Bush Reaches Out to ‘Democrat Party,’ Offending Them
Yochi Dreazen notes that President Bush took a backhanded slap at the Democrats last night while appearing to reach out to them:
In the prepared text of the speech, sent out by the White House some 40 minutes before Bush ascended the House rostrum, the president was to say, “Some in this Chamber are new to the House and Senate — and I congratulate the Democratic majority.” When Bush delivered the line, however, he paid tribute to the “Democrat majority.”
Dropping the “ic” from the word “Democratic” may seem insignificant, but it was almost certainly a deliberate move by Bush, who has used the phrase “the Democrat Party” for months as a way of needling his opponents.
Dreazen contends that this convention was “a particular favorite of former Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy” that “lay largely dormant for years, however, until President Bush resuscitated it during last fall’s midterm election season.” That’s hardly the case; Newt Gingrich and others have used the term for years. Indeed, it is probably the predominant way Republicans refer to the opposition party in public.
The rationale is obvious enough. “The Democratic Party” makes it sound like they’re the ones who represent the will of the people whereas “The Republican Party” has no independent connotation in the minds of most people.
It wasn’t always thus. Once upon a time, “democratic” was a suspicious label, having the stigma of mob rule. “Republican” had the positive association of being free from the rule of a monarch and, later, of limited, representative government. Indeed, the party Jefferson and Madison founded was the “Democratic-Republican Party” and their leaders typically shortened it to “Republican Party.” As time passed, however, the people demanded more direct influence in their government, resulting in quasi-direct election of the president and, eventually, of the Senate. Under Andrew Jackson, the Democrat-Republicans became the “Democrats” to reflect this change.
Referring to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party” is a ham-handed way to deprive them of the positive connotation that comes with the name. Most people who use it have no intention to insult, although it’s probably true that Bush and others enjoy the fact that the Democrats find it irritating.
Still, calling people and groups by something other than their self-identified name is rude. At the very least, it makes it harder to have a harmonious relationship. It’s time to retire the “Democrat Party” shtick.