The ardent wing-nuttery of E.W. Jackson, the Virginia GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor, has already been well-documented. (Jackson thinks Obama’s a Muslim, Democrats are worse than the KKK, and gays are pedophiles.)
What hasn’t been talked about has been E.W. Jackson’s insistence on using a racist, Lee Atwater-era dog whistle to refer to his political opponents.
In the video below, you’ll note that Jackson refuses to use the term “Democratic Party,” instead opting for the harsher “Democrat Party.”
The use of the term “Democrat Party” as a pejorative epithet dates back to the 1940s. I’d argue that it’s an earlier version of Lee Atwater’s infamous racist Southern Strategy by which the GOP could reach out to racists in a way that didn’t appear overtly racist.
First, “Democrat party” is grammatically incorrect. Parties are typically preceded by adjectives instead of nouns (Republican, Green, Libertarian, etc.). The only major (if you can call it that) American political party not preceded by an adjective is the Constitution Party.
Second, by calling us the Democrat Party instead of the Democratic Party, Republicans make the word less pleasant sounding; Democratic is a softer sound to the ear than Democrat, which ends in “rat,” a harsher sound.
Third, there’s the “rat” issue. I’d written before about the GOP’s subliminal use of the word “rat” in advertising. Watch this old GOP campaign ad:
Did you see it? If not, start the video again at 0:20 and look for the word “RATS.” It flashes very quickly. I grabbed a screen shot below – it took a few tries.
The RNC dismissed accusations of “subliminal advertising” in this spot as a production error and dismissed the notion that such advertising would be effective in the first place, but a laboratory replication of the ad (using “RATS” as the prime and “STAR,” the reverse, as a control) showed that the prime did significantly reduce participants’ opinion of a hypothetical presidential candidate.
The term “Democrat Party” was coined for precisely for the linguistic reasons outlined above: the “Democratic Party” is just another political organization, while the “Democrat Party” is a bunch of rats and similar less-than-human life forms. And who does the racist wing of the GOP consider less-than-human? The 47%, who they universally think of as unemployed, un-American, on welfare, and black. Which makes it especially ironic that Jackson is using the term.
And it’s not the first time Republicans tried to rebrand the Democratic name. It was only four years ago that the Republicans decided they were going to call the Democratic Party the “Democrat Socialist Party.”
A member of the Republican National Committee told me Tuesday that when the RNC meets in an extraordinary special session next week, it will approve a resolution rebranding Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party.”
When I asked if such a resolution would force RNC Chairman Michael Steele to use that label when talking about Democrats in all his speeches and press releases, the RNC member replied: “Who cares?”
Which pretty much sums up the attitude some members of the RNC have toward their chairman these days.
Steele wrote a memo last month opposing the resolution. Steele said that while he believes Democrats “are indeed marching America toward European-style socialism,” he also said in a (rare) flash of insight that officially referring to them as the Democrat Socialist Party “will accomplish little than to give the media and our opponents the opportunity to mischaracterize Republicans.”
You gotta love Steele’s “defense” of Democrats. Democrats are socialists – which in Republican minds means “Soviet communists” – but if Republicans actually say what they think, people may see the GOP for what they really are, and that might hurt Republicans at the ballot box.
Of course, we could always return the favor and insist on calling Virginia’s Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor something close-but-not-correct (Ewww Jackson has a nice ring to it). But I don’t like playing these games. The intentional use of incorrect nomenclature is that it implies a fundamental lack of respect for your opponent. It’s people like E.W. Jackson who make it impossible to have civil political discourse since they don’t respect their political opponents at a fundamental level. The same way that people who call the President a socialist clearly hate the man, and our party, at a core, visceral level that has nothing to do with politics, other than the politics of fear.
And considering E.W. Jackson is running on a ticket that plans to ban all oral sex, unlike the GOP, we don’t need to resort to name-calling to convince voters that Republicans are unfit for office.