While we’re at it – Is the Donkey the liberal one or is it the Elephant? And who picked those mascots anyway? I personally don’t want to be called an Ass or an Elephant! What about lion or some other noble beast? Why Ass and Elephant?
You would think that after 36 years of living and 18+ elections that I would have figured this out, wouldn’t you?
Why don’t I? Well, to be honest, I’ve finally realized that I am inherently lazy. Tons of great ideas and curious musings rattle around in my brain on a daily basis, but hardly any of them rise to sufficient interest or urgency for me to find out the answers. Right wing versus Left wing is one of those concepts that I have thought about – oh, maybe once a year, say near November? – but haven’t been bothered to look up the answer.
These topics usually arise during political conversations at work or cocktail parties. When possible I pull the “Isn’t politics one of those taboo conversations?” card to avoid divulging my ignorance. After 18 years of hedging around these conversations and distracting with a spilled drink joke, I have decided to actually find out the answers.
In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist are generally used to describe support for preserving traditional social orders and hierarchies. The terms Right and Leftwere coined during the French Revolution, referring to seating arrangements in parliament; those who sat on the right supported preserving the institutions of the Ancien Régime (the monarchy, the aristocracy and the established church).
Use of the term “Right” became more prominent after the second restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 with the Ultra-royalists. Today it is primarily used to refer to political groups that have a historical connection with the traditional Right, including conservatives, reactionaries, monarchists, aristocrats, and theocrats. The term is also used to describe those who support free market capitalism, and those who support some forms of nationalism, including fascism.
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist are generally used to describe support for social change to create a more egalitarian society. The terms Left and Right were coined during the French Revolution, referring to the seating arrangement in parliament; those who sat on the left generally supported the radical changes of the revolution, including the creation of a republic and secularization.
Use of the term Left became more prominent after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 when it was applied to the “Independents”. The term was then applied to a number of revolutionary movements in Europe, especially socialism, anarchism and communism. The term is also used to describe social democracy and social liberalism.
According to Barry Clark,
“ Leftists… claim that human development flourishes when individuals engage in cooperative, mutually respectful relations that can thrive only when excessive differences in status, power, and wealth are eliminated. According to leftists, a society without substantial equality will distort the development of not only deprived persons, but also those whose privileges undermine their motivation and sense of social responsibility. This suppression of human development, together with the resentment and conflict engendered by sharp class distinctions, will ultimately reduce the efficiency of the economy.
Huh. And here I thought that Right Wing and Left Wing were correlated to Democrat and Republican. According to Wikipedia, it seems more closely correlated to your Change Style Indicator. Do you embrace change? Then you may be Left Wing. Do you resist change? Then perhaps you are Right Wing. What do you think? Did you think it was more closely tied to our two primary political parties? Is this news to you? Or were you more aware than I? (It would be hard not to be!)
Elephant and Donkey
Onward and upward sideways? to the animal correlations. Is it just me that would prefer another choice besides Ass or FAT Elephant? I really don’t see positive attributes to relate to here. One political party is stubborn and narrow minded (Ass). Or I can be part of the overweight and grudge carrying (aka long memory) Elephant clan.
Hmmm. Nope, neither sounds terribly appealing.
Presidential candidate Andrew Jackson was the first Democrat ever to be associated with the donkey symbol. His opponents during the election of 1828 tried to label him a “jackass” for his populist beliefs and slogan, “Let the people rule.” Jackson was entertained by the notion and ended up using it to his advantage on his campaign posters.
But cartoonist Thomas Nast is credited with making the donkey the recognized symbol of the Democratic Party. It first appeared in a cartoon in Harper’s Weekly in 1870, and was supposed to represent an anti-Civil War faction. But the public was immediately taken by it and by 1880 it had already become the unofficial symbol of the party.
Political cartoonist Thomas Nast was also responsible for the Republican Party elephant. In a cartoon that appeared in Harper’s Weeklyin 1874, Nast drew a donkey clothed in lion’s skin, scaring away all the animals at the zoo. One of those animals, the elephant, was labeled “The Republican Vote.” That’s all it took for the elephant to become associated with the Republican Party.
Is that really all it takes? Just one writer needs to start referring to candidates or political parties by an animal character and Word Of Mouth marketing does the rest? Wow.
That is powerful.
Since I’ve already divulged my thoughts on the adequacy of the Donkey and Elephant symbols, then I think it only right that I make an alternate suggestion.
I don’t know that much thought was given to the first two, so will spend approximately that much time on my own suggestions…
Republican = Wolverine
…because Desert Storm and the Gulf War happened under Republican Presidents Bush 1 and 2 and Wolverines have a reputation for being aggressive. Sound plausible? As good a justification as Andrew Jackson was a Jackass?
Democrat = Wolf
…because Democrats started many of our social welfare systems starting with Social Security in 1935 (by FDR) and recently the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996 (by Clinton). This correlates well with Wolves because they are known to be social creatures that care for their young, old and sick.
Call to Action
If all it takes is one writer to identify these iconic symbols, then what about seeing if we can switch them from Donkey and Elephant. What do you say? Shall we try a Word of Mouth Social Media experiment? Will you help me spread the word by posting on Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon, or Digg? Let’s see if we can get a cartoon with a Wolverine and a Wolf by next election day.
What do you think? Can it be that easy? Are you with me?