At the start of the 21st Century, the Democratic Party can look back on a proud history - a history not just of a political organization but of a national vision. It is a vision based on the strength and power of millions of economically empowered, socially diverse and politically active Americans. Over two hundred years ago, our Party's founders decided that wealth and social status were not an entitlement to rule. They believed that wisdom and compassion could be found within every individual and a stable government must be built upon a broad popular base.
The late Ron Brown - former Chairman of the Democratic Party - put it best when he wrote, "The common thread of Democratic history, from Thomas Jefferson to Bill Clinton, has been an abiding faith in the judgment of hardworking American families, and a commitment to helping the excluded, the disenfranchised and the poor strengthen our nation by earning themselves a piece of the American Dream. We remember that this great land was sculpted by immigrants and slaves, their children and grandchildren."
Thomas Jefferson founded the Democratic Party in 1792 as a congressional caucus to fight for the Bill of Rights and against the elitist Federalist Party. In 1798, the "party of the common man" was officially named the Democratic-Republican Party and in 1800 elected Jefferson as the first Democratic President of the United States. Jefferson served two distinguished terms.
History of the Democratic Donkey
When Andrew Jackson ran for president in 1828, his opponents tried to label him a "jackass" for his populist views and his slogan, "Let the people rule." Jackson, however, picked up on their name calling and turned it to his own advantage by using the donkey on his campaign posters. During his presidency, the donkey was used to represent Jackson's stubbornness when he vetoed re-chartering the National Bank.
The first time the donkey was used in a political cartoon to represent the Democratic party, it was again in conjunction with Jackson. Although in 1837 Jackson was retired, he still thought of himself as the Party's leader and was shown trying to get the donkey to go where he wanted it to go. The cartoon was titled "A Modern Baalim and his Ass."
By 1880 the donkey was well established as a mascot for the Democratic party. A cartoon about the Garfield-Hancock campaign in the New York Daily Graphic showed the Democratic candidate mounted on a donkey, leading a procession of crusaders.
Over the years, the donkey and the elephant have become the accepted symbols of the Democratic and Republican parties. Although the Democrats have never officially adopted the donkey as a party symbol, we have used various donkey designs on publications over the years. The Republicans have actually adopted the elephant as their official symbol and use their design widely.
The Democrats think of the elephant as bungling, stupid, pompous and conservative -- but the Republicans think it is dignified, strong and intelligent. On the other hand, the Republicans regard the donkey as stubborn, silly and ridiculous -- but the Democrats claim it is humble, homely, smart, courageous and lovable.
Adlai Stevenson provided one of the most clever descriptions of the Republican's symbol when he said, "The elephant has a thick skin, a head full of ivory, and as everyone who has seen a circus parade knows, proceeds best by grasping the tail of its predecessor."