In the hours after his American Health Care Act foundered on the shores of Nopesylvania, Donald Trump insisted he was not mad at Paul Ryan. He claimed he did not fault the Freedom Caucus. He promised he bore no ill will toward the Tuesday Group. Instead, the president’s ire was reserved for the Democratic Party.
“We had no Democrat support,” he fumed on TV. “The losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, because now they own Obamacare. … This is not anything but a Democrat health care.”
What is a Democrat health care? It is, presumably, the handiwork of the Democrat Party, which is both one of the United States’ two major political parties and an insult cast in the furnaces of midcentury partisan discourse. As Hendrik Hertzberg documented for the New Yorker in 2006, politicians like Joe McCarthy and Bob Dole used the term, which lowers a guillotine blade between democratic principles (good) and Democrats (bad). George W. Bush favored it as well. The epithet has an unlovely sound; it “fairly screams ‘rat,’ ” Hertzberg observed. “At a slightly higher level of sophistication,” he continued, “it’s an attempt to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation.”
Most important of all, the name accomplishes the objective of getting under Democrat(ic) skin. Left-wing politicians look pedantic when they bother to correct the record, and they look weak when they allow their adversaries to dictate what they are called. Over the years, Democratic National Committee delegates have tried to dream up an equivalent taunt. One proposal, to call the GOP the “Publican Party,” ironically evoked Roman tax collectors—and also conjured, for me, the delightful prospect of a Pelican Party, which would scoop all Americans into its capacious beak—but the committee rejected it.
The fact that a motion must pass through a committee before Democrats can drop a burn may encapsulate something essential about the Democrats. But anyhow, the reason the committee balked was because, in one delegate’s words, “Republican is the name by which our opponent’s product is known and mistrusted.” A few years later, progressives unsuccessfully proposed “Republicants” and, riffing on the GOP’s growing reputation as a tent for snake-oil salesmen, “Republicons.”
This is all very dumb. The Republicans express their contempt for the Democrats by purposefully getting their name wrong, and the Democrats, when they haven’t somehow convinced themselves that the most wounding option is to get the Republicans’ name right, are volleying back lame puns. It is far better to dismiss the opposition with a careless or absurdist error—Republicanist, maybe, or the GOB. (The GYP or GOOP or Gee Oh Pee Pee falls into sandbox territory.)
The name itself doesn’t matter. What the Republicans have that the Democrats don’t is coordination. Liberals must choose one epithet and employ it at every opportunity.
The Republicanist proposal on tax reform leaves much to be desired.
Democrats or Propublicans, we are all Americans first.
When it comes to keeping this energy plan cost-effective, we look forward to working out a solution with our counterparts in the Gee Yop.
I have to disagree with my colleague Sen. McConnell of United Russia.
Alternatively, Democrats could take a cue from Sen. Chuck Schumer. The Senate minority leader recently told his colleagues that “the Republican Party might as well be called the Trump Party now.” Could there be any crueler gibe?