There are two major political parties in the United States -- the Republican and the Democratic -- but you wouldn't know that from many of today's supposedly "objective" journalists. No, like GOP speakers and rightwing talk radio hosts, more and more "reporters" talk about the Democrat Party, considered an epithet (and not a kindly one). CBS's Scott Pelley irked more than a few people in his 60 Minutes interview with President Bush by his regular references to the "Democrat Party," and I've heard similar references on NPR, among others.
Media Matters has been all over this issue, with examples from the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, AP, CNN and CBS among others, and continues to track them. Why does it matter? Words mean something -- and that's not just the editor-within obsessing about style guides. Media Matters cites Hendrik Hertzberg's essay in The New Yorker:
There's no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming. "Democrat Party" is a slur, or intended to be--a handy way to express contempt. 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.
Hertzberg says that Sen. Joe McCarthy "made it [the 'Democrat' party] a regular part of his arsenal of insults," but the usage was pushed in the 1990s by Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz, whom he quotes:
"Those two letters actually do matter," Luntz said the other day. He added that he recently finished writing a book--it's entitled Words That Work--and has been diligently going through the galley proofs taking out the hundreds of "ic"s that his copy editor, one of those partisan Dems, had stuck in.
President George W. Bush, unlike his GOP predecessors GHW Bush and Ronald Reagan, uses the party slur exclusively. And while some MSM journos follow suit, a few such as Washington Post blogger Dan Froomkin, object, pointing out that "Bush's alleged commitment to bipartisanship would probably be easier to swallow if he referred to the opposition party by its proper name."