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.