When you think of the two major political parties, you often think about the animals that represent them. The Donkey and The Elephant have long become a part of the political traditions and are often seen gracing the political commentary in newspapers throughout the United States. But where did they come from?
Neither of these animals represents style and grace. Nothing about them would make them especially appealing as a representation of our democracy, so what gives. One political cartoonist is to blame for this major political faux pas. A very influential cartoonist Thomas Nast worked for Harpers Weekly drawing political cartoons. He drew a donkey in 1870 and called it the “Copperhead Press.” This was done to poke fun at the southern sympathizers of the Democratic papers. The elephant came along later as Mr. Nast drew him as a representation of the Republican Party.
President Grant planned to run for President for the third time in 1874. This news was reported by the New York Herald in a story where they accused President Grant of attempting to be Caesar, much like the Roman Emperor. Ironically another story that ran a few weeks after the Grant story talked about wild animals escaping the New York Zoo and running around New York City. Fortunately for New York, the story was not true. But because of this story, the donkey and elephant would become married to their parties in history.
The donkey and elephant came together in November of 1876. Prior to the midterm elections, one of Nast’s cartoons were featured in Harpers Weekly showing a donkey dressed as a lion with the word “Caesarism.” The lion was seen frightening all the other zoo animals to include an elephant with a label that displayed the words “The Republican Vote.” Although the cartoon didn’t paint a pretty picture about the two political parties, it caught on like wild fire. From that time until the present, these two symbols have been synonymous to both parties.
The next time you are reading political commentary and notice a picture of the Donkey or the Elephant, remember this information. The Republicans see the elephant as a representation of strength, intelligence and dignity and the Democrats see their donkey symbol as an animal that represents courage, being reserved, welcoming, and captivating. Now we all know people from both sides of this political seesaw; do they fit this bill? Are the current candidates fit to be called a Donkey or an Elephant if their beliefs are true? Your vote when the time comes, will tell the story of which side you prefer.