Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Who Picked Donkeys And Elephants?

In an election year, politicians might seem as sly as foxes or as eager as beavers. But those two animals are not what jump to mind when we think of Republicans or Democrats. Instead, we picture an elephant or a donkey. Those two party mascots dominate campaign posters and political cartoons. But where did the party animals come from? "If we were starting all over again I can't fathom a reason to pick a donkey," said a man in Minneapolis.
"The agricultural term is the jackass," said Dr. Larry Jacobs, a professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. "The jackass arrived at the Democratic party's doorstep during the very negative campaign of 1828." Andrew Jackson was the Democrats' candidate, and his opponents often described him as "Andrew Jackass" because he was known to be a fairly stubborn man. "Jackson was a pretty earthy guy," said Jacobs. So the stubborn Democrat took the symbol of the donkey and made it his own. The image faded away after the election but was revived in the 1870s by a cartoonist at Harper's Magazine. "He started describing and portraying the Democratic Party as a jackass," said Jacobs. "After that, they couldn't escape it."So, what about the Republican elephant? The same cartoonist drew a sketch of a donkey scaring away an elephant labeled the "Republican Vote." The image stuck and has been associated with Republicans ever since. The Republicans now say their elephant is actually a sign of strength and intelligence. The Democrats say their donkey is courageous and clever, although they have never officially adopted the animal as their symbol. The Independence Party of Minnesota picked its own mascot a couple years ago. They went with a buffalo.