A classic political affiliation joke involves Theodore Roosevelt or a Northerner. The Northerner asks a Southerner what political party he’s a member of and why. The Southerner responds that he’s a Democrat because his father was a Democrat and his grandfather was a Democrat. The Northerner then asks, if you father had been a horse thief and your grandfather had been a horse thief, then what would you be? The Southerner thinks a bit and then says, “I guess then I’d be a Republican!”
The joke dates to at least 1909 in print. A 1913 version reverses the parties, with the Democrats as horse thieves. Will Rogers told the joke in 1925.
“Horse thief” was a damning label to call someone in the 19th century. An 1854 quote from an Indiana newspaper is: “I do not say that all Democrats are horse thieves, but I do say that all horse thieves are Democrats.” In 1872, New York (NY) Tribune publisher and Liberal Republican Party presidential candidate Horace Greeley (1811-1872) was credited with a similar quotation: “All Democrats are not horse thieves, but all horse thieves are Democrats.”
2 September 1854, New Albany (IN) Daily Ledger, “Extract from Hull’s Speech,” pg. 2:
The following language was used by M. R. Hull, in a speech at Newcastle, and nine citizens of that place certify to its correctness:
“I do not say that all Democrats are drunkards and rum-sellers, buy I can illustrate in no better way than this: I know an old minister in Ohio, who was charged with having said in a sermon, that he had preached ‘that all Democrats were horse thieves,’ he was called upon, and he gave the following explanation: ‘I do not say that all Democrats are horse thieves, but I do say that all horse thieves are Democrats,” and that is what I would say of the Democrats—that they are not all drunkards and rum-sellers but that aall rum-sellers and drunkards are Democrats or nearly so.”
12 June 1872, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, pg. 4: He (Horace Greeley—ed.) himself said “if the Democrats are not all horse thieves, all horse thieves are Democrats.”
9 July 1872, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Gazette, pg. 2:
“All Democrats are not horse thieves, but all horse thieves are Democrats.”—Horace Greeley.
(This NewspaperArchive citation is not currently available—ed.)
Syracuse Herald, The - November 18, 1909, Syracuse, New York
fine uf the paid to he mod are you my father was a you are a Democrat because father was a K...you are a Democrat because father was a K your father was a you would tie horse I’d bo a A
21 January 1910, Boston (MA) Journal, “Capital Chat and Gossip,” pg. 8:
PLEASED TEXANS SOME.
Representatives Garner and Burleson of Texas went to a show the other night, so say the Capitol gossips, and while there heard this hoary dialogue.
“What are you in politics?”
“A Democrat. My father was a Democrat, and so was my grandfather and my great-grandfather.”
“What would you be if your father had been a thief and your grandfather and great-grandfather?”
It is alleged that the two Texas members applauded as they only know how to applaud a real live show down in the Lone Star country.
Vision: a magazine for youth
v. 26 - 1913
“No, sir; my father was a Republican; my grandpap was a Republican and my great-grandpap a Republican, and I am a Republican, too.”
“Huh, and if your father was a horse thief, and your grandfather was a horse thief, and your great-grandfather was a horse theif, what would you be then?”
“Well, in that case, I guess I’d be a Democrat.”
Proceedings of the general grand chapter, Order of the Eastern Star
By Order of the Eastern Star. General Grand Chapter
Fifteenth Triennial Assembly held in Louisville, KY.
Oct. 31, Nov. 1-2, 1916
I will say by way of preface, that like Brother Bruner, I am a good Republican, and I feel privileged to tell this story. This Democrat was importuned by a good friend of his to vote for a certain Republican on account of the fine principles that this Republican stood for. This Democrat said: “My father was a Democrat, my father’s father was a Democrat, and I can’t consistently change.’ Said his friend: “Suppose your father had been a horse thief, and your father’s father had been a horse thief, would you be compelled to follow their vocation?” (Pg. 21—ed.) “In that event,” said the Democrat, “I would probably vote the Republican ticket.”
The Bof Birmingham
By John R. Hornady
New York, NY: Dodd, Mead and Company
Roosevelt, by the way, was very popular in Birmingham, and no-where was his famous joke about “Why I’m a Democrat” more enjoyed. The jokem as told here, ran something like this:
A Northerner and a Southerner were discussing matters political in the smoking compartment of a Pullman, when the Northerner asked:
“Why is it that you men of the South are practically all Democrats? In the North we divide; there you will find Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, Independents, and so forth, while you of the South stick together in the Democratic party. Why is this/ Why, for instance, are you a Democrat?”
“Well,” drawled the Southerner, “my father was a Democrat, my grandfather was a Democrat and my great-grandfather was a Democrat, so, of course, I’m a Democrat.”
“Ah,” said the Northerner, “suppose your (Pg. 28—ed.) father had been a horse-thief and your grandfather had been a horse-thief and your great-grandfather had been a horse-thief, what would you have been then?”
“Oh, I guess in that case I’d have been a Republican,” was the reply of the Southerner, according to the widely smiling Colonel.
26 May 1925, Washington (DC) Post, “The Worst Story I Have Heard Today” by Will Rogers, pg. 6:
He (Gov. Al Smith—ed.) said one time President Roosevelt was making a political speech in Maine; he asked if there was a Democrat in the audience. An old, long-whiskered man arose in the back of the room and said: “I am a Democrat. My father was a Democrat, and my grandfather was a Democrat.” Roosevelt then said: “Then if your father had been a horse theif and your grandfather had been a hose thief, you would be a horse thief?” “No,” he said. “I would be a Republican.”
Now, I claim that a story to be good must be true or based on truth. That story Al told is not true. In the first place, Roosevelt wouldn’t be speaking in Maine. No politician ever wasted speeches in a state he already controlled. And in the second place, all Republicans are not horse thieves. At the biggest estimate not over 90 per cent are horse thieves. Every once in a while you meet a pretty nice one.
Safire’s Political Dictionary
By William Safire
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
Republican Theodore Roosevelt, campaigning in the Deep South, supposedly told the classic why-I’m-a-Democrat story. When asked why he was a Democrat, a Southerner replied, “Because my father was a Democrat and my grandfather was a Democrat.” A Northerner countered, “What if your father was a horse thief and your grandfather was a horse thief, what would you have been then?” The Southerner’s reply: “In that case, I guess I’d have been a Republican.”
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (1) Comments • Tuesday, December 15, 2009 • Permalink
claim that a story to be good must be true or based on truth. That story Al told is not true. In the first place, Roosevelt wouldn’t be speaking in Maine. No politician ever wasted speeches in a state he already controlled.