The “Democrat” Party and CMR

Dear Group,

Words matter. The Republican propaganda machine knows this and orchestrates its word usage. It behooves us to pay attention.

A familiar example is “Obamacare.” Republican wordmeisters offered the term as a naming replacement for The Affordable Care Act. “Obamacare” was taken up by mainstream media within days. The left initially saw the term as clever shorthand. Few realized the label had been extensively tested in focus groups and identified as a way to link a progressive health care program to a black President, a President the right wing propaganda machine worked to demean and denigrate in every way possible. 

Rush Limbaugh and Mitch McConnell always say “Democrat” Party. They never use the proper term, Democratic Party. Did you notice? You will now. It seems a subtle difference, but it has an insidious effect. 

From a 2006 article in the New Yorker entitled ‘The “Ic” Factor‘ (the bold is mine):

…among those of the Republican persuasion “Democrat Party” is now nearly universal. This is partly the work of Newt Gingrich, the nominal author of the notorious 1990 memo “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” and his Contract with America pollster, Frank Luntz, the Johnny Appleseed of such linguistic innovations as “death tax” for estate tax and “personal accounts” for Social Security privatization. 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.

From the same article:

There’s no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming. ‘Democrat Party’ is a slur, or intended to be—a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but ‘Democrat Party’ is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams ‘rat’.

“Democrat Party” as an epithet has been around since at least the early 20th century, but its use has spread into common Republican parlance pushed by Gingrich (The Man Who Broke Politics) and Luntz. William Safire (a less well known conservative/libertarian wordmeister) noted that “Democrat” rhymes with bureaucrat, technocrat, and plutocrat. 

Of course, “Democrat” Party has a much longer history than “Obamacare.” It has its origin in Republican resentment that the Democratic Party’s name seems to imply Democrats are the rightful defenders of democracy. “Democrat” Party clearly takes that away and adds a distasteful twist. 

McMorris Rodgers, who often talks on stage about the need for bipartisan cooperation, usually doesn’t utter “Democrat” Party when there might be a Democrat in earshot, but she adheres to Republican divisive messaging when she thinks she’s communicating with supporters. In a recent convoluted email she (or her staff) sent to supporters trying to explain her vote to disapprove of Trump’s national emergency declaration, she wrote:

Democrat policies have pushed for zero wall money, open borders, and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These policies make our nation vulnerable and threaten our security, and it’s a tragedy. So, I don’t blame President Trump from proposing extreme measures to respond to their extreme policies and tactics. 

So much for bipartisanship…. (The statement on her website conveniently and conspicuously omits this material.)

We need to take back the language. We need to pay attention, understand their intent, and call them on it.

Keep to the high ground,