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.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    I won’t claim to be an authority on this matter but I remember hearing once that the official registered name of this party is the “Democrat Party”. Perhaps someone can do some research and answer this question definitively?

  2. LJD says:

    Oh the irony…

    The Democrat(ic) Party, that plays such a role in the PC “issues” in this country, is offended. Rich.

  3. Michael says:

    Oh the irony…

    The Democrat(ic) Party, that plays such a role in the PC “issues” in this country, is offended. Rich.

    I don’t quite see the irony there. Alanis Morissette strikes again…

  4. McGehee says:

    I’m remembering 1995 when the Democrats in Congress were having such a hard time giving up power to the Republicans despite the electorate’s demonstrated preference for the latter. Sam Gibbons even assaulted a colleague in a committee room, in front of TV cameras.

    These are people we’re supposed to call “democratic?”

    And I’m sure you’ll note that no such actions have taken place with the transition back to Democrat majority in 2007…

  5. Maggie says:

    When I was little, my Gran would tell me “Sticks & stones will break your bones, but names will never harm you.”

    When you let another person’s name for you cause you distress, you are giving that person power over you.

    If it was a deliberate slight by the President (which I wonder about, considering his mangling of many texts in the past), why would Democrats want to give him the power to use it again to annoy them?

    Let it go.

    Anyway, it doesn’t roll easily off the tongue which is, no doubt, why the added “ic” has become common usage.

  6. DL says:

    Sorry but my Dictionary.com identifies it (democratic) only as an adjective. A party by definition, must be a noun, so I will continual to refer to them as the Democrat Party – not as a put down -the proper name for such a gaggle of scoundrels needs no other putdown.

  7. James Joyner says:


    “Republican” is an adjective, too. It’s also, in this case, a proper noun.

  8. Pug says:

    Most people who use it have no intention to insult

    Not true.

    If it makes you feel better, in a silly, grade school kind of way, go ahead and use whatever name you like. However, if you can’t show others the basic respect of calling them by the name they prefer, then don’t expect any respect in return.

  9. legion says:

    Yes, it’s a deliberate slight. Yes, it’s a pointless, petty thing that Democrats ought to ignore. And from some other President, we probably would. But every time Bush “congratulates” the Dems, it underscores the fact that the man is virulently partisan, and has been since day one. Even before 9-11, he came in on a promise of bipartisanship, of being a ‘uniter, not a divider’ – remember that catchphrase? Well, it was a stone cold lie, and always has been. Every time he has made lip service about reaching across the aisle, it’s only been to pull a few key votes off in Congress, and then insult us some more. And every time he says ‘Democrat’, we remember.

    _That’s_ why it’s important to us.

  10. carpeicthus says:

    It’s simple: Anyone who uses the term “Democrat Party” sounds like an unbelievable asshole, including you. It’s like if Clinton used the term Rethuglican in official speech.

  11. carpeicthus says:

    Or me, too…I tend to ignore people who use Rethuglican or the like as the common term.

  12. ‘“Republican” is an adjective, too. It’s also, in this case, a proper noun.’

    Which is DL’s point, I believe. No one says, ‘I’m a Democratic.’

  13. James Joyner says:

    Pug and carpeicthus: Did you not read my post? I’m specifically saying using that formulation is rude and ill advised.

  14. Triumph says:

    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.

    We should start calling them the Red-Bellied, Terrorist-Loving, Anti-Troop, Raise-Taxes Party

  15. Bobbert says:

    He could claim it was just a “botched joke.” It happens.;p

  16. Gollum says:

    Carpeicthus: “Rethuglican” is a long way from “Democrat Party.” It’s not like Bush called them the Demoronoic Party, or the Dummocrats, for example, which would be a more appropriate comparison.

    That’s not to excuse Bush’s actions. It was a distasteful remark, particularly given the importance of the occasion.

  17. NoZe says:

    I noticed it as well…if Bush was indeed attempting to reach out to the Democratic majority in Congress, its pretty stupid to use a term that everyone agrees is designed to irritate Democrats.

    A shame, really…if Bush wants to accomplish anything the next couple of years he’s going to need to reach across the aisle.

    I think a simple solution is to begin referring to the Republicans as the “Republic Party.”

  18. anjin-san says:

    Bush is a rube, what else is new?

  19. Stormy70 says:

    He won’t have to reach out to the Dems, since all their legislation will get bottled up in the Senate. The minimum wage bill is dead on arrival without the tax cuts added that Bush and the Republicans want. 60 votes are hard to reach in the Senate. Anyone who thinks partisanship is bad, is just pissed things aren’t going their way.

  20. just me says:

    sorry but I mostly think this is mountains out of molehills.

  21. floyd says:

    Pug; after at least 30 years of bearing the brunt of Democrat disrespect, the American people SHOULDN’T expect any respect from this party of the deranged.
    So what is the official name of this party which abandoned working people thirty years ago. is that when they became “Democraticans”?