Caplis claimed that in referring to the political party, "Democrat" is grammatically correct


Responding to co-host Craig Silverman, who congratulated him for saying " 'Democratic Party' for the first time in many months," Dan Caplis falsely asserted on the November 16 broadcast of their 630 KHOW-AM show that "to be grammatically correct, you would say 'Democrat Party.' " As Colorado Media Matters has noted numerous times, using the noun "Democrat" as an adjective instead of the grammatically correct "Democratic" is a well-established conservative tactic.

Caplis' insistence on using incorrect grammar came during a discussion about the November 15 Democratic presidential debate, sponsored by CNN. Later in his conversation with Silverman, Caplis stated, "[I]t's not worth getting involved in semantical [sic], you know, mud wrestling. That's why -- I'd rather, much rather get to the substance of the issues."

From the November 16 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show:

CAPLIS: We're gonna end on a bit lighter note. This probably puts the context -- we're gonna come back and talk about the debate last night, the Democratic Party debate, play some sound from that, and then talk about some of the bigger issues comin' out of the debate, since -- such as, you know, has this now become Hillary and the Seven Dwarfs? Is this thing over, and does that mean it's over for the Dems? But we'll play, yeah, we'll play some interesting sound for you --

SILVERMAN: Can I congratulate you? I think you just said "Democratic Party" for the first time in many months.

CAPLIS: Oh, that's not true. See, you're just too sensitive.

SILVERMAN: You may lose your Republican credit card.

CAPLIS: Here is, here's the problem: I try to be grammatically correct. I'm not real good at that, obviously, but I try to be. And to be grammatically correct, you would say "Democrat Party." But then, I have people like you who are upset when I say that, and it's just not worth getting into a brawl over that. You know, let's get into a brawl over the life-and-death policy issues. But if it makes my brother feel better for me to say "Democratic Party," I'll say that. But to be grammatically correct, you would say, I think, the "Democrat Party."

SILVERMAN: No, you're wrong. Maybe we can agree on this: What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? Like him? Admire him? Think he was much of a wordsmith?

[Caplis laughs]

SILVERMAN: He came up with "Democratic Party." He started it. He named it the "Democratic Party."


SILVERMAN: So, don't you think if -- an organization or a person should be called what they want to be called?

CAPLIS: That's fine, the point being, though, that to be -- and perhaps the better word is to be precise -- the Republican Party is as or more democratic than the Democrat Party, given the current leadership of the Democratic Party. So in order to be precise, I think -- but listen, it's not worth getting involved in semantical, you know, mud wrestling. That's why -- I'd rather, much rather get to the substance of the issues.

SILVERMAN: Well, I know. But that would be like a Democrat saying, "I'm not going to say the word 'right' anymore 'cause 'right' implies 'correct,' but then the Republicans are associated with the right -- oh, my goodness, we can't say that word anymore." You guys have words that kinda favor you, and "Democratic"'s a good word for the left. A lot of people like a Republican -- "Republican" too.

CAPLIS: Well, you know, the bottom line is I want to talk about the issues.

In contrast to Caplis, fellow conservative talk show host Mike Rosen of Newsradio 850 KOA has admitted that one reason he uses "Democrat" instead of "Democratic" is "just to annoy Democrats, 'cause they hate when we do that," as Colorado Media Matters noted. Another reason, according to Rosen, is to ensure "that readers won't be confused into thinking that this is the party that's democratic and the other party is anti-democratic."

Colorado Media Matters has further pointed out that in an August 7, 2006, article, New Yorker magazine senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg noted that the word "Democrat" is a noun, not an adjective:

The American Heritage College Dictionary, for example, defines the noun "Democratic Party" as "One of the two major US political parties, owing its origin to a split in the Democratic-Republican Party under Andrew Jackson in 1828." (It defines "Democrat n" as "A Democratic Party member" and "Democratic adj" as "Of, relating to, or characteristic of the Democratic Party," but gives no definition for -- indeed, makes no mention of -- "Democrat Party n" or "Democrat adj".) Other dictionaries, and reference works generally, appear to be unanimous on these points.

Citing Hertzberg's article, Media Matters for America pointed out that Republicans' widespread use of the noun "Democrat" as an adjective was part of a deliberate strategy disseminated by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Hertzberg wrote that Republicans "as far back as the Harding Administration" have referred to the "Democrat Party," including the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who "made it a regular part of his arsenal of insults," and former Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), who "denounced 'Democrat wars' ... in his [1976] Vice-Presidential debate with [former Sen.] Walter Mondale [D-MN]."

As Hertzberg noted, "among those of the Republican persuasion," the use of " 'Democrat Party' is now nearly universal" thanks to "Newt Gingrich, the nominal author of the notorious 1990 memo 'Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,' and his Contract with America pollster, Frank Luntz." While Hertzberg reported that Luntz "road-tested the adjectival use of 'Democrat' with a focus group in 2001" and "concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherents of the ... Democratic Party," he also wrote that Luntz had told him that "[t]hose two letters ['ic'] actually do matter," and that Luntz "recently finished writing a book ... entitled 'Words That Work.' "

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