In 1956, when I was 13, I wrote a winning essay on why President Dwight D. Eisenhower should win re-election. The title was “Why Republicans Should Be Elected Again.” The Westport Town Crier published my essay as “Wisdom From A Thirteen Year Old.”
I certainly wasn’t a wise teenager — far from it. But I did have Republican parents who discussed politics with their children around the dinner table, as did many parents in Weston, Conn., where I grew up and went to school. Most of the town — most of Connecticut — voted Republican in the 1950s. The rural town’s schools had a reputation for excellence, as they still do.
I’m sure what got my teacher’s attention and the paper’s editor’s attention was my use of an alliterative, concise argument that the nation, under Ike, was peaceful, prosperous, powerful and progressive. Sound familiar?
Many of my classmates’ fathers had served in World War II. My father was a war correspondent for the U.S. Office of War Information in the Far East. Most of my friends’ families were well-off (advertising executives; Wall Street bankers; celebrities in the artistic, literary and entertainment world). A few state politicians and prominent federal employees (Penny Lupton’s father was a senator, and Felix Frankfurter had been a Supreme Court justice) were residents.
Although there were no blacks or Latinos that I remember in Weston, the town had many Jewish residents, and I never heard any racist or anti-Semitic rhetoric. Some of my friends’ mothers were in the workforce, including my mother, who was one of the first women Realtors in Fairfield County. I don’t remember any talk of gender inequality or friends who were going to psychologists because they felt lack of maternal presence.
Perhaps, what clinched my winning essay was my ending, comparing the two political parties’ symbols, the donkey and the elephant.
“The lifespan of an average donkey is 20 years, and it has outlived its stay. The lifespan of an average elephant is 100 years and we’ve just begun our stay,” I concluded.
Clever and correct analogies probably still grab educators’ and editors’ attention. If I had had Google, I would have discovered that the origins of the two political symbols were prophetic, even germane, and that humor, once upon a time, was sometimes enough to win an argument.
The Democratic donkey goes back to the presidential campaign of Andrew Jackson, when his opponents called him a jackass. Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812, found the comparison amusing and used the symbol to defeat John Quincy Adams.
An image of an elephant was used as a Republican symbol in cartoons during the Civil War, when “seeing an elephant was an expression used by soldiers to mean experiencing combat.” Thomas Nast, considered the father of modern political cartoons, drew an elephant on the edge of a pit to mock President Ulysses Grant’s bid for a third term.
Should the Democratic Party consider changing its symbol, if it knew the symbol’s history? I suggest the party change it to a hippo to reflect the hypocrisy that governs the Biden and Harris platform
On the other hand, I suggest the Republican Party keeps its symbol of a pachyderm. It’s even more befitting now as the GOP should not forget its long, common sense traditions of small government, fair mindedness, the importance of strong family values and that, should Biden become president, the country will be on the precipitous edge of a third Obama term, only worse.
Calla J. Corner
The author is a Montecito resident.