Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Democratic Party of Canada?

The blogosphere has been talking about it for a few days and it was brought up for the first time a few weeks ago, but the media is now beginning to report on the story as well.

The New Democrats are considering changing their name. They would drop the "New" and become the Democratic Party.

The NDP has been around for almost 50 years, so it does make sense to drop the "New". After two or three generations, it is difficult to consider them "new" anymore. And it is not unusual for a party to have the same name as parties in other countries. Many nations have Conservative and Liberal parties. The names themselves were brought over from the United Kingdom.

Could the popularity of the Democratic Party in the United States be an instigator for this name change? Quite possibly, but it doesn't really matter. I don't expect to see the NDP jump 5 points because of this, and it is impossible to know how Canadians will feel about the US Democrats in ten, twenty, or thirty years.

However, I'd suggest a different name. The Conservative and Liberal parties have names that are descriptive of their policies. The Bloc Quebecois has a name that is instantly understandable. And the Greens have an internationally recognised name that stands for environmentalism. But "New Democrat" is not descriptive of anything, and the name "Democratic Party" isn't much more descriptive. This Democratic Party of Canada wouldn't be really all that more democratic than the other parties in the House of Commons.

As I've talked about in the past, the New Democrats are part of the Socialist International. Now, unfortunately some of the other parties take to calling the NDP "socialists" in the pejorative sense, but the NDP shouldn't be afraid to be who they are. They frequently refer to their "social democracy", as does the Bloc Quebecois. So, that is not an unknown or scary phrase in Canadian politics.

I would suggest that the NDP change their name to the SDP, or Social Democratic Party. They wouldn't be the first. Various incarnations of the SDP have formed governments throughout the world. In fact, in Nazi Germany the Social Democrats were the only real liberal opponents to Adolf Hitler, and many of them spent years in concentration camps because of it. So the history of organised Social Democracy does have some good elements, and it would not be a bad idea for the NDP to embrace that political movement.

Unfortunately, I doubt the NDP would make such a change. As an alternative, the name "Democratic Party" seems better to me than the New Democrats, for the reasons I've outlined above. They aren't new anymore, and it doesn't help describe who they are. As long as they stick to their roots and keep the horrible olive green and bright orange, I'm down with the name change. Any party that is brave enough to wrap themselves in those colours is okay in my book.


  1. I'm not sure that the "New" in "New Democratic Party" is as much of a problem as some people seem to think.

    It's just a name and I doubt many voters really think about the meaning of the word "new" when they see "NDP".

    Consider New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I would bet that almost all of the time people simply think of those as set word combinations that denote those provinces -- they are not focussing on any alleged "newness". And both names are hundreds of years old.

    Nova Scotia is still "newer" than the original Scotland. But one could observe that the NDP still represents a more recent political movement than represented by their two main opponents: the Conservative and Liberal Parties.

  2. As I understand, the "New Democratic" originally meant that the party stood for what they called "new democracy", not that the party itself used to be new back then.

  3. Sure, but that "new democracy" isn't really new anymore. Socialism itself is relatively new, but it is not a new idea anymore.

    I don't think it is a problem either, but changing the name isn't a bad idea. It worked for the Reform Party.

  4. Eric wrote:

    "It worked for the Reform Party."

    The Reform Party did not simply change its name. It dissolved and a new party (Canadian Alliance) was formed -- with a founding convention and leadership race.

    The purpose of the new party was to attempt to "unite the right" but it is difficult to claim that this was a success because the PC Party refused to participate and insufficient PC voters were attracted to the new offering.

    Parties almost never change their names unless it is because of a merger, split, or some other fundamental realignment.

  5. How about the National Socialist Federation. That way their cheques can come with NSF already written on it! LOL, I kid, I kid.

    This might actually work as people will not call it the "DP", but rather the Democrats, or the Democratic Party. That's a different word that NDP.

    NDP seems to mean Not Destined for Power in many people's minds. The words dont mean anything. As you said, words like Bloc, Green, Liberal and Conservative do. While "Democratic" might not mean anything either, it is a different word. It, at minimum, gives the party a chance to rebrand itself. I dont expect it to cause the party to gain dozens of seats in BC or Ontario (and in fact in the provinces they are already strong they could get weaker) but in provinces like New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, or Newfoundland, where people are scared to death of the NDP, it could cause quite an impact. I also would not be so quick to count out the atlantic. In general, atlantic canadians like NDP policies, but they don't like the NDP. If they could get over that, the NDP might be able to win as many as 20-25 seats there on a regular basis. Considering this is the average number of seats they usually win in total, its certainly worth a shot. Not to mention what a possible breakthrough in Quebec could mean for the party.

    I think it's a good thing for one, and I support it. Even if only to make people stop saying "The NDP Party"

  6. It has been raised in the media that if the the NDP dropped the "New", then their initials in French would be "PD" -- which, when pronounced, sounds like "pédé" [short for pederast].

    One commentator observered:

    "On anticipe le malaise en imaginant le slogan sous la photo d'un candidat disant : Votez pour le PD!"

  7. Bon point. But the "PD" would probably just go by "Democrats" or "démocrats". None of the other parties use their initials in any meaningful way.


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