Independent Party attack un-Democratic

A heavy-handed Democratic proposal that would have forced the decades-old Independent Party to change its name lasted all of a day in the General Assembly as the session neared its end.

A threat by the Republican minority to tie up the body with a filibuster in its crucial final days unless the Independent Party was left alone led to the plan's withdrawal after a brief discussion between Democratic Senate President Donald Williams and Democratic House Speaker Brendan Sharkey.

As far as we can see, the Independent Party's only offense was its ability to attract tens of thousands of votes for Republican candidates in recent elections. In last year's Senate race, Republican Linda McMahon received 46,000 votes on the Independent Party line to Democrat Chris Murphy's 36,000 as the Working Families Party candidate.

Democratic legislators had piously proclaimed they were only trying to avoid confusion - by eliminating a name "independent" that some voters might mix up with "unaffiliated," the official designation when a voter chooses not to pick a party in Connecticut. It is unknown how many people may have voted for an Independent Party candidate because he thought he was running as a member of the Unaffiliated Party, but a good estimate is none.

Chief among the pious proclaimers was State Sen. Anthony Musto, who says he would also like to ban political parties named "America" or "American," and also "Connecticut," as in Lowell Weicker's "A Connecticut Party," the one that beat the Democrats and Republicans for governor in 1990. Sen. Musto will have to put off these quixotic efforts to avoid voter confusion for another day.

Now that Connecticut's Republicans are so fervently and commendably on record in favor of leaving a party's name alone, we have a modest proposal for them.

Give the Democratic Party its "ic" back.

America's oldest party is not "the Democrat Party," three words many Republican politicians cannot seem to utter without a sneer. It's the Democratic Party.

The late columnist William Safire, an authority on political language, traced the epithet's origin to the 1940 presidential campaign when Harold Stassen, the boy governor of Minnesota, suggested the word democratic was ill suited for a party dominated by corrupt and dictatorial city bosses like Mayor Hague of Jersey City and suggested Democrat Party instead. It didn't work.

In the 1950s, Joe McCarthy tried again on the grounds an agent of international communism could not be at the same time democratic. But as Hedrick Smith pointed out in a 2006 New Yorker essay, the party's more respectable wing, with people like Connecticut's Prescott Bush, didn't buy it.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the first to propose eliminating the "ic" in writing, which he did in a 1990 memo entitled "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control." But Mr. Gingrich had to wait 17 years until a president, Prescott Bush's grandson, the Connnecticut-born, but Texas-raised George W., actually dropped the "ic."

Mr. Bush called it "the Democrat Party" in his 2007 State of the Union address and to this day, you hardly ever hear an "ic" uttered by a Republican, except for one or two dissenters. The late William F. Buckley, one of the ablest writers of the English tongue, wrote that he had an aversion to "Democrat" as an adjective. "It has the effect of injecting politics into language and that should be avoided."

When some Democrats suggested a form of sophomoric revenge by mangling the Republican Party name and calling it the Republic or Publican Party, the Democratic National Committee declined, cleverly explaining that "Republican is the name by which our opponents' product is known and mistrusted."

But now, the Connecticut Republican Party has broken new ground with its defense of the Independent Party's good name and we'd like to see Republicans follow up by restoring the proper name of their historic opponent, at least in this enlightened state.

No legislative action would be needed, just a little class.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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