01.31.2010 0

Whats In a Name and Why It Matters

  • On: 02/16/2010 09:27:03
  • In: Elections
  • by David Bozeman

    After a recent editorial, a county Republican chairperson questioned my use of the word ‘Democratic’ as in ‘Democratic Party,’ noting that she had seen and heard ‘Democrat’ Party about as often. Which one, she wondered, was correct.

    When writing the piece, I was aware that our liberal friends hate the term ‘Democrat Party,’ but I chose, if not political correctness, then politeness over an unnecessary swipe. Google and most dictionaries agree, citing as one of the two major American political parties the Democratic Party. Rush Limbaugh is probably the most famous offender for leaving off the ‘ic,’ and some can cite instances of President Bush 43 and Bob Dole, but its usage dates back to at least the Harding Administration.

    Presumably, the word ‘Democrat’ minus the ‘ic’ strips its name of one of the most revered concepts in western civilization. While the U.S. is not strictly a democracy but rather a Constitutional republic, we do adhere to principles that we define as democratic. Take away the ‘ic’ and it’s not about power to the people but just the party of big government.

    A column in The New Yorker in August ‘06 entitled ‘The Ic Factor’ by Hendrik Hertzberg calls it a slur, saying “it fairly screams ‘rat.’ “ But the problem is the versatility of their own name. Party members are Democrats, but they belong to the Democratic Party. By contrast, ‘Republican’ serves well as an adjective or a noun — a Republican is a member of the Republican Party. Same with Libertarians.

    According to Hertzberg, none other than William F. Buckley opposed usage of ‘Democrat Party,’ because politics should stay out of the language, and he noted that Joe McCarthy used it. I’m not bold enough to take on William F. Buckley, and I’m not sure of the time and context of his remarks, but I will venture that using an anti-McCarthy reference to bolster your argument tends to strike of intellectual laziness.

    And if politics is supposed to stay out of our language, someone forgot to tell the liberals. Don’t gut-level reactions usually define ‘extremists’ as conservatives? Aren’t ‘idealists’ usually liberals who forsake personal fortune to join the Peace Corps and fight for social justice? ‘Stolen election’ is usually thrown around every time a Republican wins by a razor-thin margin.

    Liberals show no qualms in blaming our economic woes on the excesses of ‘capitalism,’ fully aware that government manipulation of the housing market played a big part in where we are today. And let us not forget that members of the Tea Party movement have been derisively referred to as ‘tea baggers,’ which, of course, carries a sexual connotation. Some inadvertently say the latter when they mean the former.

    Liberals just tend to be more agile with the language, not because they are smarter than conservatives but because they trade more in nuance and ambiguity. Conservatives tend to be more absolutist. William F. Buckley’s reverence for the language is inspiring. Used wisely, it conveys beauty and power.

    But language, because it is so pliable, is also fun. How many of us haven’t made up new words or variations on existing ones? It is thus fair game to use the language in political warfare, within reason, of course. Limbaugh also uses ’strategery’ a lot, reminding listeners of Bush 43’s famous faux pas.

    Another talk show host, Michael Savage, has referred to his home city as ‘San Fran-psycho.’ To borrow a sports analogy, for conservatives, saying ‘Democrat Party’ is like snapping a towel at the obnoxious team-mate in the locker room who takes himself too seriously. The language will survive as long as both sides protect their most cherished precepts (the right should get to work on defining capitalism).

    Politeness is always in order, so we won’t even mention that while ‘Democrat’ ends with ‘rat,’ ‘Republican’ ends with ‘I can.’

    David Bozeman, former North Carolina Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

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