A Party By Any Other Name

Posted Sept. 03, 2008, at 9:01 p.m.

It’s the kind of decision that hardly seems like news: The Republican Party, in setting its platform last week, decided to call its opposition by its proper name, the Democratic Party. It is news, and good news at that, because the GOP for more than a decade has referred to the Democrat Party, Democrat tax increases and Democrat Congresses, no matter what grammar or the Democratic Party said.

This doesn’t mean candidates will focus on issues or that attack ads will stop, but it ends an era of unnecessary foolishness.

In 1996, the GOP replaced the Democratic Party with Democrat Party in its platform. The intent, party officials said, was to show that the opposing party no longer held to democratic ideals.

When the matter came up this year, it was finally voted down. “We probably should use what the actual name is. At least in writing,” the platform committee chairman, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, said in a less than ringing endorsement for common sense and common decency.

Another committee member, Jim Bopp of Indiana, took it a necessary step further, at least in terms of manners. “We should afford them the respect that they are entitled and call them by their legal name,” he said.

“There’s no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming,” Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in the Aug. 7, 2006 New Yorker. “’Democrat Party’ is a slur, or intended to be — a handy way to express contempt.”

He continued, “‘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.”

Adding to the annoyance, GOP officials often feigned ignorance when told they weren’t calling the Democratic Party by its proper name. Calling it the Democrat Party, they vainly argued, was meant to show that one party (not theirs) was not more democratic than the other. One Maine GOP official went so far to argue that the members of the other party aren’t “democratics” but “democrats.” Therefore, an event or party that they participated in would be a democrat event or democrat party.

This tortured logic could have been solved with a refresher course on nouns and adjectives, or better yet by simply looking at the dictionary, since checking the Democratic Party web site wouldn’t count as independent verification.

We no doubt have not heard the last about the Democrat Party, but now when someone utters that intentionally butchered name, a proper response would be that the GOP doesn’t condone that kind of language.

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