Why is the Republican symbol an elephant?

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The origins of the Republican elephant and the Democratic Donkey can be traced back to political cartoonist Thomas Nast. In order to understand the Republican symbol, you mist first learn a little about the politics during Nast’s time. The artist hated the Copperheads, Northern Democrats who had opposed the Civil War. In 1870 he created the first cartoon featuring the Democratic donkey. The animal, imagined as the Copperhead Press, was kicking a dead lion branded as Edwin M. Stanton.

Thomas Nast continued to use the donkey and it soon became a national emblem for Democrats, although the party never adopted the animal as the official symbol. Just like the donkey, the Republican symbol became known through the political cartoons. But the author’s feelings were different about the elephant, due to the fact that he’d idolized the party since he first entered the New York political scene. However, in the 70s, Nast began to feel the Republican party had distanced itself from social liberalism.

The elephant image was born in part form that frustration. It had been used twice before, once in 1864 as part of Lincoln’s campaign, and by Harper’s in 1872. The first elephant cartoon created by Nast was in the 1874 piece called Third Term Panic. The cartoon featured a donkey wearing a lion’s skin, chasing other terrorized animals. The elephant with the title of Republican Vote was heading towards a pit labeled Inflation and Chaos. It represented Nas’s feelings about the effects of the Democrat scare tactics.

After the Third Term Panic, the artist continues to use the elephant as a Republican symbol. In the 1876 cartoon, The Political Situation, a confused Uncle Sam, representing the vote of the people, was sitting on a two-headed elephant and couldn’t decide between the Republican and the Democratic road. Shortly after the 1876 presidential election, Nast released another cartoon. This time, a hulking Republican elephant was stomping on a Democratic tiger.

The first time the elephant represented the Republican Party as a whole was in March 1877. Inspired by the extremely controversial presidential election, Nast portrayed an injured elephant standing next to a Democratic tombstone. The author believed that the victory of Rutherford B. Hayes was a bitter one. Nast called the Republican symbol the Sacred Elephant, a nostalgic name for the party he had once adored. The Republican Party adopted the elephant as its official symbol, unlike the Democratic Party.

Although Nast created the elephant and the donkey as political symbols, nobody knows why they are still so popular today. Maybe because of the author himself, called by Lincon the best recruiting sergeant for the 1864 reelection campaign. He was a unique political cartoonist whose work was so powerful it could influence the politics of the era.