We all remember those times on the playground when kids’ names would be twisted into teasing word play. Private parts and mental health were common themes, as I recall. Woe be unto the unfortunate child born with a name like “Seymour Butz.”
During childhood, the motives behind the name-oriented word play varied from benign to bullying. But whatever the motive, it was rarely welcomed by the recipient, and was, above all else, childish.
So surely adults have left all that infantile behavior behind, right?
Well, take a look at recent blog posts on leading Minnesota conservative blog aggregator “True North:”
- Bill Blahn refers to “the new Democrat majority.”
- Matt Abe complains about “constant attacks from the Democrat Party.”
- Nancy LaRoche speaks of “hypocrisy in the Democrat party.”
- Mitch Berg suggests : “the best thing the Democrat Party can do is bar its members from being on Twitter unless they pass an intelligence and literacy test.”
- Jeff Kolb writes of “contemporaries in the Democrat Party.”
- Former GOP gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer and Bob Davis refer to “the leadership of the Democrat party.”
Notice a trend? You’ll find the same trend coming from conservative talk radio guru Rush Limbaugh, former Minnesota GOP Chair Tony Sutton, GOP House Speaker John Boehner and other issuers of Republican talking points.
This practiced use of the epithet “Democrat Party” isn’t correct, and it usually isn’t a mistake. Instead, this is a remarkably jejune name game that adult Republicans have been playing for decades. Type the words “Democrat Party” into Google, and you will get 3.4 million hits to peruse, and many of them are Republicans intentionally misusing the name of the “DemocratIC Party.”
The motive behind this language misuse? It is no different from the motive of the name-oriented word play on the playground, and it is no less childish.
I’ll leave it to grammarians and editors to debate whether, in this particular usage, the D-word in front of “Party” should be a noun or an adjective. I’m not the least bit interested in that debate, because the only thing that really matters is what the owners of the name prefer to call themselves. The members of the Democratic Party have made it abundantly clear that they chooses to call themselves the Democratic Party, so that is what mature adults should call them. (See Golden Rule.)
Think I’m overreacting ? What would Minnesotans think if Governor Dayton started calling the Republican Party the “Republic Party,” long after Republicans had repeatedly pointed out the actual name of their party? What if President Obama referred to the “Republic Party” in a solemn State of the Union Address, as George W. Bush did when he said “Democrat Party” in his 2007 address? Wouldn’t that seem more than a little puerile?
At a time when the national Republicans are taking stock of the things that are sullying their “brand” with moderate voters who are tired of infantile political game-playing, I’d suggest they do some soul-searching about this silly little party custom.
There are a lot of things that are curious about this “Democrat Party” usage, not the least of which is that it’s not a particularly clever insult. In fact, I have never been entirely sure what was even meant by it. Perhaps Republicans wish to point out that the Democratic Party is not the embodiment of “democracy,” because “democracy” is a popular notion?
New Yorker commentator Hendrik Hertzberg observed “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.’”
At the end of the day, I don’t even think a lot of Republicans know why they are habitually dropping the “-ic,” other than they know that it annoys their foes. In other words, the dropping of the “ic” is motivated by the same thing that motivated the name game insults when we were churlish children on the playground.
Note: This post was also featured as a “best of the best” in MinnPost’s Blog Cabin.