Why is the Donkey a Democrat and the Elephant a Republican? by Patricia C Prada Jimenez

Do you know why in USA the Donkey is Democrat and the Elephant Republican?[1]

Both images-the elephant and the donkey-were originally chosen for their negative characteristics, i.e. stubbornness and potential for destruction, but eventually both parties also adopted them for their positive ones! It seems the Democrats believe the elephant to be stupid and pompous but the Republicans think it is strong and intelligent. The Republicans consider the donkey silly, stubborn, and ridiculous but the Democrats argue that it is instead smart, modest, humble, and courageous.[2]

Thomas Nast is said to have been one of the most influential and famous political cartoonist in American History. He was born in Germany but later moved to New York, where he worked for several publications. Nast was a Republican and became known for his drawings depicting party conflicts especially during election campaigns. He was credited with making the images of the elephant and the donkey the official-or ‘semi-official’-symbols of the Democratic and the Republican American parties. Although these animals had been used before to embody ideas related to the main political parties or their political leaders, it was in 1874 that Nast accompanied the editorial of the New York Times with a cartoon that seemed to agree with the criticism of the Republicans against Grant’s ‘undeclared’ run for a third presidential term. Afterwards these images caught on and both parties continued to use them to their own advantage.

What a splendid twist! Isn’t this just one other great skill politicians still have?

[1] Cartoons on Harper’s Weekly, New York Times & others: “A Modern Baalim and his Ass” (1837), “A Live Jackass Kiking a Dead Lion” (1870), “The Third Term Panic” (1874)

[2] Thomas Nast used a donkey to represent the Democratic Party and the elephant to represent the Republican Party. In the USA presidential election of 1828 A. Jackson’s opponents called him “jackass” because of his ‘populist’ views and his slogan ‘let the people rule’. Afterwards he (cleverly?) adopted the image and used it in his campaign to maintain his ‘stubbornness’.

In 1864 Abraham Lincoln is said to have used the image of an elephant drawn earlier to express, contrary to his opponents claims, what he thought were virtues of his political party; strength, intelligence and dignity.

Cartoons & Images from