(Article changed on October 11, 2012 at 15:31)
Language changes like a river, and now we have another new ripple. Except it isn't new. I'm referring to using a noun to modify another noun -- when the modifying noun is Democrat. I'm sure you've seen or heard it, as in:
The Democrat party, or
A Democrat senator
The first time I registered this grammatical abomination was in a remark by George W. Bush during his presidency (so I simply ascribed it to ignorance), but a bit of digging reveals that the epithet has been in use since at least the 1940s in Wendell Wilkie's failed presidential campaign.
These days, use of the slur appears to be rampant. Right-wing talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh uses the term promiscuously. Many conservative Republicans, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and a host of Congressional Republicans, use the term liberally (no pun intended). More tellingly, the noun-as-adjective has occurred in most GOP platforms since 1948.
In fact placing a noun in front of an adjective is not always wrong. We do it routinely to form compound nouns such as "copy machine", "food activist", and "peace (or bowel) movement".
But the political entity I'm talking about is named the Democratic Party and to remove the suffix is not only to misuse, but also deliberately to disparage, the party and hence its constituents. As House Representative Marty Kaptur reprimanded Representative Jeb Hensarling after he, in questioning Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag, repeatedly used the epithet:
I'd like to begin by saying to my colleague from Texas that there isn't a single member on this side of the aisle that belongs to the "Democrat Party'. We belong to the Democratic Party. So the party you were referring to doesn't even exist. And I would just appreciate the courtesy when you're referring to our party, if you're referring to the Democratic Party, to refer to it as such.
Two kinds of people misuse the noun-as-adjective Democrat, and the first of these knows exactly what he's doing. Such a person is signaling derision with a sly and underhanded slur. Paul Craig Roberts, in his highly ambivalent association with the idol (including Reagan) questioners of this site, uses it ("Why didn't the Democrat convention raise the issue ...").
The other kind of person who uses this term, and unfortunately I've seen it used in comments on this site, is simply untutored, not sufficiently versed in the use of proper speech to detect the error but enough of a follower to replicate its use. That person means no offense. He or she is simply regurgitating, unexamined, what he or she has seen and heard.
Such people are thus, much to the delight of intentional offenders, unwittingly enrolling in and enlivening the strategy.
If you're going to act as fodder for the right, at least be aware of it.