March 26, 2007

The International Democrat Union

Here in Paris, my youngest son and I have been trying to understand the news in French, which these days requires understanding the complicated ecology of French political parties. So we began looking things up on Wikipedia, and right away, we learned something amazing. We started with the article on Nicholas Sarkozy's UMP, and in the right-hand summary panel we saw the UMP's International Affiliation is the International Democrat Union. So we clicked on that link, and learned that:

The International Democrat Union (IDU) is an international grouping of conservative, neoliberal and Christian democratic political parties.

Formed in 1983, the IDU provides a forum in which political parties holding similar beliefs can come together and exchange views on matters of policy and organizational interest, in order that they might act cooperatively, establish contacts, and present a unified voice toward the promotion of centre-right policies across the globe. The group was founded by several prominent heads of state and government, including Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher, [then] Vice President of the United States George H.W. Bush, Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl and then-Mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac.

At present, the group, headquartered in London, England, and comprising 45 full or associate members, is chaired by Prime Minister of Australia John Howard. [emphasis added]

Among the 36 full members are the UMP in France, the Conservative Party in the UK -- and the Republican Party in the U.S.!

Maybe that's why George W. Bush keeps referring to the Democratic Party as the "Democrat Party" -- his own party is a member of the International Democrat Union, co-founded by his father. (As you'll learn by following the link in the last sentence, I know very well that the IDU has nothing to do with the political taunting involved in mis-naming the (American) Democrats -- but the IDU's name does underline the fact that there's nothing intrinsically ungrammatical about using a noun like democrat as a modifier. Though curiously, the French name of the IDU is Union démocratique internationale.)

In case you don't trust Wikipedia to give the organization's morphology accurately, here is the IDU's official website.

Posted by Mark Liberman at March 26, 2007 12:45 AM