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Why does the Republican Party have an elephant as its symbol and use the color red?

Republicans have been associated with the elephany for a long time but the colour coding of parties is a much more modern phenomena.

Flags flown by supporters of former US President Donald Trump are shown ahead of a rally featuring Trump at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport November 5, 2022 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
Win McNameeGetty

It is thought that the Republican elephant was first used in an Illinois newspaper back in the 1860 presidential election campaign, the time of Abraham Lincoln. By the end of the 19th century both the Republican elephant and the Democrat donkey were firmly associated with the parties thanks to their use in cartoons in large circulation newspapers.

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Thomas Nast was the name of the cartoonist who popularised the elephant. In the tradition of great satircal cartoons of the late 19th and early 20th century, his intricate doodles attacked plenty of aspects of American political life at the time.

What about the Red colour?

During the coverage of the 1976 presidential election, NBC News used coloured bulbs on their election map to indicate which states went for Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Similar to Britain, Ford was blue like the UK conservative party while Carter’s Democrats were given the red colour. Colouring schemes though varied from station to station and in the various newspapers and magazines according to the Smithsonian Magazine.

However, the epic election of 2000 cemented the color association as we know it today. A mere two days after voters had cast their ballots both the New York Times and USA Today published their first colour-coded election maps, breaking them down by counties. Both publications used red to indicate areas that George W Bush had won and blue for places that went for Al Gore.