Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The new Democrat majority

The Wash. Post reports:
The president in his State of the Union address Tuesday night left out a tiny little suffix that means a whole lot to some people. He did it so subtly you could have missed it. Just a little "-ic." What's in an "-ic"?

Bush started the speech on a bipartisan note, honoring the first Madam Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, and calling on the country to come together.

Then: "I congratulate the Democrat majority," he said...

Bush does this a lot, and while it's hard to say if the omission was intentional in this instance, it is a semantic tactic that's been part of Republican warfare for decades. ...

The bloggers caught it, of course. (Bloggers catch that sort of thing.) "Code word," wrote one. "Calculated insult," wrote another. ...

"Like nails on a chalkboard," says John Podesta, chief of staff in the Clinton White House, and president of the Center for American Progress. ...

The missing "-ic" has a long legacy. Dick Armey was fond of saying "Democrat Party." Commie-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy even used the phrase half a century ago. Bush used it Tuesday night even as he was calling for politicians to "cross that aisle," even in the context of a formal address and even as he addressed a Congress dominated by those he was insulting.
Notice how the Wash. Post and the other Democrats are much more concerned with mindreading than whether the term is correct. Note also that they confuse "Democrat majority" with "Democrat Party".

The LA Times reports:
"That was an oversight," Bush said in an interview Monday with National Public Radio. "I'm not trying to needle?. I didn't even know I did it." ...

"It's a long-standing intentional partisan political slight," said Daniel Weiss, chief of staff to Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez). "It's kind of like flashing colors in a gang. It's code. It says, 'I'm one of you, I'm a right-wing conservative.' "

And experts on political locution say it's a deliberate, if ungrammatical, linguistic strategy. ...

The use of the term "Democrat Party" goes back decades. One explanation sometimes offered is that Republicans began to use it to hint that corrupt Democrats were not terribly "democratic" and had no right to use that word to describe themselves. Others say it was adopted because it sounds annoying and echoes the word "bureaucrat," with its negative connotations.

Whatever the initial impulse or rationale, 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.
I don't know whether Democrat Party or Democratic Party is more correct. But it seems to me that it is more correct for Pres. Bush to say "Democrat majority" in a speech. Saying "democratic majority" sounds redundant and stupid because all majorities are democratic majorities. The word "democratic" means "by majority rule" and we've always had democratic majorities in Congress as that is the way legislatures function. In print, capitalization can distinguish Democratic from democratic, but they are pronounced the same in a speech.

I had no idea that Democrats were so easily annoyed. They sure can blame a lot on Sen. McCarthy. If saying "Democrat Party" is somehow a statement against commies infiltrating the USA govt, then so much the better.

No comments: