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Welcome to the Greenwood.Net Curiosity Corner

Party Symbols

Apr 15, 2019

Curiosity Corner
Dr. Jerry D. Wilson,
Emeritus Professor of Physics
Lander University

Question: Where did the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant come from? (Asked by Myrtle Boyd, of Ninety Six.)

Reply: Both parties have animals as their mascots, and we will probably see them more frequently in the coming months. The donkey was first associated with Democrat Andrew Jackson in the 1828 presidential campaign, when his opponents referred to him as a “jackass.” Instead of being offended, however, Jackson found it humorous. He adopted the donkey as part of his campaign, and used the image of the strong-willed donkey on his campaign posters.

The political cartoonist Thomas Nast is often credited with making the donkey the recognized symbol of the Democratic Party. In an 1874 cartoon featured in Harper’s Weekly, Nast used the donkey to symbolize a political opinion. It caught on with the public and soon became the official party symbol.

Nast was also responsible for the Republican Party’s elephant. In another cartoon, Nast drew a donkey clothed in a lion skin, scaring away all the animals at the zoo. One of the animals was an elephant labeled “The Republican Vote.” Subsequent elephant cartoons reflected the party’s position on certain political situations of the time. Through these cartoons, the elephant—big and strong—became the symbol of the Republican Party.

Also in the upcoming political races and discussions, you will probably hear of candidates being to the “right” or “left,” or some states being “red” or “blue.” Here, “right” or “right wing” is generally taken to mean having a conservative or traditional slant. Meanwhile, “left” or “left wing” means to have a liberal or progressive view. This designation was first used in France. During the 1789 Revolution, members of the National Assembly who supported the King sat on his right, while the supporters of the revolution sat on his left.

Since the 2000 presidential election, “red” and “blue” states have referred to those states whose voters predominately choose the candidate of either the Republican Party (red) or the Democratic Party (blue). Now the terms have been expanded to differentiate between states being predominately conservative (red) or liberal (blue).

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “A politician is a person with whose policies you don’t agree. If you agree with him, he is a statesman.” –David Lloyd George

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or email jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to www.curiosity-corner.net.

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