GOP strategists christen "Democrat [sic] Party" -- and the media comply

››› ››› JOE BROWN

Several media figures, including news reporters, echoed Republicans by employing the word "Democrat" as an adjective to refer to things or people of, or relating to, the Democratic Party.

In recent months, media figures, including news reporters at CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press echoed Republicans by employing the word "Democrat" as an adjective to describe things or people of, or relating to, the Democratic Party -- including referring to the "Democrat" Party itself, even though that is not the party's name. The ungrammatical conversion of the noun "Democrat" to an adjective was the brainchild of Republican partisans, presumably an attempt to deny the opposing party the claim to being "democratic" -- or in the words of New Yorker magazine senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg, "to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation." In the early 1990s, apparently due largely to the urging of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the use of the word "Democrat" as an adjective became near-universal among Republicans.

Hertzberg pointed out in an article for the August 7 issue of The New Yorker that the word "Democrat" is a noun, arguing that its use as an adjective defies the rules of English grammar:

The American Heritage College Dictionary, for example, defines the noun "Democratic Party" as "One of the two major US political parties, owing its origin to a split in the Democratic-Republican Party under Andrew Jackson in 1828." (It defines "Democrat n" as "A Democratic Party member" and "Democratic adj" as "Of, relating to, or characteristic of the Democratic Party," but gives no definition for -- indeed, makes no mention of -- "Democrat Party n" or "Democrat adj".) Other dictionaries, and reference works generally, appear to be unanimous on these points.

Hertzberg noted that Republicans "as far back as the Harding Administration" have referred to the "Democrat Party," including late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who "made it a regular part of his arsenal of insults," and former Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), who "denounced 'Democrat wars' ... in his [1976] Vice-Presidential debate with [former Sen.] Walter Mondale [D-MN]."

Further, Hertzberg wrote that "among those of the Republican persuasion," the use of " 'Democrat Party' is now nearly universal" thanks to "Newt Gingrich, the nominal author of the notorious 1990 memo 'Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,' and his Contract with America pollster, Frank Luntz." While Hertzberg noted that Luntz "road-tested the adjectival use of 'Democrat' with a focus group in 2001" and "concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherents of the ... Democratic Party," he also wrote that Luntz had told him recently that "[t]hose two letters ['ic'] actually do matter," and that Luntz "recently finished writing a book ... entitled 'Words That Work.' "

Notwithstanding its partisan pedigree and grammatical awkwardness, a Media Matters for America review* of the Nexis database for the last three months found a number of examples of media figures, including news reporters, using the word "Democrat" as an adjective. For instance, on the August 13 broadcast of CBS' Face the Nation, guest host and CBS News correspondent Scott Pelley used "Democrat" as an adjective four times, referring to both the "Democrat Party" and the "Democrat primary," during an interview with Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate Ned Lamont.

Additionally, Media Matters' review found similar use of the word "Democrat" as an adjective by the following reporters and media figures:

  • CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, on the August 8 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360.
  • CNN national correspondent Bob Franken, on the May 26 edition of CNN's American Morning.
  • New York Times senior writer Robin Toner, in a May 31 article.
  • Wall Street Journal reporter Theo Francis, in an August 11 article (subscription required).
  • Chicago Tribune business columnist Bill Barnhart, in an August 15 column.
  • AP writer Peter Jackson, in a May 16 article.
  • AP writer Tom Raum, in a June 16 article.

*(democrat party or democrat primary or democrat candidate or democrat strategy or democrat strategist or democrat response or democrat lawmaker or democrat congress! or democrat representative or democrat senat! or democrat member or democrat caucus or democrat house or democrat proposal or democrat bill or democrat politic! or democrat plan or democrat legislat! or democrat tactic or democrat ploy or democrat statement or democrat press or democrat release or democrat claim or democrat agenda or democrat talking point or democrat nomin!) and date(geq (5/16/06) and leq (8/16/06))

From the August 13 broadcast of CBS' Face the Nation:

PELLEY: On Tuesday, it looked like a pretty good idea to run against the war in a Democrat primary; then, Wednesday, the plot came up that was revealed of the bombing of -- potential bombing of airliners into the United States.


PELLEY: I should mention that we invited Senator [Joseph I.] Lieberman to be on the broadcast. Even though you defeated him in the Democrat primary, he's decided to run as an independent in the general election, but Senator Lieberman is attending the wedding of his daughter this weekend, and it's undoubtedly a more pleasant thing to do than be on Face the Nation.


PELLEY: Our CBS News polling in your race showed that among Democrats in Connecticut, more than 80 percent said the war was important to them in -- in their vote. Now, that's one state, and just the Democrat Party. The question is: Do you think an anti-war candidate can win the presidency in 2008?


PELLEY: Running as a -- as an anti-war candidate in Connecticut, in the Democrat primary -- again, a very small slice of the national pie -- what lesson should the Democratic Party take from your victory when looking at the nation as a whole?

From the August 8 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

ANDERSON COOPER (host): Candy Crowley joins me now from Connecticut, also Amy Walter, the senior editor of The Cook Political Report.

Candy, let me start off with you. If that's true, if there are a lot of people in Connecticut feeling that Joe Lieberman had sort of focused too much on the national effort -- no longer represented their interests -- that does not bode well for him running as an independent.

CROWLEY: Well, it doesn't, except for that they've made this choice very deliberately. They looked at the numbers, and what they saw was that there is huge support among Connecticut Republicans and independents. And remember that independents, those that are not affiliated with either Democrat or Republican parties -- this is the largest party in Connecticut.

So, they looked at those numbers. They saw how he polled with those people, and they made a very deliberate choice a couple of weeks ago, knowing that this was going to be his best route to return to the U.S. Senate.

From the May 26 edition of CNN's American Morning:

FRANKEN: The plot really thickens on this one. This has to do with the uproar of congressional leaders over an FBI raid into a Democrat Congressman, William Jefferson [LA], who has been implicated in the scandal -- one of the scandals that's been going on on Capitol Hill. They're saying that this is a violation of the constitution.

And what [House Speaker J. Dennis] Hastert [R-IL] is saying is, is that the leaks about his being part of another investigation are really part, to quote his interview with WGN Radio in Chicago: "This is one of the leaks," he says, "that come out to try to intimidate people and we're just not going to be intimidated on it."

From Toner's May 31 New York Times article:

One reason for Democratic optimism here is the possibility of a wounded Republican nominee emerging from a bitter (and relatively late) primary. Mr. Ford's major opponent in the Democrat primary withdrew recently, giving him the luxury of running a general election campaign -- raising money and running advertising, most recently on the price of gasoline.

From Francis' August 11 Wall Street Journal article:

During the bidding, political tensions are mostly muted, though in 1998 Ms. Harris dubbed the baby possum she won for $100 "Sandra" after her opponent for secretary of state, Sandra Mortham. This year, Republican and Democrat candidates stood together as the auction approached, eyeing the nearby cage of possums, including a big, one-eyed male that the handlers called "fierce."

From Barnhart's August 15 Chicago Tribune article:

The prospect of a Democrat Party takeover of the U.S. House in the fall election bothers conservatives; the thought of more than two more years of George W. Bush depresses liberals.

From Raum's June 16 AP article:

One set of numbers Bush will not give and which Democrats and some Republicans are pressing for the hardest is the timing and size of a U.S. troop withdrawal. Telegraphing such a timetable would be "bad policy," Bush says.

Democrat Party chief Howard Dean, however, says, "The reality is that our troops and their families still have no strategy from this president to get the job done in Iraq and get them home."

From Jackson's May 16 AP article:

The Republican and Democrat candidates for Pennsylvania governor Republican former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann and Gov. Ed Rendell, respectively are unopposed in the primary. If elected, Swann would become the state's first black governor.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.