What If the GOP Loses? 'Atlas Shrugged' vs. 'The Fire Next Time'

This is part of the one-day-only, all-day-long Festival of Election Eve Updates.

Two days ago I posted speculations from several readers about what would happen inside the Republican Party if, two days from now, Mitt Romney does not emerge as the president-elect. Would the party keep heading rightward, judging that their main mistake was choosing a RINO as the nominee? Would head the other way, in an attempt to pick up support among Latinos, young people, women, etc? Sam Popkin went into similar questions today, explaining why he thinks a civil war has already broken out within the GOP.

Now, two very different replies from two people whose main similarity is that they are business owners.

What if Obama wins? Atlas will shrug. From a person whose geographical location (or, in fact, anything else about him) I don't know. To be clear, he says he runs a high-tech business, but I can't vouch for that myself:

I will tell you what happens, I close my business of 10 years and lay off my employees. I am done. Thats what happens. You might consider me one of those know nothings but I am highly educated, run a high technology company with several very high paying positions and am very much steeped in US History and am a stalwart in the notion of individual liberty and self reliance.  Freedom and liberty built this nation, not parasites like Obama and ilk. Obama has never produce anything in his life. Nothing, zero. Yet he is qualified to lead? Really? I have worked for leaders and he is no leader.

The economy picking up is a joke. Really? Where? 100% debt to GDP and counting and for every job created 75 food stamp recipients?  I have never seen it this slow and a second Obama term will spell the end. The tax increases alone are enough for me to call it quits. Why, I make to much so pay more of my fair share? Maybe you should attempt to understand the concept of a S Corp and how it's income becomes, for tax reasons, my income. Hence while my income may look very good on paper the vast majority of my income stays as operating revenue. So much for the fat cat theory, no?

Why should I continue to work myself into the dirt just to have it confiscated to transfer wealth to a parasite class? The work requirement for welfare gutted, Obamaphones, the taxes in Obamacare alone are enough to throw in the towel.

[Your column] is a fantasy of deranged and feckless liberal gibberish. What your now calling the mainstream is terminal unemployment and lower standard of living for all but then again, we all know that is the lefts dream right? After all, when your mentality is zero sum gain then making the rich poorer the poor become richer, correct? WHy let reality get in the way of your fantasy? Had the housing market, for example, been left to market forces without government intervention the housing bubble would have never happened but hey, another brilliant idea from the left. Good intentions are all that matter right?

Try this. Open a business, deal with all the headaches for a few years, payroll, taxes, permits, employees and then come back and explain to me how Obama has helped me?

You want jobs, you create them because I am finished. Atlas will indeed shrug and I have no clue whom you and other democrats think is going to pay the tab because there is no money left to burn.

Then again, for the left the end justifies the means. As Milton said;, "better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven?"

What if Romney loses? The fire next time. This is from someone whose provenance I do know. Also a founder and head of a small high-technology business:

If the GOP does indeed suffer a defeat in 2012, renewing the party will be much more difficult than 1972 was for the Democrats.

The Democratic Party of the Nixon-Reagan era could look to compromise with Republicans on a wide range of areas because those areas -- tax policy, military budgets, welfare reform -- were things on which compromise was possible. The things that could not be compromised -- civil rights, peace in Vietnam, and Social Security -- were never under serious attack.

The Republican Party today regards sexual reregulation and religious belief as core to its identity. Abortion is murder, homosexuality is depraved, and the twin terrors of Islamic Fundamentalism and Humanism threaten to unhinge society. These are not issues on which compromise is possible.  One can regard a change to the tax code or to welfare rules as unwise, and yet acquiesce in trying the experiment. One cannot acquiesce to what one considers murder and depravity.

The obvious parallel, alas, is to the New England resistance to slavery, 1828-1860.  Though good people tried to find a way, there really was no path to compromise. If slavery is evil, Thoreau argued, you can't sit by and regret it. If it's not evil, Calhoun was right. Between them, there was no place for Dan Webster, and the memory of Shiloh meant that, for a century, US politics carefully kept to topics on which compromise was possible.  The original nativism and know-nothing conspiracies receded. The anti-Semitism that was such a disaster for Europe never got a really respectable foothold; we had Lindberg and Father Coughlin but not Mosley and the Duke of Windsor. American Protestants stopped fighting over doctrine and stopped fighting against Catholics.

For a long time, it seemed that no compromise was possible on the integration of the South, and the Senate was organized to make such compromise unnecessary. That ended when,  in 1948, Humphrey convinced the Democrats that segregation was no longer something that could be countenanced, that it had to end whatever the consequences for the party. And of course that did split the party and transformed the landscape of American politics into the world we know. (In the end, Johnson saw that the South could compromise on integration and still be the South: "Guess who's coming to dinner?" might be a a bit of a shock, but if it's Sidney Poitier and he's a doctor, you could live with it and talk about the Dallas Cowboys.)

How does today's GOP sit down for a nice dinner with Planned Parenthood, Sandra Fluke, Lena Durham, and Richard Dawkins?  I used to know Republicans socially. My parents and aunts and uncles all did. I don't anymore.  Democrats and Republicans are beginning to dress differently, to wear their hair differently. Limbaugh really thinks that Sandra Fluke is a slut. You simply can't have both of them to dinner.

In a real sense, Romney already is the Republican turn toward moderation. It's untenable; you can't defend the unborn one day, and promise to keep Roe v Wade the next. The only way Romney could moderate his positions was to be seen to lie, to convince people that he held contradictory opinions but would govern the way they hoped. There's just no viable position for a potential nominee who is more moderate the Romney. As an intellectual exercise, one could imagine a Republican who supported immigration reform, a stronger social safety net, and overturning Roe and Griswold - but this would simply alienate the tea party while remaining unacceptable to almost all Democratic voters.

There might be scattered opportunities for the GOP, but I think this may be their high water mark, the first of a long sequence of bitter losses and painful memories, of choices between bad and worse.  But I have a very bad feeling about this: I think it ends in a televised battle on the California border between state police seeking to apprehend an attractive young physician on charges of capital abortion, and the California National Guard who are determined to save her. The old vineyard of the grapes of wrath is closer than we imagined, and the fruit hangs heavy on the vine.

More ahead.

Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In