Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Know Your Party ~*~ Know Your Mascot

Yes, it’s Political season at its most high these days and even thought I’m having major issues with this year’s elections, I’ve been doing a lot of research on each groups stances, policies and candidates. Just to let you all know I am a registered Independent, and even though I have more liberal views than most I know, I tend to be middle-of-the-road in many political aspects. During all my research, I found it interesting on how each side got it’s mascots and color choice and thought I’d share this bit of history with y’all.

Republicans = Elephant, Red
Democrat = Donkey, Blue

It wasn’t until election night 2000 when the election was George W. Bush vs. Al Gore, that a color scheme was set for the parties, although both major political parties use the traditional American red, white, and blue colors in their marketing and representations. That night, for the first time, all major broadcast television networks used the same color scheme for the electoral map: blue states for Al Gore and red states for George W. Bush. Since then, the color blue has been widely used by the media to represent the party, much to the confusion of non-American observers, as blue is the traditional color of the right and red the color of the left outside of the United States.

In 1874, it was rumored that U. S. Grant would run for an unprecedented third term. As the rumors were surfacing, there was also a contemporary urban legend that several animals had escaped from the New York Zoo. Thomas Nast, the most popular and influential cartoonist of the time, took the opportunity to combine the two in a cartoon for The New Yorker magazine, representing the Republicans as elephants, docile but unmovable when calm, unstoppable and destructive when excited. The cartoon, entitled "The Third Term Panic," depicted the Republican vote as an elephant running inexorably into a tar pit of inflation and chaos. Interestingly, the elephant was running away from the already established Democratic donkey, dressed in a lion's skin. This was Nast's take on the Democrats' view of Grant as Caesar, and their feeling that they had an obligation to play Brutus before he let the power of his office corrupt him.

The donkey predated Nast by three decades, when it was used during Andrew Jackson's campaign, initially by his opponents, calling him a 'jackass' for his populist policies. Well known as stubborn, however, Jackson decided to co-opt the mascot, and used it to his own advantage. After Jackson retired, he was still looked at as a party leader, even though the party refused to be led, and the 1837 cartoon "A Modern Baalim and his Ass" showed him leading a donkey which refused to follow. However, the donkey image was not popularized until the ubiquitous Nast adopted it, first depicting the party as a kicking donkey, attacking Lincoln's secretary of war Edwin Stanton even after his death in an 1870 cartoon for Harper's Weekly.

Neither party started out with their mascots showing them in a positive or enlightening way, but were portrayed as inflexible, destructive and scheming; but each did what politicians do best and spin it around to make it look good for them. Somehow after hundreds of years, things haven’t changed much.

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