Exhuming McCarthy: Pres. Bush’s deliberate use of the term “Democrat Party” in his State of the Union speech this month has put this too-cleverly couched linguistic smear back in the spotlight.
Republican politicans use this mangled syntax to express solidarity with their toothless, knuckledragging base. They don’t appear to care that, to independent voters and Democrats listening in, it makes them sound like the flaming assholes they are.
The origin of the Democrat smear is both surprising and not the least shocking. The man who first popularized it was Sen. Joe McCarthy — whose witch hunt against commies in the 1950s was nearly as destructive to the Republican Party then as George Bush’s needless war in Iraq is now:
[The] term became controversial as far back as the 1950s. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) famously used it to deride Democrats during his hearings investigating whether Communists had infiltrated the U.S. government. During the 1956 Republican convention, the usage was so common that it prompted the New York Times to report that dropping the “-ic” had become official party policy.
“‘Democratic’ as an adjective is not descriptive of the party as it exists today,” GOP spokesman L. Richard Guylay explained in that report, referring to allegations of vote-fixing by the Democratic Party’s political machine in large cities. “I can’t consider the party of the Pendergasts or Tammany Hall as a democratic party.”
In 1957, writing about the phenomenon in American Speech, the quarterly journal of the American Dialect Society, scholar Ignace Feuerlicht wrote: “It will be interesting to see whether ‘Democrat Party’ will stay with us or go out of existence again or be revived and revitalized at intervals just before successive national elections.”
Republican presidents ramp up their misuse of “Democcrat” in election years — even St. Ronnie did it:
President Reagan used it more in 1984, the year of his reelection campaign, than at any other time in his presidency. In the case of President Bush, the term shows up in his remarks more in 2004 and 2006 — both election years — than during the rest of his time in office.
In fact, Bush’s usage of the term increased dramatically last year; according to the American Presidency Project, based at UC Santa Barbara, the president was recorded using the term 22 times in 2006 — more than in the previous five years of his presidency combined.
Misusing the noun Democrat as an adjective is just one of dozens of deceptive verbal tricks Republicans used to gain power. In 1994, they finally exorcised the 40-year-old specter of McCarthyism and gained control of Congress. In 2000, they took the White House and, from there, the Supreme Court.
In grabbing power, however, the Republicans revealed their true nature. With the government under their control, rather than create the conservative utopia they had promised voters, they lied, cheated, took bribes, were fiscally and morally irresponsible and abusive of democratic principles as well as sacred Constitutional principles.
Now, with the hollowness of the so-called conservative ideology revealed for all to see, it’s hard to imagine how even the cleverest linguisitc trickery can ever fool the public again.
All we know for certain is that they will try.