One of the rudest things that people do is call other people by names they don’t like. In general, this is the kind of thing one generally only sees on grammar school yards. But there is one other area where it is common and the maturity level is similar. Conservatives love to call the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party.” It’s nothing but a childish stunt that I think they believe makes them look cool. There is no doubt that the use of the phrase is a signifier, very much like mispronouncing the word “nuclear.” But it is more than just that.
To me, it speaks volumes about what the modern Republican Party is all about. It doesn’t much believe in anything except that its constituencies should be kept relatively happy and that Democrats are doody heads. So coming from some idiotic Representative like Louie Gohmert is just par for the course. I really don’t care. The Republican Party is run by a bunch of extremists with the maturity of a first grader. There are bigger problems than their linguistic tics.
The problem is that even the supposedly respectable aspects of the conservative movement behave the same way. Ed Kilgore linked to an article at Heritage Action. It says, “According to some reports, the Senate will reveal its plan this morning, and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated he will take up the Senate plan and allow it to pass with Democrat votes.” In that context—in print—it really comes off differently, doesn’t it? It doesn’t come of as petulant the way it does when spoken. It just comes off as illiterate.
According to Wikipedia, the first use of the term was back in 1940. It seems that some Republicans didn’t like the idea that people might assume the Democratic Party was the party of democracy. This doesn’t make any sense. Our country is also a Republic. But I know from my own experience that conservatives do indeed worry about that. It also goes along with the generally poor attitude that conservatives have toward democracy itself. Most of them are not all that keen on it. In fact, according to Safire’s New Political Dictionary, the Democratic Party was named by the Federalists as a derogatory name. The Federalists, like the Republican Party now, were the conservative (you might say aristocratic) party.
Back in 2006, Ruth Marcus wrote, One Syllable of Civility. In it, she says that if then President Bush wanted Washington to be more civil, he might start by saying “Democratic Party” rather than “Democrat Party.” I don’t recall him changing his usage, but he did make a joke about it. It’s interesting that even at the height of Republican power, they couldn’t stop their little dig at Democrats—even from the Republican president himself.
What I think all this means is that the Republican Party is very much like a cult. The people in it are very insecure. Just like fundamentalist Christians, they worry about seeing any information that might erode their faith in the party line. And part of that mentality is signaling to each other that they are part of the clan. And if they can also put down the other side, so much the better. That’s what they get from “Democrat Party.” And this is even what we get from the “political arm” (not that you can tell the difference) of their biggest think tank.