Why Is a Donkey the Democratic Symbol?

The donkey has commonly symbolized the Democratic Party since the 19th century.
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Although the Democratic Party in the United States has never officially adopted the donkey as its symbol, political cartoonists have associated Democrats with the donkey since the mid-19th century. Both Democrats and Republicans have used the association between the donkey and Democrats to their political advantage in campaigns.

1 Origin

President Andrew Jackson
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During Andrew Jackson's campaign to become president in 1828, his opponents called him a "jackass." Jackson considered himself a man of the people and accused John Quincy Adams of being an elitist. When Adams' campaign called Jackson a jackass, he embraced the imagery, putting donkeys on campaign posters and touting his "stubbornness" as an asset in battling corruption and elitism.

2 Thomas Nast

Thomas Nast
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A political cartoonist used a donkey to represent the Democratic party in 1837, but Thomas Nast, a famous political cartoonist in the 1870s and 1880s, cemented the relationship between the Democratic party and the donkey in his cartoons for Harper's Weekly.

3 Meaning

According to the Democratic Party website, Democrats celebrate the donkey for its determined and brave nature, while the Republicans see the donkey as intractable and foolish.

4 Modern uses

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For the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the Democrats chose a live donkey named Mordecai to be their mascot.

5 Alternatives

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Since the mid-1800s, Democrats, both locally and nationally, have used other symbols, such as the rooster and the tiger, but none have had the staying power of the donkey.

Georgia Alton holds a Doctor of Philosophy in history from Emory University. Her specialty is 20th-century U.S. history. Alton has written articles on subjects like World War I and colonial America for ABC-CLIO encyclopedias. She also works as a freelance writer with articles on eHow, Answerbag and Brighthub.