We’re not the ‘Democrat’ Party Skip to content

We’re not the ‘Democrat’ Party

You may think the difference doesn’t matter. You might change your mind if you knew the backstory.

2 min read

I posted on Facebook a meme taking the GOP to task for its obsession with Hunter Biden’s laptop. I heartily agreed with the meme’s sentiment, but cringed at the name of its source: a Kentucky county’s “Democrat Executive Committee.”

A Facebook friend commented, “Democratic. Democrat is a noun. Please use the adjective. The other party’s name is both noun and adjective.”

She’s right. But the issue is larger than grammar. “Democrat Party” is an old right-wing Republican epithet.

Even so, I’ve heard more than a few fellow Kentucky Democrats — including elected officials — call us the “Democrat Party.” We're the Democratic Party.

“There’s no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming,” Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in The New Yorker. “‘Democrat Party’ is a slur, or intended to be – a handy way to express contempt.”

Added the author: “Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but ‘Democrat Party’ is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams ‘rat.’ At a slightly higher level of sophistication, it’s an attempt to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation.”

The New Yorker published Herzberger’s article in 2006. But it’s still timely because Donald Trump and his MAGA GOP have ramped up “Democrat Party.”

Sen. Joe McCarthy helped popularize the slam. A Wisconsin Republican, he took the lead in whipping up a Second Great Red Scare after World War II. (The first one was after World War I.)

McCarthy was a fan of the Big Lie theory of politics. He held hearings and made speeches — dutifully covered by the print and TV media — in which he claimed, without proof, that communists had infiltrated American society, notably Washington, the motion picture industry, higher education, and even the military.

None of it was true. Hence, ultimately discredited, disgraced, and censured by the Senate on a bipartisan vote in 1954, McCarthy faded away. But his name survives as the source  of “McCarthyism,” which the Encyclopaedia Britannica online defines as “a byname for defamation of character or reputation by indiscriminate allegations on the basis of unsubstantiated charges.”

Trump resurrected The Big Lie, a term coined by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf. In short, if you lie "bigly” people will believe you. McCarthyism and “Democrat Party” are also back in style with the MAGA GOP.

“You know I always say Democrat," Julie Carr Smyth of the Associated Press quoted Trump. “You know why? Because it sounds worse.”

“In many ways, the Republican Party’s history with Donald Trump harkens back to its experience with another demagogue, Joseph R. McCarthy,” John Kenneth White wrote in The Hill last December.

“In 1950, the Wisconsin senator claimed to have in hand a list of 205 communists working in the State Department, a charge that catapulted the heretofore little-known McCarthy onto the national stage. Sen. [John W.] Bricker (R-Ohio) told McCarthy, ‘Joe, you’re a real SOB, but sometimes it’s useful to have SOBs to do the dirty work.’ Sen. Robert Taft (R-Ohio) encouraged McCarthy to ‘keep talking and if one case doesn’t work, he should proceed with another.’”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is happy to let rabid Reps. Boebert, Gatz, Greene, Gosar, Jordan, and the rest of what pundit Charles P. Pierce calls the GOP’s  “Angry Children’s Caucus” do his dirty work by lying and demagoging against the “Democrat Party” of  “godless atheists,” “communists,” “socialists,” “groomers,” and “anti-white bigotry” that is hellbent on destroying “Christian values.”

Okay, fellow Democrats, repeat after me: “I am a Democrat, but I belong to the Democratic Party.”


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY



The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

A very light news day, with most of the focus on the arrest of the golfer at the PGA last week. Of note, though, is Heather Cox Richardson’s summary of President Biden’s commencement speech at Morehouse.

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