The Origins of the Elephant and the Donkey

No, we’re not talking about a fable- thought that does sound like the title of something from Aesop!

We mean the political mascots of the Democratic and Republican parties. You’re probably seeing a lot of these animals, now that the election is drawing so close. But have you ever wondered where those mascots came from?

The Democrat’s comparison to a donkey was not meant to be flattering. Originally, it was a derisive slogan used against Andrew Jackson in the 1828 presidential campaign. Jackson, however, being the stubborn, strong-willed man that he was, took the donkey and twisted it to his own uses. He began using it in promotional materials, turning a vice-his stubbornness-into a virtue.

It was not until political cartoonist Thomas Nast that the donkey became permanently associated with the Democratic party. In an 1874 issue of Harper’s Weekly, Nast drew a donkey dressed in a lion costume that scared the other animals away from the zoo. One, the elephant, was labeled “The Republican Vote.”

That was all it took. From that point on, the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant became the unofficial symbols of the parties. Democrats claim that the donkey is smart and brave (not stubborn!), while Republicans like to say that the elephant is strong and dignified.

The cartoon that started it all.

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