Democrat Party (phrase)

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Democrat Party is a designation sometimes used in the U.S.A. by Republicans to refer to the Democratic Party. The general issue is the use of the proper noun "Democrat" as an adjective, in place of the established adjective for the party, "Democratic." Thus "John Kerry is a Democratic Senator" or "Senator Kerry is a Democrat," is standard American usage, while "Kerry is a Democrat Senator" is controversial.

Many supporters of the Democratic Party object to the term. New Yorker Magazine commentator Hendrik Hertzberg wrote: "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."[1]

History of usage

"Democrat Party" has a long history of usage by opponents of the Democratic Party--mostly Republicans but also third party leaders like Ralph Nader.[2] The history has been traced by scholars and commentators to the early 20th century.[3] The earliest known use of the term, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in Britain in 1890: "Whether a little going to rule the Democrat Party in America."[4] The term was used by Herbert Hoover in 1932, and in the late 1930s by Republicans who used it to criticize Democratic big city machines run by powerful political bosses in what they considered undemocratic fashion. Republican leader Harold Stassen said in 1940, "I emphasized that the party controlled in large measure at that time by [Frank] Hague in New Jersey, [Tom] Pendergast in Missouri and Kelly-Nash in Chicago should not be called a 'Democratic Party.' It should be called the 'Democrat Party.'"[5]

The noun-as-adjective has been used by numerous Republican leaders since the 1940s and appears in most GOP national platforms since 1948.[6] In 1947 the Republican leader Senator Robert A. Taft said, "Nor can we expect any other policy from any Democrat Party or any Democrat President under present day conditions. They can not possibly win an election solely through the support of the solid South, and yet their political strategists believe the Southern Democrat Party will not break away no matter how radical the allies imposed upon it."[7] President Dwight D. Eisenhower used the term in his acceptance speech in 1952 and in partisan speeches to Republican groups.[8] Ruth Walker notes how Joseph McCarthy repeatedly used the phrase "the Democrat Party," and critics argue that if McCarthy used the term in the 1950s then no one else should do so. [9]

Recent usage

In recent decades, however, the Republican Party has made the phrase "Democrat Party" its preferred way of referring to its opposition. The Republican Party Web site makes extensive use of the term. [10] During the George W. Bush administration, the White House often used the noun-as-adjective when referring to the opposition party, and President Bush used it almost exclusively.[11] Likewise it is in common use by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay,[12] House Minority Leader John Boehner,[13] Senator Charles Grassley,[14] Congressman Steve Buyer[15] and others. George W. Bush spoke the phrase "Democrat majority" in his 2007 State of the Union Address.[16] (The advance copy that was given to members of Congress read "Democratic majority".)[17] Bush joked about his leadership of the "Republic Party" the following month.[18]

Aside from partisan usage, the term can also be found used in non-partisan media. Media Matters for America has documented the occasional use of "Democrat Party" by CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press. Abroad the term is occasionally used by the BBC.[19]

Some state and local Democratic organizations use the noun-as-adjective on their web pages in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana.[20] Lyman (1958) noted that "Democrat party" is common local usage in Maryland. In Indiana numerous "Democrat clubs" have filed for incorporation with the Secretary of State, indicating widespread, non-controversial usage among local Democrats.[21]

Issues of grammar

Some believe that the use of the noun "Democrat" as an adjective is ungrammatical.[22] Using a noun as a modifier of another noun is not grammatically incorrect in modern English in the formation of a compound noun, i.e. "shoe store," "school bus," "peace movement," "Senate election," etc. Americans commonly speak of "the Iraq war" rather than "the Iraqi war."[23]

In American history many parties were named by their opponents (Federalists, Loco-Focos, Know Nothings, Populists, Dixiecrats), including the Democrats themselves, as the Federalists in the 1790s used "Democratic Party" as a term of ridicule.[24].

The use of "Democrat Party" could be part of a broader linguistic trend. As one linguist explained, "We're losing our inflections – the special endings we use to distinguish between adjectives and nouns, for instance. There's a tendency to modify a noun with another noun rather than an adjective. Some may speak of "the Ukraine election" rather than 'the Ukrainian election' or 'the election in Ukraine,' for instance. It's 'the Iraq war' rather than 'the Iraqi war,' to give another example."[25]


Members of the Republican Party, from political commentators to President George W. Bush himself, made extensive use of the term "Democrat Party" during the run-up to the 2006 midterm elections. In response to the growing use of the epithet in late 2006, a corresponding epithet for the Republican Party, the "Republic Party", began to circulate in liberal parts of the blogosphere; the previous Republican waves of usage had inspired the "Publican Party", but this failed to catch on.[26]

Democrats complained about the use of "Democrat" as an adjective in the 2007 State of the Union address by President Bush. "Like nails on a chalkboard," complained Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta. Political analyst Charlie Cook attributed its usage to force of habit rather than a deliberate epithet by Republicans: "They have been doing it so long that they probably don't even realize they're doing it."[27] On February 4, 2007, Bush joked in a speech to House Democrats, stating "Now look, my diction isn't all that good. I have been accused of occasionally mangling the English language. And so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic Party."[28] Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) repeatedly invoked the phrase "The Republic Party" on the floor of the House in February 2007 while lambasting Congressional Republicans.[29]

Another corresponding noun-as-adjective response has also begun to circulate on the Internet: "The Republicans Party."[30] Members of the Democratic Underground have proposed that "Republicon Party" be used as a counter to the Republican adoption of Democrat Party as a putdown.[31]


  1. Hertzberg (2006).
  2. See "Transcript: Ralph Nader on 'Meet The Press' Sunday, May 7, 2000" at [1]; "Presidential candidate Ralph Nader makes stop in Minnesota; sees little difference between Bush, Kerry," Oct 27, 2004, at [2]
  3. including Feuerlicht (1957), Lyman (1958), Safire (1993), Sperber and Trittschuh (1962), Numberg (2005) and Hertzberg (2006).
  4. under "Democrat" 4 citing Spectator 15 Nov. 1890 p 676.
  5. Hertzberg (2006) citing Safire
  6. National Party Platforms, 1840-1996, editors Kirk H. Porter, and Donald Bruce Johnson, (1996).
  7. Robert Taft, The Papers of Robert A. Taft, edited by Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr., 2003, 3:313.
  8. Washington Post, October 28, 1958, page A8.
  9. Walker (2005).
  10. See [3]
  11. "Bush Courts Black Voters at Urban League" AP July 23, 2004; List of 356 uses of Democrat as an adjective by President Bush
  12. "DeLay: Democratic Party Unfit to Lead", Fox News, July 26, 2003.
  13. "Pelosi's Big Day", Slate, January 4, 2007.
  14. "Alito: No Person Is Above the Law", Fox News, January 9, 2006.
  15. "Transcript: House debates articles of impeachment", CNN, December 18, 1998.
  16. Official 2007 State of the Union Transcript
  17. Copleand, Libby. President's Sin of Omission? (Dropped Syllable in Speech Riles Democrats), The Washington Post, 2007-01-25. Retrieved on 2007-03-31.
  18. Noam H. Levey "Bush reaches across Partisan divide"; LA Times, February 4, 2007
  19. Media Matters for America, August 16, 2006. "GOP strategists christen 'Democrat (sic) Party' -- and the media comply" On BBC see [4], on USA Today see [5]; on Fox News see [6]
  20. Chair's Newsletter--March 31-April 11, 2006. Jefferson County Democratic Party. Retrieved 2007-01-26. DeWitt County Democrat Party. Retrieved 2007-01-25. Indiana. Whitley County Democrat Party. Retrieved 2007-01-25. [7] regarding "The Kansas House Democrat Caucus" and "The Democrat Leadership Team" in 2007. On Missouri see [8] for "February 15, 2007: Saline County Democrat Club" and "March 2, 2007: Missouri Democrat Days."
  21. In Indiana there are 34 incorporated groups with "Democrat" as part of their legal name) versus 226 that use "Democratic"). These seem to be active local clubs. (Brown County is the official county organization). Alphabetically the first few are as follows: 17th District Democrat Club, Inc.; Indianapolis, 17th Ward Democrat Club Inc.; Andrew Jackson Democrat Club Of Tippecanoe County; Bloomfield Democrat Incorp.; Brown County Democrat Central Committee Corporation; City Of Portage Democrat Club; Clark County Democrat Men's Club, Inc.; Clinton County Democrat Club Inc., etc. Source: [9].
  22. Copperud (1980)
  23. Walker (2005); Master the Basics: English by Jean Yatets, 1996, page 64.
  24. Nunberg (2006); Safire, (1993), 176, 391-2, 595-6; Sperber and Trittschuh. 118-9, 150, 231-2.
  25. Walker (2005)
  26. Feuerlicht, 1956
  27. Copeland
  28. Washington Post Feb 4, 2007 at [
  29. Youtube - Anthony Weiner Rips the "Republic Party".
  30. [10][11][12]
  31. Democratic Underground thread