Why is the Donkey a Symbol of the Democratic Party?

The symbol of the democrats, the donkey.
The symbol of the democrats, the donkey.

The Democratic Party is one of the two most successful political parties in the US. The party was founded in 1928 by those who supported Andrew Jackson, making it the oldest active political party in the world. The Democratic Party has won the presidency 15 times with the first president being Andrew Jackson and the most recent being Barack Obama. As of 2019, the majority of members of the House of Representatives are Democrats. The party is headquartered in Washington DC’s 430 South Capitol Street SE and has a membership of over 44 million people.

Party Name

In 1824, the Democratic-Republican Party split into the Jacksonian movement and the National Republican Party. The Jacksonian movement would eventually become the Democratic Party in 1828. Democracy was a popular term that was used by those who supported the movement. However, the name “Democratic Party” became the party’s official name in 1844. Party members are often referred to as “Democrats.”

Party Symbol

Like most political parties around the world, the Democratic Party has both party symbol and color. However, both the color and the symbol are unofficial and were neither officially selected by the party official nor party members. The party’s symbol is a donkey or a jackass. Depending on which side of the political divide one is, the symbol can be interpreted either positively or negatively. To the opponents of the Democratic Party, the mascot is interpreted as lacking intelligence, strength, and often loud and stubborn yet for the Democrats, the donkey is smart, brave, and humble. Blue is considered the color of the Democratic Party while red is the color of the Republican Party. The two colors were popularized by major media houses that used them as color schemes on the electoral map.

Origin of the Donkey Symbol

The origin and use of a donkey as a party symbol is both interesting and controversial. Initially, the symbol was meant to mock and attack Andrew Jackson by his opponents. They insultingly referred to him as a “jackass.” Instead of becoming irritated and irked by the insults, Andrew liked the comparison and decided to use it for his political gain. He used the symbol of a donkey or jackass as his campaign symbol. His opponents continued using the donkey to represent his stubbornness even while in office, a fact that Jackson agreed with in part.

The Growing Popularity of the Symbol

Although the donkey was used as a symbol as early as 1828, Thomas Nast is often credited with making it the symbol of the Democrats. Nast, a political cartoonist, first published a cartoon depicting a live jackass kicking a dead lion in Harper’s Weekly in 1870. In 1874, He published another cartoon titled “Third Term Panic” in which he depicted a donkey in lion’s skin chasing other animals including an elephant which he referred to as “Republican vote.” Nast used the elephant to represent the Republican and a donkey to represent the Democrats. While the Donkey is synonymous with the Democratic Party, the Democrats have never made it their official party symbol but use it on a lot of their material.


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