Monday, January 29, 2007
if you're a wizard, why do you wear glasses:
Can someone explain to me why the term "Democrat Party" is a slur? I recognize that it sounds grating, and agree that it's probably intended to be demeaning. But... why should it be? Help.
--Spencer Ackerman
Agree, I have wondered this since the beginning. I suppose it is a subtle way of implying that the Democratic party isn't democratic, so they use the noun form instead of the adjective. Seems silly to me, but what do I know?
Blogger DP | 1:06 PM

The idea in the 1930s was that the Democrats were allied with the big-city political machines which were purportedly undemocratic. Later Sen. McCarthy used it to imply that Democrats were opposed to democracy by reason of a secret alliance with totalitarian Communism. Its usage now is vestigial; it's essentially code to remind the Republican base that we all are supposed to hate the treasonous Democrat Party.

(Similarly, for a long time after the 1930s, Republicans used to "slip" and pronounce FDR's last name "Rosenfeld" as a nod to the America First-wing of the party. That particular epithet seems to have gone by the boards, however.)
Blogger alkali | 1:17 PM

Fairly interesting piece from The New Yorker about this issue

or if that doesn't work here's the naked URL

"Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but “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."


"Luntz, who road-tested the adjectival use of “Democrat” with a focus group in 2001, has concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherents of the—how you say?—Democratic Party. “Those two letters actually do matter,” Luntz said the other day. He added that he recently finished writing a book—it’s entitled “Words That Work”—and has been diligently going through the galley proofs taking out the hundreds of “ic”s that his copy editor, one of those partisan Dems, had stuck in."

Whole the read thing.
Blogger riffle | 1:19 PM

oh man, it makes my skin crawl. it's always said glibly and with contempt. It makes me wanna punch the motherfucker saying it. fucking bush at the sotu saying it was a new low. that guy is too stupid to even know he's an asshole. I hate that shit. Fucking say my name.
Blogger Chris M. | 1:36 PM

Partially, what's already been said.

But also, say that your name was Mike, or Michael, and you hated being called Mikey, and you told anyone who called you Mikey to not call you Mikey, and this one group of assholes kept calling you Mikey.

(Also, it's grating that its soooo banally stupid, but those who use it find it to be the height of wit.)
Blogger Pooh | 7:46 PM

Similar to what pooh said, let's everyone call the author of this blog "Spence" incessantly, and see if he figures it out.

Know what I mean, Spence?
Blogger Swopa | 8:42 PM

Umm, Spence, Pooh has it right.
Blogger dell | 9:59 PM

The parallel that alwyas leapt to my mind was using "Jew" as an adjective instead of "Jewish." For example, "That Jew lawyer."

I have heard conservatives say they use it as some sort of criticism of (undemocratic, natch) judicial activism.
Blogger Trevor | 6:07 AM

My two cents.
Blogger Steve M. | 12:44 PM

The answer to your question is that it's a slur because the people who use it that way intend it as a slur.

From the Los Angeles Times:

"It's a long-standing intentional partisan political slight," said Daniel Weiss, chief of staff to Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez). "It's kind of like flashing colors in a gang. It's code. It says, 'I'm one of you, I'm a right-wing conservative.' "

And experts on political locution say it's a deliberate, if ungrammatical, linguistic strategy.

"The word 'democratic' has such positive emotional valence … so they politicize it to use it as a term to describe a group of political rivals," said Roderick P. Hart, a professor of communications and government at the University of Texas in Austin.

Even such an intellectual lightweight as Rush Limbaugh acknowledges that he uses the word "Democrat" as an adjective to deny Democrats the positive connotation of the word "democratic." It's an insult because they are trying to insult us.
Blogger UncommonSense | 2:24 PM

i have no idea if this is true, but it seems to me like saying 'democrat' has a subliminal effect as well as an overtly grating effect, since the last syllable is RAT, famously used in a bush ad from 2000. actually, then it was RATS.
Blogger Marc | 6:34 PM