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How Elephants and Donkeys Became Political Symbols


Last week it was the Republicans. Now this week it’s the Democrats’ turn for their national convention.

We were talking about it yesterday – why is the donkey associated with the Democrats and the elephant the symbol of the Republicans?

You have to go back to Andrew Jackson’s run for president in 1828. His opponents called him a jackass. Jackson turned it around and considered it a compliment. He said the jackass is strong willed and so was he. It worked. He was elected.

Years later political cartoonist Thomas Nast used the donkey to go along with newspaper articles and it stuck.

And Nast also invented the Republican elephant. In a political cartoon in Harper’s Weekly he showed a donkey dressed in lion’s clothing that scared away all the animals in the zoo. By random he labeled the elephant “The Republican Vote.” It was that simple. The elephant was now the symbol of the Republican Party.

So if you ask any Democratic Party leader he’ll tell you the donkey is smart, tough and brave. Republicans will tell you the elephant is strong and dignified.



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