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Democrat Party

The term “Democrat Party” is often employed by Republican critics as a slight against the Democratic Party.

The proper name is the Democratic Party, and the use of “Democrat Party” is considered pejorative by many, intended to emphasize the “rat” syllable and to imply that the party is not truly “democratic” in nature.

As Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in The New Yorker:

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.”

While it’s a controversial term fraught with partisan undertones, it does serve as a linguistic indicator of the speaker’s political leanings.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz tested the phrase with a focus group and found that the only people who really disliked the epithet were highly partisan Democrats.

More on “Democrat party”

A GOP distortion of the Democratic Party’s name meant to belittle it. The way members of the Democratic Party see it, the phrase is meant to imply that they are less than fully “democratic.”

Republicans, in this view, use the “Democrat” term to imply “they are the only true adherents of democracy.”

The phrase was part of Joe McCarthy’s rhetorical arsenal in the 1950s; Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote in 2006 that Republicans likely continue to employ the term because Democrats dislike it. This Republican pejorative has become such an ingrained part of political discourse that GOP politicians often use it inadvertently, even when they’re trying to be respectful.

In President George W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union Address, delivered shortly after his opposition swept the 2006 midterm campaigns, Bush spoke of the new “Democrat majority.” The advance copy that was given to members of Congress read “Democratic majority.”

When National Public Radio’s Juan Williams later told Bush that the phrase was like “fingernails on a blackboard” to Democrats, the president responded with a form of the “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” apology: “Look, I went into the hall saying we can work together, and I was very sincere about it. I didn’t even know I did it. And if I did, I didn’t mean to put fingernails on the board.”

Since then, the issue has occasionally come to a head among lawmakers of opposite parties. In 2009, after Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) repeatedly used the phrase “Democrat Party” when questioning Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag, Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) intoned, “I’d like to begin by saying to my colleague from Texas that there isn’t a single member on this side of the aisle that belongs to the ‘Democrat Party.’ We belong to the Democratic Party. So the party you were referring to doesn’t even exist. And I would just appreciate the courtesy when you’re referring to our party, if you’re referring to the Democratic Party, to refer to it as such.”

For what it’s worth, Thailand actually has a “Democrat Party.” It’s taken plenty of criticism for its “Yellow Shirt” supporters who contributed to the country’s political strife in 2013.

From Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes © 2014 Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.

Use “Democrat party” in a sentence

  • The Republican strategist accused the Democrat Party of pushing a socialist agenda, deliberately using the term to signal disdain.
  • In a bid to rally his base, the senator referred to the “failures of the Democrat Party” during his speech, knowing that the phrasing would resonate with his audience.
  • While discussing the latest policy proposal, the pundit claimed it was a classic example of Democrat Party overreach, using the term to cast the party as out of touch with mainstream America.