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: