Proper Names and Political Slurs: How Republicans Insult Democrats When They Talk About Working Together

By Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D.

I want to show people throughout the country that you can be conservative but also find common ground and survive in our party,” Graham said in an interview. “I think it’s important for the Democrat Party and the Republican Party to show their members that there is a time to find common ground, and if you are willing to embrace that, you won’t lose your job.” — Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), April 8, 2014

All too often I find myself listening to an earnest-sounding Republican Member of Congress, like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in the quote above, talking about their intentions to find common ground with the “Democrat Party.” To most people it sounds like a positive expression of the desire for cooperation, for working together as colleagues instead of as enemies. Yet each time I hear this kind of comment I am struck by their use of the phrase “Democrat Party” instead of the party’s proper name, the “Democratic Party.” How can anyone take these comments as sincere reaches across the aisle when they refer to the other party with a slur?

Let’s be clear, the name of the party, according to its charter, is the “Democratic Party.” That means the PROPER NAME of the party is NOT the “Democrat Party,” but the “Democratic Party.”

The use of the phrase “Democrat Party” by Republicans has a long history. It was coined in 1940 and reinvigorated by President George W. Bush quite deliberately to be a slur against the Democratic Party. It was originally coined because Republicans feared that the inclusion of the word democratic the name was too powerful a symbol for the GOP to compete with.

More recently, conservatives have embraced the phrase because they say, “Democrat Party is the grammatically correct term for the Democratic Party. The Party is not ‘democratic’, and proper nouns like ‘Democrat’ are not converted into adjectives by adding ‘ic’ as a suffix. It is not the ‘Republicanic Party,’ or the ‘Libertarianic Party’, or a ‘Smith-ic Wedding.’ (Conservapedia)

But this argument would only be applicable if the word “Democratic” in “Democratic Party” were an adjective. It is not, it is a proper name. Given this, the Conservapedia argument is completely irrelevant.

It is likely that many Members of the Republican Party (that is its proper name, so “republican” is not a descriptor of the party) use the phrase “Democrat Party” out of habit and possibly out of ignorance regarding its historical meaning. That should change.

The reality is that “Democrat Party” has always been an insult to the Democratic Party, by design and by usage.

When a Republican Member of Congress uses “Democrat Party” in comments about their desire to find common ground, the comment is internally hypocritical. Such comments are comparable to saying, “I truly want to find common ground with my jerk neighbor so we can live in peace and harmony.” The very statement is inflammatory.

So the next time you hear Republican Members of Congress talk about their desire for cooperation and bipartisanship, pay attention to what they call the party across the aisle. If they call it the “Democrat Party” you will know that their comments are not sincere. You will know that they are lying.