President Donald Trump is constantly whining about the “Democrat Party,” “Democrat cities,” and “Democrat programs,” all grammatically incorrect phrases that use a noun as an adjective. But Trump’s online ad creators started using proper grammar on Tuesday, referring to the Democratic Party rather than the “Democrat Party.” And despite being correct, it somehow feels wrong for Trump.
“The RADICAL Left has taken over Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. Don’t let them take over America,” reads one of the new Facebook ads.
The new ad is accompanied by a 15-second video that’s edited to make it look like Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his vice presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, are laughing at vandalism and property damage, presumably from recent protests against police violence. But the misleading video really isn’t the surprising part.
It’s kind of shocking to see a Trump ad use the phrase “Democratic Party” instead of “Democrat Party,” largely because it’s not how the president speaks. Just last night, Trump complained about “violent crime in Democrat-controlled cities” and the “Democrat governor” of North Carolina during one of the president’s neo-fascist rallies in that state.
Trump didn’t come up with the idea to call the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party,” a term that’s been used as an epithet since at least the 1940s. But Trump has taken the phrase “Democrat Party” to new heights, using it so frequently that mainstream international news outlets have even adopted the term, likely without knowing it’s wrong. Representatives from Facebook have even used the term, but it’s no secret the social media giant has plenty of fascist sympathizers on the payroll.
Trump himself has previously speculated that maybe the Democratic Party should adopt the name “democratic” instead of “democrat party,” signaling that he probably doesn’t know it’s grammatically incorrect.
When President George W. Bush was called out for using “Democrat Party” instead of “Democratic Party” in the 2000s, Bush acknowledged that he didn’t know it was wrong and later made jokes about the gaffe.
“Now, look, my diction isn’t all that good. I have been accused of occasionally mangling the English language. And so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic Party,” Bush told a bipartisan crowd in 2007 as Democrats laughed.
Bush’s joke was spot-on. Using “Democrat Party” is roughly the equivalent of calling the Republican Party the “Republic Party.” It’s goofy and sounds weird, but that’s precisely why Republicans have tried to push the incorrect pronunciation of their opponents’ party for almost a century.
Use of the phrase Democrat Party is much older than Trump and Bush, as any quick search through newspaper archives will reveal. Columnist Alan H. Olmstead wrote about the phrase in September 1976, shortly before that year’s presidential election between Republican incumbent Gerald Ford and Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter. Olmstead called the phrase “reprehensible grammarcide,” and noted that it was last in fashion about 20 years earlier, in the 1950s.
Writing in his Sept. 13, 1976 column in the Bridgeport Telegram in Connecticut, Olmstead explained:
Why do the Republicans have these recurrent passions for denying the Democrats their adjective?
First the Republicans are sensitive to the possibility that the form “Democratic” when applied as adjective to a party of a program sounds exactly the same as the word “democratic,” with its inference of being close to the people.
Second, the Republicans love the sound that results from the use of “Democrat Party.” It has a built-in sneer.
It obviously designated something low and ugly and not to be trusted. It conveys the righteous contempt of the Republican writer or speaker.
Olmstead’s third reason that Republicans used the phrase “Democrat Party” is one that many people here in the 21st century will recognize. It was to simply make the other party angry—“owning the libs,” in modern internet parlance.
Third, it is supposed to get under the Democrat skins of the Democrats, and make them furiously but futilely indignant.
Same as it ever was, I suppose, though Trump doesn’t seem to know that’s why he does it.
Using proper grammar to reach Trump supporters—a voting bloc that values “authenticity” with their hatemongering—is an admittedly bold decision, but it might help attract the elusive Suburban Pedant Moms demographic, a new group of voters that Gizmodo just invented. Biden already has the Rage Mom vote locked in, another new group of voters that political consultants recently invented.
No one knows who will win in November, but we can tell you this with certainty: Good people are angry and tired and want to get some sense of normalcy back in their lives. Even if they’re fascists, let’s demand better from our leaders. They’re not federal troops abducting people in unmarked vans on American streets, they’re federal agents abducting people in unmarked vans on American streets. Get it right.