling Cooper’s first and only female copywriter, finally concedes to her liberal boyfriend’s demand to live in a more “diverse” area of Manhattan only to move out months later following routine vandalism and burglaries. Likewise, Betty (Draper’s first wife) is horrified by the vagabond culture she witnesses as she searches for a friend of Sally’s (Sally is Draper’s daughter) in an inner-city crack house. Most important, rather than glorify the anti-war movement, Mad Men essentially mocks the protests against the Vietnam War as misguided and pointless. Don has to use a personal connection to help a neighbor’s young and naïve son avoid being sent to the front lines after mailing in his draft card in protest.

Conservatism is also a recurring theme in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. The show’s protagonist, Nucky Thompson, develops a nationwide bootlegging empire through hard work and self-reliance. As the Republican treasurer of Atlantic City, New Jersey, he uses his entrepreneurial skills to create a booming city filled with vast opportunity. Although the show certainly touches upon the various progressive themes of the 1920s, Boardwalk Empire seems to illustrate the negative consequences of this social change more often than not. Throughout the first season, Jimmy Darmody’s wife has an extensive extramarital affair with a female companion she met while Jimmy was abroad during WWI. Rather than glorify her pursuit of sexual freedom and the overall promiscuity of the flapper generation, the show reflects upon the detrimental impact this relationship has on her husband and young son. Likewise, Nucky’s wife seeks to enlighten the women of Atlantic City regarding contraception, but her effort is portrayed as futile.

The Sopranos, often heralded as the best show in television history, is perhaps the most conservative of all. The unequivocal protagonist, Tony Soprano, is a socially conservative Catholic, who admits to voting for George W. Bush, and has an obvious disdain for the government. His nephew, Christopher Moltisanti, battles a horrific drug addiction over the course of six seasons, which affects both his professional and personal relationships. This is certainly a far cry from any endorsement of drug legalization (a point Goldberg makes on behalf of Breaking Bad). Perhaps the strongest indicator of conservatism in The Sopranos is the importance the show places upon a traditional family structure. For instance, a key member of Tony’s inner circle, Vito, seeks refuge in New Hampshire once he is discovered to be homosexual. Rather than glorify his new sense of sexual freedom, the show emphasizes the detrimental impact Vito’s absence has on his family.

What do the conservative overtones embedded in these popular shows indicate about the current state of society? Given the results of the past couple presidential elections, they certainly do not suggest that the country is becoming more conservative. On the other hand, maybe the United States is still at its core a center-right country, which has been perversely misguided by a liberal media. Perhaps these shows appeal to the inherent conservatism of a majority of Americans. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and The Sopranos could very well be the pioneering shows of a conservative revolution directed at television screens across America.