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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Of donkeys and elephants, political animals.


CURWOOD: It's high political season, and that means there's a veritable stampede of political animals raging across the landscape. America's most famous political animals, after the bald eagle of course, are the donkey and elephant. Both have the same lineage, coming from the pen of famed political cartoonist Thomas Nast. One hundred and twenty six years ago this month, Mr. Nast first represented the Democrats as a donkey in a Harper's Weekly cartoon. By the way, Webster's New World Dictionary first defines a donkey as a domesticated ass. The second meaning: a person regarded as stupid, foolish, or obstinate. Four years later, Mr. Nast used the elephant to represent the Republicans. Websters defines it as huge and thick-skinned. If their emblems were to vote a straight party line, the nation would be overwhelmingly run by the Dems. There are an estimated 140,000 donkeys in the US, and only 600 elephants.



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