Names, Names, Names !
Our fractious Party has suffered many disagreements over what to call ourselves. “Prohibition” Party often has seemed narrow and unappealing. Yet, we keep coming back to it. It is by now the most enduring icon in American politics: Everybody has heard of it, and (whether or not they agree with us), everybody knows exactly what it means. Here is a sampling of the controversy:
In 1876, only our 7th year of life, we changed our name to “Prohibition Reform Party.”
In 1882, we became the “Prohibition Home Protection Party,” at the urging of WCTU leader Frances Willard.
In 1884, there was an “American Prohibition Party” organized. It was never heard of, again.
In 1896, after the Broad-Gauge faction lost the platform fight at our convention, it walked out and organized a “National Party.” In 1900, though, the Broad-Gauge faction regained control of the convention, and it was the Narrow-Gaugers who formed a “United Christian Party.” Neither version lasted long.
There was a “Continental Party” in 1904, which sought to “unite the dis-affected of all parties.” No unity resulted, however. The “Reform Party” of our own day has tried to do the same thing, with little luck.
In 1936, Midwestern Fundamentalist Christians changed the Michigan party name to “Commonwealth Party,” after losing a name-change fight at our national convention, to set their branch apart from the allegedly too-liberal Eastern Prohibition Party.
The 1936 Commonwealth Party vote in Michigan was only 2/5 of the Prohibition Party vote in 1932, and we lost the ballot in Michigan. In 1962, Michigan changed names again, this time using “American Christian Party,” and we lost the ballot in Michigan again.
Our 1940 Presidential candidate, Roger Babson, wanted to change our name to “Church Party,” and his running-mate, Edgar Moorman, wanted to call us the “His Kingdom Party.” Thankfully, neither suggestion was adopted; Babson and Moorman made a good showing using our traditional “Prohibition Party” name.
In 1955, non-conformist national chairman Lowell Coate organized a splinter group and called it the “American Pioneers Party.” These pioneers became lost in the wilderness.
In 1978, Prohibition Party state candidates used the name “National Statesman Party,” on the advice of Party historian Roger Storms, and in 1980 our national ticket also used “National Statesman Party.” Earl F. Dodge, one of the candidates of the National Statesman Party, summed up that and all other experiments in name-changing, when he said afterward: “The new name didn’t gain us any support.” [National Statesman 69(12):2].
The “name” policy being advocated today by national chairman Don Webb is to retain the use of our traditional “Prohibition” Party tag and to seek fusion candidates in co-operation with other parties. The fusion candidates would use different party names in different states, depending on which party was strongest in any given state, and the emphasis would be on promoting the (independent) candidate, not on promoting the candidate’s party. Today’s voter, says Webb, votes for personalities, not for parties, and we need adapt to that by promoting our candidates as individuals.