Kids: Two Major Parties: One Donkey One Elephant

Have you ever wondered why the two major political parties in the United States are represented by a donkey and an elephant? Would you believe, American humor?

The United States political system is dominated by two major parties--the Democratic party and the Republican party. Both were created, as we know them today, in the 1800s. And, both have had their share of ups and downs, hardships and victories, and good campaigns and bad campaigns while attempting to swing voters to their ideas of the best government. Through it all, however, their symbols have remained the same.

For the democrats, the donkey became their representative when Andrew Jackson ran for President in 1828. It's said that an opponent called Mr. Jackson a jackass which is a male donkey. Mr. Jackson thought this was funny and decided to include a picture of a donkey on his political posters. It didn't take long for German political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, to have fun with the picture and start using it to represent the democratic party.

The Republican elephant also owes its life to Mr. Nast. In 1874 he drew a political cartoon to make fun of President Ulysses Grant who people thought was going to try to win a third term as president. That cartoon featured an elephant he labeled "The Republican Vote". The elephant and other animals were being scared by a donkey in a lion skin. After the cartoon, Mr. Nast often featured the elephant as the republican party, and the symbol took off.

Now you know. Who said grown-ups don't have a sense of humor?

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