Home > NDP, NDP Convention 2009 > When New Is Old: Responses To 2 Common Reactions in Regards to Renaming the NDP the Democratic Party Of Canada

When New Is Old: Responses To 2 Common Reactions in Regards to Renaming the NDP the Democratic Party Of Canada

July 14, 2009

Exactly one year ago, I wrote a post supporting the removal of “New” from the New Democratic Party name. Since then, a motion advocating this change has been submitted for debate at this year’s NDP Convention, and the topic has become more relevant.

So, for this blog post, I won’t rehash the arguments on why we should become the Democratic Party, but instead respond to the two most common reactions to the proposal.

Changing our name to the Democratic Party will, in the eyes of the average Canadian, infer a connection with the Democratic Party of the United States.

This is one of the most common reactions I hear. Personally, I find it kind of weak as an argument not to change the name of the New Democratic Party. The fact is, the name “Democratic Party”, is rather common around the world. Do any of this parties have some kind of inferred connection with the Democratic Party of the United States within their countries? I suspect not.

But let’s, for a minute, take this argument to its logicial concussion and let’s look at other political parties and entities that call themselves New Democrats. The New Democratic Party of Albania and the New Democracy Party of Greece are both right-wing entities. And the New Democrats in the United States are a relatively right-wing portion of the Democratic Party of the United States. Therefore, shouldn’t the New Democratic Party of Canada have some sort of inferred connection with these groups? Shouldn’t the New Democratic Party of Canada rename itself to get away from any possible inferred connection?

The thing is, people are smart enough to figure out between what is happening in their own country and what is happening in other countries. Furthermore, as it would be Jack Layton and the current caucus team that would be the ones introducing the new name, any remote, tiny, possible thought of any inferred connection would certainly go away in a hurry.

The “New” should be replaced with “Social”.

The next common reaction that I hear is to not rename the NDP to the Democratic Party, but the Social Democratic Party. I understand where these people are coming from, as I am a Social Democrat myself, but there are three reasons why I think that “Social Democratic Party” is less preferable than “Democratic Party”.

The first reason is the that term “Social Democrat” is not well known in Canada.

The second reason is renaming ourselves Social Democratic Party would be ideologically limiting. This is bad for two reasons, the first being not all people within the New Democratic Party are, or identify as, Social Democrats. Secondly, in order to win more seats, we will have to attract voters that are more right-wing than the average social democrat.

The final reason is that the Social Democratic Party would, like the current New Democratic Party name, be converted into an faceless, meaningless acronym. Instead of NDP, we’d be stuck with SDP. Considering that the other two major party are referred to by name instead of an acronym, simply switching from one acronym to another doesn’t really strength our brand.

(Added 4:46pm) Like most NDP-Liberal Swing voters. What I’m trying to say here is these type of swing voters might not identify themselves as Social Democrats either.

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Categories: NDP, NDP Convention 2009
  1. July 14, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I agree with you that a change to the Social Democratic Party of Canada would be a major mis-step for the party. We have quite an interesting spectrum of political ideology here, one that hinges mainly on and can be understood easily by colours. There are many (Liberal)Red-Dips in the country that would be turned off from the Party should the name go further left.

    On the other hand, we have a great many socialists and further left leftists that would be turned off if the name went further right. So the real challenge is to accommodate all the wings and factions of the NDP, and come up with a centrist name that will not only appeal to established New Democrats, but to new New Democrats as well. This is going to be done best by a shift such as the one you suggest.

    Another factor to take into consideration is that the reality is that a name change will do little to attract new members, and swing-voters if the party doesnt maneuverer itself into a position where it can be seen as effective and relevant. I hope to goodness they can, but thats a whole other blog post! One I may write later!

  2. K.
    July 14, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Essentially there would still be a shift to the centre?

    • July 14, 2009 at 9:58 pm

      I wouldn’t know. I haven’t seen any of this convention’s resolutions.

  3. July 14, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    A shift to the centre doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. The BCNDP is quite unattractive to most voters, but more attractive than the alternative. Even people like me who have a strong social conscience had to ‘hold our noses’ and vote, as they said all through this most recent election.

    I would so like to see a good, strong, painfully relevant NDP – but they will forever be seen as (and essentially be) a ‘fringe’ party, catering to socialist and Big Labour, unless they broaden their base. They would serve a much better purpose by staying true to their strong social causes but curbing their more ‘radical’ (for lack of a better word) tendencies. To the electorate in general, Big Labour is just as bad as Big Business. This stops many from voting for the NDP. My mother, case and point, votes BC Liberal even though she may identify with a more progressive and social agenda than Gordon Campbell promotes. The whole aura of the NDP scare people away, something that a name change could help with.

    But, as I said, theres much more to be done.

  4. August 3, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Your cavalier attitude towards the public’s ability to figure out political dynamics is interesting.

    Positioning theory would conclude that the American Democratic party has already defined itself in the minds of Canadian voters. This holds especially true with the massive amount of publicity Obama has generated.

    I say go for it however. As a federal Liberal I would enjoy seeing your party inevitably move closer to the centre.

    • August 3, 2009 at 10:40 am

      Well, if you’d believe that Democratic Party of Canada == Democratic Party of the US simply because of some name change, then you might make some sense.

      However, the thing is, even with a renaming, the Democratic Party of Canada =! Democratic Party of the US.

  5. Eve
    August 5, 2009 at 10:43 am

    The problem I have with the association with the US Democrats if we do drop the NEW comes from that quasi-Obama-worshiping I’ve been noticing from fellow NDPers. I’ve been in two separate NDP offices that had Obama pictures/posters on the walls. They invite his campaign managers to talk to the convention, and I’ve had numerous conversations about it too (btw, I’m sick of the “his hands are tied, I’m sure he’d want to be more progressive if he could…” He’s the PRESIDENT. He COULD if he WANTED TO)… anyways…

    Embracing Obama that much is in itself a slight shift “to the right” (though I think the whole left/right concept is irrelevant) because Obama has proven by his stances, his voting record in the senate, and his work as a president so far, that he is NOT very progressive, maybe for the USA he is, especially after the Bush presidency, but certainly not compared to the NDP.

    Are we afraid of what people think of us to the point of having to associate ourselves somehow with someone who is very popular at the moment, even though his ideologies CLEARLY don’t match ours??? Come on!

  6. Eve
    August 5, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Oh, by the way, I know that we wouldn’t drop the NEW just so people would associate us with Obama. But I really do believe that this notion has not eluded the NDP and that they kind of know / are kind of hoping that people will.

  7. Eve
    August 5, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Agreed. But I don’t know if you’re an NDP insider or observer, but you’ve got to admit that the level of love our fellow NDPers seem to have for President Obama is a little bothering… That seems like just another move in the direction…

    Although, even long term, there is going to be an association with the US party whether we want it or not, or whether it’s voluntary or not, and I don’t think I want that because the US Dems are getting worse by the year. (Except for Kucinich).

    I do think we should change our name though. But not just by dropping the NEW. (Sadly I’m not the most creative girl, here, and I don’t have a suggestion! Haha!)

    • August 5, 2009 at 11:23 am

      I’ve seen how many New Democrats have been very interested in Obama and his campaign tactics.

      But I disagree that there will be an association with the US Democrats, as 1) there are many Democratic parties in the world and Canadians are smart enough to figure out that they are all different; and 2) The people associated with the Democratic Party of Canada would be people like Jack Layton, Libby Davies, Nathan Cullen, etc., who (even if they tried) are very different from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden.

  8. Eve
    August 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    I know that the NDP is (and should remain!) VERY different from the US Dems. Hell, if Obama lived in Canada, I’m 99% sure he’d never vote NDP. (Sadly, the same cannot be said for NDPers if they moved to the US…)

    And I know that people are smart enough to make a difference. And I know that the US didn’t invent the name Democrats and aren’t the only ones on the planet using them. But come on. It’s like free association. Even if it’s not fully conscious and/or you dismiss it afterward, you still make the association in your head. That notion has not escaped them, trust me.

    And again, this would so not even bother me if I hadn’t witnessed all that Obamamania amongst my NDP peers!!!

    … Your comment made me wonder who Layton would vote for if he was a US citizen.

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