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Many Democrats hope the massive demonstrations against Donald Trump will evolve into a Democratic tea party. Sloppy rollouts of incoherent policy dressed in malevolence can rile people up. But Democrats must first understand what made the tea party powerful. Its great success came not from the members’ anger, but from the ability to turn that anger into a show of force on Election Day.

Tea party people vote. They vote in midterm congressional elections. They vote for state reps and for mayors and for judges. They show up.

Democratic constituencies famously disappear in off-presidential years. That said, the party did take control of Congress in the 2006 midterms. To get there in 2018, though, it must first replace the party’s somnolent leadership.

Given the Democrats’ generally dismal performance in the recent congressional races, it was surprising how easily Nancy Pelosi retained her post as House minority leader. She had a competent challenger in Tim Ryan, who was just re-elected in an industrial Ohio district that Trump handily won.

For evidence of the national party’s failure, look no further than Texas’ 7th Congressional District. Hillary Clinton won the 7th, which covers wealthy parts of Houston and its suburbs and has been trending Democratic. But the Democratic candidate for Congress, James Cargas, lost after receiving virtually no support from national Democrats.

Cargas had only $62,000 to spend on his campaign against incumbent John Culberson’s $1.9 million. He still managed to pull in 44 percent of the vote. Imagine if the national party had actually tried.

Some state Democratic organizations have all but flatlined.

In the pivotal state of Wisconsin, the party “couldn’t be bothered to recruit a candidate to take on conservative state Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler,” writes editorial page editor David D. Haynes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. And in one of the state’s most Democratic counties, it failed to find people to challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s circuit court appointees.

Though Democrats’ gloom may lighten at panoramic shots of throngs protesting Trump’s latest outrage, the party must recognize that crowds, in and of themselves, don’t necessarily translate into votes. Trump had crowds but lost the popular count to Clinton by millions of votes — and so, for that matter, did Bernie Sanders.

If these marches lead to grass-roots organizing, that could be a swell thing for Democrats. But as mere spectacle, protests can grow old. They attract vendors of narrow ethnic, gender, and other identity interests uninterested in big-tent politics. They occasionally provide a stage for anti-social behavior. And they inconvenience motorists, businesses, and locals in their path.

The good news for Democrats is that they have new blood clamoring to run for office. Interest is especially high in the 22 districts that voted for Clinton but elected Republicans to Congress. Many are in former Republican Sun Belt strongholds in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and Southern California.

With the public growing increasingly restive over Trump’s disruptive antics, it’s possible that Republicans will fix the Trump problem themselves. It is not the mission here to discuss what Republicans could do about Trump, but there are various tools at their disposal.

So it’s early for Democrats to count on Republicans’ letting Trump continue his reckless joy ride to a disastrous conclusion. For the good of the country, none of us should want that ending.

But whether the politics are normal or abnormal, it’s a truism that you can’t win it if you’re not in it. In too many places, Democrats are perilously close to becoming a PINO, party in name only. Opportunity knocks, but you can’t open the door if you don’t get out of bed.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. 

IMAGE: Activists march to protest against President Donald Trump’s travel ban in Portland, Oregon, U.S. January 30, 2017.  REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.