David Von Drehle is a regular opinion writer for the Washington Post. In this column, he describes the lack of ideas in the Republican Party. Their only goal is power. They didn’t even bother to write a party platform. Whatever Trump wants, that’s what they want. No discussion, no debate, no dissent. Their goals in capturing six seats on the Supreme Court are negative: to roll back abortion. To roll back Obamacare. To roll back any gains for civil rights. To roll back the New Deal.

Drehle writes:

“The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run,” declared the self-destructive Captain Ahab, concerning his pursuit of Moby Dick. The elusive white whale of Republican politics is abortion rights. For nearly 50 years, over oceans of campaign speeches and seas of television ads, GOP candidates have promised to fill the Supreme Court with enough harpooners to slay the beast.

With the chance to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneer of women’s rights, mere weeks before a presidential election, the Republican Ahabs are lowering boats and putting their backs into one more try. Four years ago, they used their Senate majority to preserve a 5-to-4 conservative advantage on the court by blocking President Barack Obama’s pick in the final year of his second term. Now they spy the chance to grab a 6-to-3 margin.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) might want to flip ahead to the final chapters to see how this story ends. Or I could just tell him: Ahab is last seen being dragged by the whale into the fatal briny.

One of three things could come of this. Cooler heads might prevail — but what’s the chance of that these days? The other two alternatives both bristle with disaster for the GOP.

The GOP might actually spear its whale, by creating a majority of justices willing to undo the reproductive autonomy that has been affirmed and reaffirmed in earlier court opinions. The number of new supporters this would win for the Republican Party is approximately zero. They already have, as their rock-solid base, all the voters who genuinely believe that human life begins at conception — not as a scientific proposition (obviously true), but as a moral law. That the single zygote cell formed when a microscopic sperm cell fertilizes an ovum is as much a person as you and me.

As a former zygote myself, I understand the principle. I also understand that an entity composed of many trillions of cells is relevant to these matters. “Overturning Roe v. Wade,” as the campaign shorthand goes, would compromise the rights of every woman with a zygote in her body. By the same life-at-conception logic, a number of contraceptive methods could potentially be banned, including IUDs and the so-called morning-after pill. Never in U.S. history has there been a comparable rollback of officially recognized rights.

While gaining zero voters, the GOP stands to lose millions of them. Generations of women — and the men who love them — have factored reproductive freedoms into their world views. A qualified right to abortion is recognized even in Italy, home to the antiabortion Roman Catholic church. Among those who would lose autonomy are many women, and their men, who have loyally voted Republican year after year while quietly depending on these rights. Democrats aren’t the only ones who experience unwanted pregnancies.

The third alternative fits the cynical spirit of McConnell’s power play. Elected Republicans could grab the seat to the delight of their antiabortion base, while quietly counting on the justices not to do anything radically unpopular. A fact you won’t find in Republican campaign ads is that all federal protections of abortion rights are the products of Republican-dominated courts. The last time the Supreme Court had a majority appointed by Democratic presidents was 1969.

When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, six of the court’s nine justices were appointed by Republican presidents. Five of the six were in favor. In 1992, the court explicitly reconsidered whether a qualified right to abortion exists. By then, eight of the nine justices were Republican appointees.

How did the GOP keep its grip on the abortion issue despite this history? By denouncing those justices as the wrong kind of Republicans and pledging to find more reliable ones. Over time, the party has replaced the supposedly squishy justices with rock-ribbed conservatives approved by Federalist Society gatekeepers. If six such stalwarts should fail to deliver the long-promised repeal, it will be obvious that abortion rights are here to stay and Republican rhetoric to the contrary is baloney.

The GOP cupboard would then be entirely bare. The party of fiscal discipline has become the party of trillion-dollar deficits. The party of free trade has become the party of Trump tariffs. The party of limited government has become the party of executive orders. The party of Reagan has become the party of resentment. When the hollowness of its antiabortion rhetoric is confirmed, the Republican Party will stand for nothing, on a platform they don’t even bother to write.

There’s an old saying: When you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. A suitable epitaph for the party of McConnell in the age of Trump.