Andrew Jackson ran for president in 1828, his opponents tried
to label him a "jackass" for his populist views
and his slogan, "Let the people rule." Jackson,
however, picked up on their name calling and turned it to
his own advantage by using the donkey on his campaign posters.
During his presidency, the donkey was used to represent Jackson's
stubbornness when he vetoed re-chartering the National Bank.
first time the donkey was used in a political cartoon to represent
the Democratic party, it was again in conjunction with Jackson.
Although in 1837 Jackson was retired, he still thought of
himself as the Party's leader and was shown trying to get
the donkey to go where he wanted it to go. The cartoon was
titled "A Modern Baalim and his Ass."
enough, the person credited with getting the donkey widely
accepted as the Democratic party's symbol probably had no
knowledge of the prior associations. Thomas Nast, a famous
political cartoonist, came to the United States with his parents
in 1840 when he was six. He first used the donkey in an 1870
Harper's Weekly cartoon to represent the "Copperhead
Press" kicking a dead lion, symbolizing Lincoln's Secretary
of War Edwin M. Stanton, who had recently died. Nast intended
the donkey to represent an anti-war faction with whom he disagreed,
but the symbol caught the public's fancy and the cartoonist
continued using it to indicate some Democratic editors and
Nast used the donkey to portray what he called "Caesarism"
showing the alleged Democratic uneasiness over a possible
third term for Ulysses S. Grant. In conjunction with this
issue, Nast helped associate the elephant with the Republican
party. Although the elephant had been connected with the Republican
party in cartoons that appeared in 1860 and 1872, it was Nast's
cartoon in 1874 published by Harper's Weekly that made the
pachyderm stick as the Republican's symbol. A cartoon titled
"The Third Term Panic," showed animals representing
various issues running away from a donkey wearing a lion's
skin tagged "Caesarism." The elephant labeled "The
Republican Vote," was about to run into a pit containing
inflation, chaos, repudiation, etc.
1880 the donkey was well established as a mascot for the Democratic
party. A cartoon about the Garfield-Hancock campaign in the
New York Daily Graphic showed the Democratic candidate mounted
on a donkey, leading a procession of crusaders.
the years, the donkey and the elephant have become the accepted
symbols of the Democratic and Republican parties. Although
the Democrats have never officially adopted the donkey as
a party symbol, we have used various donkey designs on publications
over the years. The Republicans have actually adopted the
elephant as their official symbol and use their design widely.
Democrats think of the elephant as bungling, stupid, pompous
and conservative -- but the Republicans think it is dignified,
strong and intelligent. On the other hand, the Republicans
regard the donkey as stubborn, silly and ridiculous -- but
the Democrats claim it is humble, homely, smart, courageous
Stevenson provided one of the most clever descriptions of
the Republican's symbol when he said, "The elephant has
a thick skin, a head full of ivory, and as everyone who has
seen a circus parade knows, proceeds best by grasping the
tail of its predecessor."