Generic Political Parties

The leaves are changing and it’s full-swing silly season, so my Delaware County, PA district’s Republican congressman has supporters with yard signs calling him “Independent for US” without mention of his actual party affiliation. Just a few miles to our southwest in Maryland, Michael Steele, the Republican candidate for the Senate has signs that say “Steele Democrat.” Of course, both could be exclused by recognizing that “trademark” terms like “independent” or “democract” have generic, descriptive meanings in addition to their ballot-related meaning. Steele’s folks also argue that “Democrat” is a noun identifying his supporters in the opposing party. Of course, in Republican-friendly districts, Democrats could probably call themselves “republican” to the extent that they oppose monarchical tendencies in our government. (Or they could educate a lot more folks about Plato, Madison and Sunstein.)

While legal enforcement is an option to deal with this confusion, I wonder if it would be better to simply encourage less-generic political party names? “Blue JFK”, “Red Reagan” or even Connecticut-for-Lieberman?

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1 Response

  1. hpl says:

    In Austria, in April 2005 the “Freiheitliche Partei” (FPÖ, usually translated as “Freedom Party”) split in two. The breakaway part, somewhat awkwardly named (BZÖ), found out that “brand recognition” was a severe problem and so tried to start using the word “freiheitlich” again in the run up to yesterday’s parliamentary election. The courts were called in (by the “original” Freedom Party) and issued an injunction – the use of the word “freiheitlich” by the breakaway-party was considered an illegal breach of the original party’s right of name.

    However, for the ballots, the elctoral commissions deciding on the “ballot-design” accepted the term “freiheitlich” as a descriptive adjective also for the breakaway party. Four distinguished law professors were called in to prepare expertises for the electoral commissions on this issue – and in the end three of these professors are currently being sued by the Freedom Party for allegedly providing false expertise; needless to say, the professors have retaliated filing suits against the party, and so the courts will be hearing “right of name”-cases (and associated claims) for some time to come.