Can and Should the
Strike Back?

An Opinion by

Gene Hargrove


The Democratic Party is one of the oldest political organizations in the world. It has its beginnings in the first days of the United States under its Constitution (1792-1800). Originally known as the Democratic-Republican Party, it held its first national convention in 1832 and renamed itself the Democratic Party in 1840, making the name Republican Party available to any new party that might happen to come along.

In contrast, the Republican Party, which falsely calls itself the Grand Old Party, only goes back to 1854 when a group of abolitionist Free Soilers (correct name), disaffected Democrats, and Whigs upset about the Kansas-Nebraska Act decided to claim that they were the true descendants of the Democratic-Republican Party, even though they knew that that party still existed and had existed continuously from the time that it had discarded the word Republican.

Throughout nearly all of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was universally accepted that Democrat was a noun referring to the members of a party and that Democratic was an adjective referring to things having to do with Democrats, the members of the Democratic Party. Even the members of the Republican Party respected the name Democratic Party for much more than a hundred years.

Near the end of the twentieth century, however, some members of the Republican Party began acting as if they had forgoten how to pronounce the name of the Democratic Party and started calling it the "Democrat Party."

Since the first person to use the phrase was John Connolly, who had for most of his life been a Democrat, it was not a simple matter of forgetting or getting confused about grammar, about the relationship of nouns and adjectives. Apparently, the Republicans wanted to try to disassociate the word democratic from the name of the party of their chief opponents, perhaps having realized that democratic was a more powerful word than republican. Most likely no one will ever know exactly what was going on in their heads. Nevertheless, the basic idea of taking the "ic" off of Democratic and using a noun as an adjective is clear--they were trying to be insulting.

It is a sad commentary on the ways of humans that people can get used to errors and malpractice and that the misuse and abuse of language can become the norm. Today most Republicans, many members of the news media, and even a few Democrats say Democrat Party as if they really believe it is the name of that political organization.

To avoid this tragedy, not to mention the impending collapse of the English language, it seems to me that the Democrats ought to strike back. Obviously the current lack of response has been making the situation worse. While the words "Democrat Party" ought to make the speaker look like an idiot, things have gotten so bad that sometimes such a speaker appears to be making a clever remark. To others it seems to be ordinary and factual, as if it really is the name of a political party.

The proper form of retaliation is a difficult matter. Just what would constitute a proper, managed, and measured response?

Clearly one could simply go from the adjective to the noun, from Republican to Republic, removing the "an." Unfortunately, however, there is no corresponding insult. Republic Party sounds a little strange but no more than Republic Pictures does.

Republi Party and Republ Party are promising but there are problems. Republi just doesn't sound bad. Crat rhymes with brat, rat, and splat. Republi simply rhymes with bubbly. Republ looks too Eastern European, although it does rhyme with rubble. Basically, it is too hard to remember, and so likely wouldn't catch on.

Repub Party, therefore, seems the best of the lot. It has a nice, unpleasant ring to it. It rhymes with glub. Best yet, the re- suggests a boring redundancy. "There go the Repubs again!"

Of course, members of the Repub Party could object that the removal of so much of the word is excessive - lican versus ic. My response is that anything less just doesn't do the job. Besides it will do little harm. Even if the Democrats do take the -lican, the Repub Party will keep on tickin'. Hopefully, the Repubs will simply learn their lesson, apologize, and agree to put the -ic back on Democrat.


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