Friday, March 6

Democratic vs. Democrat

Nate Silver wrote a piece recently about Republicans' use of the term "Democrat Party" instead of the appropriate term "Democratic Party". It's a great post with video of former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer whining about current Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, it has a chart explaining the media usage of the two variations, and a very succinct analysis regarding the supposed purpose.

The intent seems to be twofold: First, it seems to be an attempt at branding/labeling/controlling the way language sounds in an audience’s ears. Democrat apparently sounds "worse" than Democratic, and it's also an attempt to separate the Democratic Party from small-d democratic, a popular American concept. If such a tactic nets votes, it’s objectively justifiable. Second, it’s designed to get under the skins of Democrats. From a Republican perspective, both seem to be independently important reasons to standardize the epithet. As to the first goal, it’s unclear whether this could work, or whether, if it did, there would be any meaningful result that would ostensibly help further Republican fortunes at the ballot box. I’m open to hearing what this might be.


As for the second goal, the non-tactical, end-in-itself enjoyment of antagonizing Democrats, to use Fleischer’s term, is pure, uncut childishness. Moreover, it’s just boring. Newsflash – human beings have figured out a lot of ways to antagonize other human beings with pejoratives. It’s like Palin-as-hockey agitator, no great skill involved (and of course "Democrat Party" is a Palin staple). It’s literally the most basic childhood taunt – taking someone’s real name, and calling them something else to provoke a reaction. It's the single-celled amoeba of verbal harassment. It’s unmistakable that much of the term’s use involves an attempt at agitation. Again, objectively, there’s nothing wrong with Republicans methodically doing this – refusing the basic respect of allowing the Democratic Party its own name. They can elect their own behavior all they want; it’s a free country. Democrats may choose a reflexive reaction, but nobody "makes" you react, you have responsibility for how you react.

Great analysis. Seriously, I could not figure it out myself. I just didn't understand what the point was; couldn't wrap my mind around it. However, it is Nate's personal feelings regarding this subject that I want to highlight because it articulates exactly how I feel about it.

On the flip side of the coin, denying another person or group basic respect means that once the epithet escapes a Republican’s lips, he or she can’t complain when no respect is returned. Some Democrats aren’t bothered. Their perspective is that the very nature of such a tiny, repetitive jab, like a sibling flicking you on the shoulder, is that it pales in comparison with the constellation of behaviors that create actual wounds. However, some Democrats find it to be a threshold issue in a conversation. It's irrelevant whether it wounds; it's a communication signal. If your behavior choice is a playground tactic, why should my behavior choice be to listen to what you say in whatever else is coming out of your mouth? You won’t agree to my name. I am supposed to take anything you say seriously? Couples therapists know a thing or two about this one. Respect is a threshold condition for listening. If Republicans genuinely want Democrats to listen to their policy ideas, they shouldn't use the term because it's counterproductive. For example, when I hear the term, nothing else matters that comes out of that person's mouth. That Republican has failed the threshold bad faith test, and who cares what they say?


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