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October 28, 2008

There's an "ic" in Ehrlich, but not in Democratic

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is the star of two new 15-second spots for Andy Harris's congressional bid.

The ads mark a shift to the center for Harris, a conservative state senator from Baltimore County facing Democrat Frank Kratovil in the 1st congressional district race. Each features just a head shot of Ehrlich -- who lost his re-election bid in 2006 despite high popularity ratings -- talking directly to the camera about the virtues of Harris. In both spots, Ehrlich calls Harris an "independent voice," part of an effort to appeal to the middle swath of the electorate that Ehrlich tapped to become governor.

But in trying to build Harris's crossover appeal, Ehrlich uses a term that many Democrats find offensive.

"I want to talk to my Democrat and Independent friends about Andy Harris," Ehrlich says in one ad.

In that context, many of Ehrlich's associates probably think of themselves as Democratic friends, not Democrat friends. As trivial as it may seem, that one syllable makes a lot of difference.

President Bush is well-known for perpetuating the use of "Democrat" as an adjective, almost always referring to the Democrat Party and Democrat leaders. But it started long before him.

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus has called the shortened term "derisive" and "needling."

"(A)s a matter of simple politeness -- something the Bush family is famously good at -- it's rude to call people by a term that makes them bristle, even a seemingly innocuous one," Marcus wrote in a November 2006 column. "There's also something grating and coarse-sounding about this abbreviated appellation, like saying "Jew" instead of "Jewish." It is, conservative wordsmith William F. Buckley wrote in National Review in 2002, 'offensive to the ear.'"

Harris campaign manager Chris Meekins chuckled at the observation, and said that the campaign had an internal debate over which adjective to use, and came down on the side of Democrat. The thinking, he said, was that all voters are little-d democratic -- as in members of a democracy -- but that the voters Ehrlich and Harris are trying to speak to are Democrats.

As for the offensive connotations of the shortened form, "I haven't heard that," Meekins said. "That never even crossed our mind."

Here's a copy of the spot:

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:12 AM | | Comments (1)


Yes, I am sure he meant to "offend" people. Think about the other accepted uses of those terms "Democrat or Republican". I suppose it's the Democratic Party, right but I doubt that anyone has specifically codified the use or non use of Democrat vs. Democratic in reference to people. On the opposite side of the coin, it's Republican and Republican Party.

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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