Monday, August 07, 2006

Dirty DemocRats!

In the latest New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg takes issue with one of the stranger irritants of partisan sniping -- the insistence by some Republicans that the proper adjective is Democrat, not Democratic:

"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 a slightly higher level of sophistication, it’s an attempt to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation. During the Cold War, many people bridled at obvious misnomers like 'German Democratic Republic,' and perhaps there are some members of the Republican Party (which, come to think of it, has been drifting toward monarchism of late) who genuinely regard the Democratic Party as undemocratic. Perhaps there are some who hope to induce it to go out of existence by refusing to call it by its name, à la terming Israel 'the Zionist entity.' And no doubt there are plenty of others who say 'Democrat Party' just to needle the other side while signalling solidarity with their own—the partisan equivalent of flashing a gang sign."

Hertzberg's observations would be absurd if he didn't also happen to be very accurate. Pay even glancing attention to the output of the Republican PR machine and you'll find examples aplenty of this tortured linguistic oddity. Typically, however, the wordplay -- if it can really be called that -- has been limited to the hardcore partisan GOPers.

Leave it to the uniter in the White House to join the fun. Hertzberg writes:

“'It’s time for the leadership in the Democrat Party to start laying out ideas,' [President Bush] said a few weeks ago, using his own personal mouth. 'The Democrat Party showed its true colors during the tax debate,' he said a few months before that. 'Nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for actually getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program,' he said a week before that. What he meant is anybody’s guess, but his bad manners were impossible to miss. Hard as it is to believe from this distance in time, George W. Bush came to office promising to 'change the tone.' That he has certainly done. But, as with so much else, it hasn’t worked out quite the way he promised."

Just another indication that, even in the wake of 9-11 and a war of choice in Iraq, our current presidential administration is the most partisan in recent history.


At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's just astounding to me sometimes how thin-skinned Democrats are. First there's a new speech code edict that insists we must henceforth refer to liberals as "progressives." Now "Democrat Party" is a partisan comment. Maybe if the DNC weren't so obsessed with the brand name, more Americans might actually embrace the product.

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Chase McInerney said...

Now, now, Reddirt - Isn't that kind of the reason that Repugs do it? To elicit a reaction?

I don't think it's so much a matter of being thin-skinned as just worn out by how tiring and childish the tactic is. It would be similar to an edict from Democratic - er Democrat - politicos to only refer to Republicans as Repugs or Rethuglicans.

Or would that be acceptable? Is this Romper Room Politics?

At 10:58 PM, Blogger Cassandra D said...

I have to second Chase here,RedDirt. Hearing "Democrat" as an adjective issue forth from someone's mouth says a lot to me about the speaker. Childish, petty, mean-spirited, disrespectful, insecure, etc. It is both transparent and tiring.

At 1:56 AM, Blogger Larry Mondello said...

Which reminds me of my favorite song, Battle Hymn of the Republican


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