It’s a subtle thing but for many of us Democrats, a jarring thing. Republicans no longer seem to be able to call my party the Democratic Party. It’s the “Democrat Party”.
From my Washington Post today I learned that Republicans first called us the “Democrat Party” in 1976. I don’t recall it but slowly over the years it has picked up momentum. Now it’s like you can get kicked out of the Republican Party for calling our party its true name. You will never hear the term on Fox News.
Why do Republicans do it? I have two principle theories. The first is that since they abhor Democrats, saying “Democrat Party” it is jarring, and thus preferred. So it’s sort of like swearing. As I noted some time back, the purpose of swearing is to draw undue attention and emphasis. Four letter words are not just four letters for no good reason. It keeps it short, sweet and memorable because it is just one syllable. Democratic is four syllables, and that doesn’t roll off the tongue well for simple minded folk like Republicans. It must offend them that there are still three syllables in Democrat. So far at least they haven’t figured out a way to shorten it some more. Sometimes Democrats are called “Dems”, but I don’t hear Republicans use this much and it doesn’t sound particularly mean. Perhaps it will come over time. If it does it will probably get bastardized. Democratic Party, Democrat Party, Dems, maybe the Damns will be last, as in “that Dem Party, nothin’ but a bunch of god damns.” (Just a warning to Republicans: damn is a verb, not a noun. Oh wait, they don’t care.)
My other theory is that Republicans don’t understand elementary grammar. “Party” of course is a noun (at least in this usage), so “democratic” when it is used with party is an adjective; it must modify a noun. We are a party of Democrats, so we are the Democratic Party. A republic is a form of government with representational government. A party that believes in representational government would obviously be the Republican Party, not the Republic Party. This suggests that Democrats at least stayed awake in English class, while Republicans slept through it. Actually, this would explain a lot.
If Republicans truly believe in representative government, they have a strange way of showing it. Lately voter suppression is all the rage in red states. It’s not general voter suppression they are interested in, just suppressing votes from those who might disagree with their philosophy. So they keep adding burdensome and nitpicky hurdles to keep people of color or young people from voting. Their general intent is so obvious that yesterday a federal appeals court rejected Texas’s redistricting plan. The gerrymandering was so extreme that Texans did not even try to hide it. Texas Governor Rick Perry was proud of his plan.
“Republican” is just a label, of course. Curiously it can be used as both a noun and an adjective. The same is not true of democrat. However, Republicans don’t believe in representative government unless voters vote Republican. With voter suppression laws under the guise of cracking down on nonexistent voter fraud, they at least have a pretext for these laws. Sometimes they are more explicit. Some Republicans want to repeal the 17th Amendment, which requires the people of a state to directly elect their senators. Previously they were appointed by state governments, typically by the legislature. The 17th Amendment did not occur through happenstance. One of the major reasons the 17th Amendment was adopted was because some state legislatures were corrupt. Senators tended to represent the interests of those who funded the campaigns of people who sought state offices, thus ensuring that even state issues were not represented in Congress. Some Republicans today want to go back to that system, as it is what the founding fathers envisioned. In other words, they would rather have special interests control the Senate than the people. This is hardly in the spirit of a republican government.
Democrats, on the other hand, strongly believe in the democratic principle, which is that we are all equal and we each have an equal right to vote. This wasn’t always the case. Democrats today are spiritually the Republicans of 1862, when Abraham Lincoln was elected. In the 19th century, Democrats represented the wealthy industrialists in the northeast and land owning southern whites. It took many decades for the switch to happen. It began with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt and likely ended in 1972 when George McGovern was nominated for president. Traditional southern Democrats realized that they were not Democrats and bolted for the Republican Party. Senator Zell Miller, an alleged Georgia Democrat, was probably the last one to leave. Miller gave a speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention sounding very much like the Republican he was. Today’s Democrats care very much about making sure that everyone who can vote can do so easily. It’s not that Democrats are not above a little gerrymandering too. Democrats in Maryland took their opportunity last year to make their state a little bluer, making some in the panhandle unhappy by combining their area with liberal Montgomery County. Unlike Texas, Maryland has no history of voter discrimination through gerrymandering.
Since Republicans seem intent to remain uncivil and call our party the Democrat Party, turnabout is fair play. I have been thinking of shortened versions of the Republican Party. We could simply call it the Republic Party, but that would suggest they actually believe in republican government, which clearly they do not. Since Republicans seem open to using any tactic, legal or illegal, to get their way, they remind me a lot of gangsters.
So I suggest Democrats brand them with a more appropriate moniker. Let’s call them the Rethuglican Party. At least it is accurate.