Now that Donald Trump has officially nominated Amy Coney Barrett for the U.S. Supreme Court, Democrats have limited options. There is no procedural mechanism, for example, that the Senate minority can use to derail the process.
But Democrats nevertheless believe there's a political strategy available that may pay dividends.
Democrats rapidly coalesced Saturday evening, with unusual message discipline, around an issue that could milk that political advantage: Obamacare. It blends pocketbook concerns with life-and-death fears and carries urgency with a Trump-backed lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the law and faces a hearing at the Supreme Court one week after Election Day.
"Any vote to confirm this justice is a vote to eliminate health care for millions of Americans in the middle of a pandemic," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a member of the Democratic leadership team, told NBC News.
As political strategies go, the Democrats' message makes a lot of sense. The Affordable Care Act's popularity continues to reach new heights; the health care system is at risk of being destroyed by Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices; and Barrett has been quite forthcoming in her opposition to the ACA.
Oh, and did I mention that the United States is in the midst of a deadly pandemic, making it an awful time to strip tens of millions of American families of their health security and benefits for no reason?
The New York Times ran a related report, noting the degree to which health care advocates are connecting the fight over the Supreme Court vacancy to the future of the Affordable Care Act.
Liberal advocacy groups are using the prospect to whip up new advertisements declaring that President Trump "wants to rush a justice onto the court who will repeal our health care," as one says. Democrats in Congress have sprung into action with news conferences and pep talks to campaign volunteers featuring people with pre-existing medical conditions who were able to get coverage because of the law. The Biden campaign, too, made clear upon Justice Ginsburg's death that it would frame the court fight largely as one about health care.
But here's the funny part: as Democrats, progressive activists, and other health care advocates make the case that Trump is trying to tear down the nation's health care system with his Supreme Court pick, the president has decided to play along and tell the public his opponents are correct.
Yesterday morning, for example, the Republican published a tweet that said it'd be "a big win" for the country if the Supreme Court "terminates" the Affordable Care Act.
Hours later, the president appeared in the White House press briefing room, where he declared that he believes the popular health care reform law is "terrible," adding that he's "essentially gotten rid of" it.
In other words, the president has decided to mindlessly endorse the Democrats' election-year framing, effectively telling voters that everything his opponents are saying is true.
It's a curious strategy, which I suspect Trump came up with all on his own.