I mentioned that I was proud that New Jersey’s Democratic Governor Jon Corzine signed in to law a clean campaign bill earlier this year. A Rotarian, who I found out later was Republican, piped up in the group that “there is no Democratic Party. They are the ‘Democrat Party’. They are not and never been ‘democratic’. That name is just an attempt by them to tell the world that they are democratic, when they’re not.”
Now, this statement was so shockingly stupid on so many levels, I just didn’t know where to begin.
“The name is the Democratic Party. I am a Democrat, and the Party is the Democratic Party”, I tried to assure him. That, it is the DEMOCRATIC Party itself that should certainly be able to decide upon their name, not some Republican from Linden, New Jersey. He was unmoved.
However, it did give me pause for thought about the issue. I have heard for years in Hunterdon County, Republican elected officials refer to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party”. I always wondered where that came from, and how they always seemed to me like snickering adolescent school kids, chanting “I know you are, but what am I”, over and over again to be as annoying possible .
Bush uses the phrase lots of times, using the noun-as-adjective, Democrat Party instead of Democratic Party. He used it the State of the Union address several times. But then again, he is just plain stupid. Other Republicans, not as stupid, use it too. If a Republican knows your name, but gets it wrong anyway --- it either comes out of Republican stupidity or passive-aggressive behavior or both.
The Republican use of noun-as-adjective ‘Democrat’ has its history. New Yorker commentator Hendrik Hertzberg wrote:
"There’s no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming. 'Democrat Party' is a slur, or intended to be - a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but 'Democrat Party' is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams 'rat.'”
In 1947, Republican leader Senator Robert A. Taft said,
From the New Yorker article:"Nor can we expect any other policy from any Democrat Party or any Democrat President under present day conditions. They can not possibly win an election solely through the support of the solid South, and yet their political strategists believe the Southern Democrat Party will not break away no matter how radical the allies imposed upon it." President Dwight D. Eisenhower used the term in his acceptance speech in 1952 and in partisan speeches to Republican groups. Ruth Walker notes how Joseph McCarthy repeatedly used the phrase "the Democrat Party," and critics argue that if McCarthy used the term in the 1950s, then no one else should do so.
“…the use of " 'Democrat Party' is now nearly universal" thanks to "Newt Gingrich, the nominal author of the notorious 1990 memo 'Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,' and his Contract with America pollster, Frank Luntz." While Hertzberg noted that Luntz "road-tested the adjectival use of 'Democrat' with a focus group in 2001" and "concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherents of the ... Democratic Party," he also wrote that Luntz had told him recently that "[t]hose two letters ['ic'] actually do matter," and that Luntz "recently finished writing a book ... entitled 'Words That Work.' "And now they have trained the media to use the term, too.