“Democrat” is a Noun

By Maeve Maddox

Martin Benvenuto writes:

Could you please settle a discussion concerning Democrat vs. Democratic. It is my contention that Democratic is not the plural of Democrat. Is this correct?

Democrat is a noun. Democratic is an adjective. The plural of democrat is democrats.

This question put me in mind of the incorrect way that the noun democrat is often used in place the adjective democratic.

As I usually do when beginning a post on usage, I looked for random examples of the error I wished to illustrate. I was surprised to come upon this information in a Wikipedia article:

“Democrat Party” is a political epithet used in the United States instead of “Democratic Party” when talking about the Democratic Party. The term has been principally used by conservative commentators and members of the Republican Party in party platforms, partisan speeches and press releases since the 1930s. The explicit goal is to dissociate the name of the rival party from the concept of democracy.

That was a new one on me. I’d thought the error was committed because writers and speakers didn’t understand that, while the word Republican can be either a noun or an adjective, Democrat has distinctive noun and adjective forms.

a republican form of government
the Republican party
the Republican National Committee
Republicans with strong principles.

a democratic form of government
the Democratic party
the Democratic National Committee
Democrats with strong principles.

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10 Responses to ““Democrat” is a Noun”

  • thebluebird11

    Democrats and Republicans with strong principles?
    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Can you rephrase that please!!

  • Maeve

    @thebluebird11
    Just trying to be even-handed.
    🙂

  • Bethany

    NPR didn’t know it was a slur either. A couples week (or maybe a month) ago, All Things Considered had to issue a retraction of sorts after an interview with a political commentator who used “democrat party” (and also didn’t know it’s controversial use).

    Found the transcript: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129756121&ft=1&f=1061 from Sept. 9th.

  • Frank Elliott

    Maybe it’s because I covered politics once upon a time, but I’ve long been aware of Republicans’ penchant for calling it the “Democrat” party.

    But you have to consider the source. After all, this is the party that decided to call an intercontinental missile tipped with thermonuclear warheads, “the Peacekeeper.”

    Thankfully , independent journalists (a cohort that does not include Fox News) haven’t adopted such foolishness.

  • Cecily

    Some people have odd logic (not you, Maeve).

    I don’t understand the Wikipedia quote “The explicit goal is to dissociate the name of the rival party from the concept of democracy.”

    In what way is “democrat” more dissociated from “democracy” than “democratic” is?

  • Bill

    ” Cecily on October 11, 2010 11:59 am

    Some people have odd logic (not you, Maeve).

    I don’t understand the Wikipedia quote ‘The explicit goal is to dissociate the name of the rival party from the concept of democracy.’

    In what way is ‘democrat’ more dissociated from ‘democracy’ than ‘democratic’ is?”

    Which should tell you something about Wiki’s explanation doesn’t smell right. Frankly, using Wikipedia as a single source is something even college profs warn against. Let’s stick to the grammar please.

    I would think that Democrat Party, whether intended to be an insult (I doubt it) or not would be correct.

  • James

    The truth is a LOT of folks misuse the word “democratic”. The word itself is an adjective. If used as a noun, it is grammatically incorrect. If you want to consider a democratic type of government, or democratic elections the word is used correctly. For the most part both the Democrat and the Republican party are “democratic” parties. But only as far as, and up to, the general presidential elections. In this case we use the electoral college to make the decision, whether or not the candidate carries the most or popular vote. No matter who, including the Democrat Party, or Fox News, or whomever, uses the term “democratic” to describe the Democratic Party is dead wrong, period. If it’s taken as a slight or insult it’s only because the “insulted/slighted” are ignorant of English.

  • Diane

    How is there any argument on this? Not all adjectives take the same form. “Democratic” is an adjective used to describe the word “Party.” “Republican” in the Party name is used as an adjective describing “Party.” But what difference does it make? A party can call itself whatever it likes as long as it does not infringe on another group, and anyone referring to this Party would be IN ERROR to call it by another name.

    The name of the source speaks for itself.

    Source: http://www.conservapedia.com/Democrat_Party

    “Democrat Party is the grammatically correct term for the Democratic Party. The Party is not “democratic”, and proper nouns like “Democrat” are not converted into adjectives by adding “ic” as a suffix. It is not the “Republicanic Party,” or the “Libertarianic Party”, or a “Smith-ic Wedding.” Predictably, many Democrats dislike the term “Democrat Party,” perhaps because the official name is the “Democratic Party of the United States” since 1844[1] and perhaps they prefer the false illusion that their party is somehow more “democratic” than other parties.
    History of usage
    “Democrat Party” has a long history of usage by critics of the Democratic Party –mostly Republicans but also third party leaders like Ralph Nader.[2] The history has been traced by scholars and commentators to the early 20th century.[3] The earliest known use of the term, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in Britain in 1890: “Whether a little farmer…is going to rule the Democrat Party in America.”[4] The term was used by Herbert Hoover in 1932, and in the late 1930s by Republicans who used it to criticize Democratic big city machines run by powerful political bosses in what they considered undemocratic fashion.”

  • Phil

    For all of your info “democratic” is an adjective not a noun.

  • Steven Sodar

    May I give you a tip. He/she is a Democrat not a Democratic.
    A memember of the RepubIican party can only be referred to as a Republican.
    In America we are all democratic – Democrats and Republicans alike.
    So, in fact, Democrat Party does not neccessarily have to be a pejorative just as the name Republican also does not (‘That heartless, uncaring Republican Party’).
    So the Democrats have basically hijacked the word ‘democratic’ in the same way as gay people have absconded with the word ‘Gay’. For instance, my friends – particularly my girl friends – cannot call me gay as I frolic through life, because I am a serial heterosexual (as my girlfriends know!) and I have never had (or been known to have had) a homosexual relationship (and by the way, there are many openly homosexual Republicans. True, there are many conservative traditionalists who object (some vehemently) on religious grounds – as is their right in a democratic system. I don’t think there is room for them in the ‘Democratic’ Party! …or am I wrong?)

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