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Quotations about Politics



SEE ALSO:  GOVERNMENT VOTING ELECTION DAY HONESTY INTEGRITY HYPOCRISY SPEECHES AMERICA U.S.A. PATRIOTIC PATRIOTISM MEDIA & JOURNALISM CENSORSHIP FREEDOM JUSTICE & LAW BELIEF HISTORY TAXES COMMUNITY ENVIRONMENT FEMINISM HUMAN RIGHTS RACISM UNEMPLOYMENT WAR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE NET NEUTRALITY PRESIDENTS DAY NOTHING FOR FIRST TIME


Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party. ~Winston Churchill


As between God, country and apple pie, politicians have done the least harm in the name of apple pie. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com, 2019


...the politicians... talked themselves red, white, and blue in the face... ~Clare Boothe, Europe in the Spring, 1940


Few circumstances are more likely to bring on a political crisis, than alarming representations of its approach. ~William Benton Clulow, Horæ Otiosæ, 1833


Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong. ~Richard Armour, unverified


A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation. ~James Freeman Clarke


To believe in liberal democracy is to believe that there is more good will in society than ill will; more ground for agreement than disagreement; more things that the majority of people want to preserve and cherish than they want to destroy; more that they love than that they hate; more to unite men and classes than to divide them; and that to find these principles of unity and agreement, through deliberation and compromise, is the duty of civilized human beings. ~Dorothy Thompson, speech, 1937


Political campaigns are designedly made into emotional orgies which endeavor to distract attention from the real issues involved, and they actually paralyze what slight powers of cerebration man can normally muster. ~James Harvey Robinson, c. 1930


Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently and all for the same reason. ~José Maria de Eça de Queirós, translated from Portuguese


We are weary of politicians' politicians. We want ours. ~Gerald Stanley Lee, The Ghost in the White House: Some Suggestions as to How a Hundred Million People (Who Are Supposed in a Vague, Helpless Way to Haunt the White House) Can Make Themselves Felt with a President — How They Can Back Him Up — Express Themselves to Him, Be Expressed by Him, and Get What They Want, "Introduction: The Motion Before the House," 1920


For all of us who are concerned for peace and the triumph of reason and justice must today be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good-will exert upon events in the political field. But however that may be, and whatever fate may have in store for us, yet we may rest assured that without the tireless efforts of those who are concerned with the welfare of humanity as a whole, the lot of mankind would be still worse than in fact it even now is. ~Albert Einstein


Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right. ~H. L. Mencken


This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)


What is conservatism? Is it not the adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried? ~Abraham Lincoln, 1860


I think it's about time we voted for senators with breasts. After all, we've been voting for boobs long enough. ~Claire Sargent, U.S. congressional candidate, Arizona, 1992


Many, many times I have thought that if there is to be a revival in the world, or in this country, of the truly liberal spirit, it will come through the influence of women... The women of this country could make over, if they wished to do so, the procedures of government. ~Dorothy Thompson, Political Guide: A Study of American Liberalism and Its Relationship to Modern Totalitarian States, 1938


A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future. ~Leonard Bernstein


[A] man's got to play politics to get anywheres nowadays, even in the church. Politics is aruining the country. ~Cid Ricketts Sumner, Tammy Out of Time, 1958


      Fifty million isms must be wrong. On the face of it, some of them must be! Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Naziism, Fascism, Collectivism, Nationalism, Internationalism, Totalitarianism — the words are not all in the dictionary, but they are in every newspaper that we pick up. Ideologies! Words! Faiths! Creeds!
      For the sake of these words and what they represent, men wear black shirts or brown, put red ties around their necks, conspire in cafés and drawing rooms, quarrel with their friends, desert their parents, parade, shout, make camps, publish newspapers, proclaim that a new heaven and a new earth are at hand.
      For the sake of these words, and what they represent, bombs fall... flags are pulled down. New ones go up. Thrones totter, parliaments dissolve, leaders emerge. Songs and slogans... Oh, say can you see? Oh, say, does the Star-Spangled Banner yet wave? Yes, but it's getting increasingly hard to see. It is lost in a fog of isms. ~Dorothy Thompson, Political Guide: A Study of American Liberalism and Its Relationship to Modern Totalitarian States, 1938


Take our politicians: they're a bunch of yo-yos. The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of clichés as the first prize. ~Saul Bellow, 1980


...all the funny little would-be Presidents, and all the little shan't-be politicians running around like ants under the high heaven of the faith of a great people picking up tidbits they dare to believe... ~Gerald Stanley Lee, The Ghost in the White House: Some Suggestions as to How a Hundred Million People (Who Are Supposed in a Vague, Helpless Way to Haunt the White House) Can Make Themselves Felt with a President — How They Can Back Him Up — Express Themselves to Him, Be Expressed by Him, and Get What They Want, "Introduction: The Motion Before the House," 1920


In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant. ~Charles de Gaulle


But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. ~Plato  [R.W. Emerson's paraphrase: "The punishment which the wise suffer, who refuse to take part in the government, is, to live under the government of worse men." —tg]


Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river. ~Nikita Khrushchev


Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish is to give a "fairy-tale ball" at Newport. Somebody should go as a campaign promise. ~Poems and Paragraphs by Robert Elliott Gonzales, 1918


Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William Ewart Gladstone, 1866


To be a liberal means to believe in human freedom. It means to believe in human beings. It means to champion that form of social and political order which releases the greatest amount of human energy; permits greatest liberty for individuals and groups, in planning and living their lives; cherishes freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of action, limited by only one thing: the protection of the freedom of others. ~Dorothy Thompson, Political Guide: A Study of American Liberalism and Its Relationship to Modern Totalitarian States, 1938


When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. I'm beginning to believe it. ~Clarence Darrow


Wasting time is bad enough, but getting angry over another's politics is pure extravagance. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor


George Washington is the only president who didn't blame the previous administration for his troubles. ~Author unknown


It would be an exaggeration to say that we have begun to lose liberty in America, but it is sobering that there should be so much talk about it, just as it is sobering that there should be so much talk about Americanism and about loyalty. It was a happier time when these things could be taken for granted instead of being soiled and worn by every sunshine patriot eager for cheap applause. Nor is much of the talk itself reassuring. Liberty is enlisted in strange armies, pressed into service for curious causes, and as we listen to some of the arguments for censorship or exclusion or suppression, all in the name of liberty, we are reminded irresistibly of Madame Roland's cry on the scaffold, 'Liberty, what crimes are done in thy name.' ~Henry Steele Commager, "Free Enterprise in Ideas," Freedom, Loyalty, Dissent, 1954  [This essay was originally published in The Saturday Review, but I'm not sure if it was 1947 or 1952. —tg]


As to the democratic process, it too, far from being independent of metaphysics, wholly depends upon metaphysical distinctions. Scientific truth is not determined by majority vote; neither is the soundness of the democratic form of government. ~"Hutchins and the Need of Metaphysics," American Humanism and the New Age, Louis J. A. Mercier, 1948


An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry. ~George Eliot, Felix Holt


Disagreement must not lead to disunion... We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes... ~Joseph R. Biden, Jr., presidential inauguration address, 2021


Democrats think the glass is half full; Republicans think the glass is theirs. ~Author unknown


Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it wrongly, and applying unsuitable remedies. ~Ernest John Pickstone Benn, c. 1930


Behold the politician.
Self-preservation is his ambition.
He thrives in the D. of C.,
Where he was sent by you and me...
He has many profitable hobbies
Not the least of which is lobbies...
~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), "The Politician"


My mother-in-law said, "'Dear, in every good marriage it helps sometimes to be a little deaf." That advice has stood me in good stead. Not simply in dealing with my marriage but in dealing with my colleagues. ~Ruth Bader Ginsburg  [a little altered —tg]


Hence in international relations there is far too little laughing, and far too much sneering. ~G.K. Chesterton, "What Is America?", What I Saw in America, 1922


I'm not sticky on terminology — progressive is fine with me, or democratic or liberal, or not-flying-monkey-death-cult-wingnutty is fine too. ~Rachel Maddow, "What I Want in My Next President," in Air America: The Playbook, 2006


The elections. Whilst it is notorious that the Jackson party is the Bad party in the cities & in general in the country except in secluded districts where a single Newspaper has deceived a well disposed community, still, on all the banners equally of Tory & Whig good professions are inscribed. The Jackson flags say "Down with corruption!" "We ask for nothing but our Right." "The Constitution, the Laws," "the Laboring Classes," "Free trade," &c &c. So that they have not yet come to the depravity that says, "Evil be thou my good." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal, 1834 November 5th


Yet seemeth it to me that we shall all feel dirty if Jackson is reëlected. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal, 1832 November 6th


If I were more in love with life and as afraid of dying as you seem to insinuate, I would go to a Jackson Caucus or to the Julien Hall, and I doubt not the unmixed malignity, the withering selfishness, the impudent vulgarity, that mark those meetings would speedily cure me of my appetite for longevity. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal, 1834 December 22nd


To a young man of Emerson's quality, the period of the Adamses, Jefferson, Randolph, and Jackson, the period of Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Everett, and Garrison, was not a dull period, not a dead interval, but a most stirring and exciting time between two epoch-making crises, with the thunder of a political Niagara at one's back, and the roar of wild rapids ahead. The air was full of promise and of peril and of conflicting measures for avoiding the one and fulfilling the other. ~Stuart P. Sherman, "The Emersonian Liberation," 1921


Politically-minded men, the Jacksons, the Clays, the Calhouns, brought to the problems of the hour political solutions. But the more sensitive spirits among the younger generation in New England had already experienced a certain reaction against the political faith and enthusiasms of their fathers. Already they heard the ominous creaking of democratic machinery under the manipulation of unskilful and manipulative hands. To them it began to appear that the next great improvement in the condition of society must depend less upon the alteration of laws and institutions than upon the intellectual and moral regeneration of men. The new movement had an earnest passion for cleansing the inside of the cup and protested against external powers which thwarted the efforts of the individual soul to move forward and upward by light from within. ~Stuart P. Sherman, "The Emersonian Liberation," 1921


An ordinary man is adjudged innocent until proved guilty, but a politician is not an ordinary man. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1904, George Horace Lorimer, editor


It is certainly much to be regretted that party discriminations are so far Geographical as they have been... ~Alexander Hamilton, letter to George Washington, 1792 August 18th


I like the smell of a dunged field, and the tumult of a popular election. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


History is merely gossip. But scandal is gossip made tedious by morality. ~Oscar Wilde


Since the majority is always wrong, might we try one election day where all the losers take office? ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Congress should not be like the Super Bowl where you have to have one team that's going to win and another team that's going to be a loser. ~John Breaux (b.1944), FOX News Sunday, 2004 December 12th, to Chris Wallace


Give a Republican a fish and he'll think he learned how to fish. Teach him to fish and he'll call you socialist. ~@LOLGOP, tweet, 2012


Popular statesmanship is largely a combination of attitudes and platitudes. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1904, George Horace Lorimer, editor


      All the political tendencies momentarily raging in our times are antiliberal... Antiliberalism seeks to subject the personality, with everything that the word means — conscience, responsibility, free will, the moral sense — to a pattern of work, conduct, behavior and belief imposed upon every member of society... This happens after a liberal century... Why... is mankind revolting against liberalism, after so brief and incomplete an experience of it? This question has concerned me more than any other during recent years...
      It seems to me that liberalism has undone itself by forgetting that the idea of self-government implies the search for public good, the consensus of public virtue. No political philosophy ever started by thinking of man as a primarily economic animal — as a producer or consumer of goods, as a hirer or a hireling. It thought of him first and foremost as a human soul, capable of development and perfection. Certainly the hope of increased material well-being was part of the ideal — not a goal in itself... The creation of people, endowed with courage, independence, wisdom, was the American dream...
      The universal accusation against liberal democracy is that it has resulted in a society without standards. The critics of liberalism accuse it of creating whole societies of spoiled children, societies clamorous with demands. The criticism has influence because it has truth!
      By and large, in everyday life, liberalism has never even begun to draw upon the reserves of idealism and good will that are present in mankind. That has been its greatest failure. The idea of self-development, almost immediately, became perverted into the idea of self-interest. That perversion has dominated America. The ideal of a society of individuals trying to be something, degenerated into the ideal of all individuals trying to get something.
      Self-interest has raged through society, and dictatorships are rising in the western world on the corpse of it. Whole civilizations have fled into the arms of dictators, not only because the world has become technically complicated and difficult to run, but because human beings are lonely, fearful, without confidence in themselves or in one another. People are actually welcoming enslavement, in order that, without liberty, they may at least have rest and the sense of being caught up into some purpose, however fantastic, however unrealistic, unhuman and grotesque. ~Dorothy Thompson, Political Guide: A Study of American Liberalism and Its Relationship to Modern Totalitarian States, 1938  [a little altered —tg]


Mudslinging – In politics, anything bad the opponent says about our candidate; in contrast, when our candidate does this, it is called 'making a good point.' ~Richard E. Turner (1937–2011), The Grammar Curmudgeon, a.k.a. "The Mudge," from "The Curmudgeon's Short Dictionary of Modern Phrases," c.2009, sites.google.com/site/grammarmudge


[I]n this country, we have a two-party system in government. And the idea is supposed to be that the two sides both come up with ways to confront and fix the real problems facing our country. They both propose possible solutions to our real problems. And we debate between those possible solutions. And by the process of debate, we pick the best idea. That competition between good ideas from both sides about real problems in the real country should result in our country having better choices, better options, than if only one side is really working on the hard stuff. And if the Republican Party and the conservative movement and the conservative media is stuck in a vacuum-sealed door-locked spin cycle of telling each other what makes them feel good and denying the factual, lived truth of the world, then we are all deprived as a nation of the constructive debate about competing feasible ideas about real problems. ~Rachel Maddow, November 2012


[W]hat we've seen on display for the last several years... GOP (and Congress) is really not a party of ideas anymore, it's not a party of legislation; they can't agree among themselves so they've become the party of investigation and the party of gridlock.... even if there's no basis for it, that's just what they do.... The GOP is at war with itself, and the only thing they can agree on these days is to have endless investigations. ~Adam Schiff, on All In with Chris Hayes, November 2016


POLITICAN. The reason we have so much politics. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905


Politics doesn't have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn't have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured. ~Joseph R. Biden, Jr., presidential inauguration address, 2021


Overheard in a Washington D.C. confessional: "Bless me, Father, for sins have been committed." ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


CONGRESS  Five hundred and thirty-one American Patriots, gathered together in Washington to promote the business of being re-elected. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914


I want to set down my own guiding ideas tentatively on this problem of politics and ethics: Do not confuse power with evil. When you choose the lesser of two evils, always remember that it is still an evil. Do not reject partial or gradual solutions because they are partial or gradual. Do not let your principles grow too rigid to be useful in a real world. Do not reject an imperfect ally when you are working for a common aim in a time of great danger. Do not confuse your vested interests with ethics. Do not identify the enemies of your privilege with the enemies of humanity. Do not lull yourself into thinking that good and evil don't exist; they do exist. When you find something that is, in truth, evil — as fascism is, as lynching is, as terrorism is — then you will know it, because there are the darkness and distance of the pit between you and it. ~Max Lerner, "Politics and the Connective Tissue," 1945  [abridged —tg]


If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United. I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be. ~Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 2014


Social economy means spending a penny to save a pound. Political economy is spending a pound to save a penny. ~F. Tomline (William Schwenck Gilbert) & Gilbert Arthur à Beckett, The Happy Land: A Burlesque Version of "The Wicked World," 1873  [Quoted character is Lutin. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


Another type which often displays a psychotic conscience is the politician. A politician's conscience is responsive only to the needs of those who elected him, and he tends to confuse the voice of that conscience with the eternal verities. ~Gerald Raftery (1905–1986), "Today's towering consciences are often somewhat cock-eyed," 1971


The difference between a liberal and a conservative is that one considers truth an inconvenience while the other opposes it on principle. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


We hold these truths to be self-evident, — that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion. ~Thomas Jefferson and 19th century political jab mash-up quotation by Mary B. Dimond, in A Century of Misquotations, 1906  ["Rum, Romanism and Rebellion" was not coined by Samuel D. Burchard. The "remarkable alliteration," per the New York Mail and Express, was not his at all, save by his momentary use of it. Years ago, in a religious paper then published and since merged with another, the Democratic party was spoken of by its editor as "the party of Rum, Rome and Rebellion," and since that time those words have been similarly applied, by Republican editors, over and over again to stigmatize the party. So it was not Dr. Burchard's jawbone that killed James G. Blaine in the 1884 presidential election but the jawbone of the Republican party. Sometimes a man's fool friends are as dangerous as his enemies. ~"In Defense of Dr. Burchard," The American Reformer, 1884 December 6th, and Annals of Iowa: A Historical Quarterly, July 1940. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


An honest politician stands out like a do-it-yourself haircut. ~Arnold H. Glasow (1905–1999)


      The conversation at dinner had been so heated that by the end of it Mrs. Miniver had developed mental, moral, and physical indigestion.....
      [F]rom that moment on she resigned herself to a headache, and got it.... [B]etween a woman who thought that for her kitchenmaid to use face-powder was the beginning of Bolshevism, and a man who believed that the 30-mile speed limit was the thin end of the Totalitarian wedge, there could be no useful interchange of ideas.
      Besides, Mrs. Miniver was beginning to feel more than a little weary of exchanging ideas (especially political ones) and of hearing other people exchange theirs. It's all very well, she reflected, when the ideas have had time to flower, or at least to bud, so that we can pick them judiciously, present them with a bow, and watch them unfold in the warmth of each other's understanding: but there is far too much nowadays of pulling up the wretched little things just to see how they are growing. Half the verbal sprigs we hand each other are nothing but up-ended rootlets, earthy and immature: left longer in the ground they might have come to something, but once they are exposed we seldom manage to replant them. It is largely the fault, no doubt, of the times we live in. Things happen too quickly, crisis follows crisis, the soil of our minds is perpetually disturbed. Each of us, to relieve his feelings, broadcasts his own running commentary on the preposterous and bewildering events of the hour: and this, nowadays, is what passes for conversation.
      ~Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver, 1930s


It's not easy to raise yourself out of ignorance — and then there's the bother of changing political parties. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com, 2019


When burglars came, he didn't call police
But asked for a negotiated peace.
~Gerald Raftery (1905–1986), "Appeaser," c.1940


The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. ~John Kenneth Galbraith, 1963


just as soon as the
uplifters get
a country reformed it
slips into a nose dive
~Don Marquis, "certain maxims of archy," archy and mehitabel, 1927


      Extreme Rightists and extreme Leftists... sharpen the argument, and make us realize the value of the democratic middle course — especially if that middle course, in order to keep up with the times, is, and I quote what I have said before, "just a little bit left of center."
      I am reminded of four definitions: A Radical is a man with both feet firmly planted— in the air. A Conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward. A Reactionary is a somnambulist walking backwards. A Liberal is a man who uses his legs and his hands at the behest-at the command — of his head. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1939


Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel. ~John Quinton


I went to hear a candidate speak; he talked and talked, almost a week. Our Freedom was his foremost brag; he wept when speaking of the Flag. He painted, with impassioned skill, our victory at Bunker Hill, and talked a while of Valley Forge, and threw a harpoon at King George. What mush and tommyrot and bunk and slush... ~Walt Mason  [a little altered —tg]


IMPEACHMENT  Making the State pay $50,000 for the privilege of calling its governor a Crook, when the rest of us had been doing it for nothing right along. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914


Truth and politics do not often sleep in the same bed because politics wants all the covering. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor


When a party can't think of anything else they always fall back on Lower Taxes. It has a magic sound to a voter, just like Fairyland is spoken of and dreamed of by all children. But no child has ever seen it: neither has any voter lived to see the day when his taxes were lowered... Presidents have been promising lower taxes since Washington crossed the Delaware by hand in a row boat. But our taxes have gotten bigger and their boats have gotten larger until now the President crosses the Delaware in his private yacht. ~Will Rogers, 1924


Conservative: One who admires radicals a century after they're dead. ~Leo Rosten


Liberal. — Humane, rooted in humanity, caring for human beings, not as producers, or consumers, or workers, or employers, but as human souls. ~Dorothy Thompson, Political Guide: A Study of American Liberalism and Its Relationship to Modern Totalitarian States, 1938


A statesman is a man that can do what the politician would like to do but can't because he is afraid of not being elected. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)


The Democrats are the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it. ~P. J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government, 1991


POLITICS, n.  A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, 1911


...chicken soup for the politically battered soul... ~Nicolle Wallace, Deadline: White House (MSNBC), 2020


CONSERVATIVE, n.  A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Word Book, 1906


INFLUENCE, n.  In politics, a visionary quo given in exchange for a substantial quid. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Word Book, 1906


BOUNDARY, n.  In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Word Book, 1906


All reason... says that the time has come to abandon extreme nationalism, and to begin to conceive of the world as a single economic and cultural unit... But instead, the twentieth century is marked by a resurgence of the most extreme nationalism... ~Dorothy Thompson, Political Guide: A Study of American Liberalism and Its Relationship to Modern Totalitarian States, 1938


If a dozen statisticians were elected to Congress and their methods put into effect, it would reduce the Congressional Record from a volume that has to be shipped in a freight car to one that could be carried in the voter’s vest pocket. ~Albert Edward Wiggam, “The Four Most Useless Men in the World,” in Collier’s, 1924


The conservative is a man who “believes that nothing should ever be done for the first time.” If an earthquake breaks loose and does it once, very well; it then becomes “precedent.” Earthquakes become part of the status quo. He puts his money into earthquakes and they then become “vested rights.” ~Albert Edward Wiggam, “The Four Most Useless Men in the World,” in Collier’s, 1924  [Wiggam is quoting a phrase from F. M. Cornford, 1908, explaining his Principle of the Dangerous Precedent in academic politics: “Every public action which is not customary, either is wrong, or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time.” —tg]


Anything Done for the First Time Unleashes a Demon  ~Dave Sim, Cerebus, 1984


Rules, like Men, to Time must bow;
Then was Then, but Now is Now.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Progress," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924


The Past's a Book wherein some Truths are found,
But not a Chain by which Men's Feet are bound.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Progress," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924


The world is burdened with young fogies. Old men with ossified minds are easily dealt with. But men who look young, act young and everlastingly harp on the fact that they are young, but who nevertheless think and act with a degree of caution that would be excessive in their grandfathers, are the curse of the world. Their very conservatism is secondhand, and they don't know what they are conserving. ~Robertson Davies


Sometimes conservatism is simply radicalism in its dotage. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1906, George Horace Lorimer, editor


Liberalism is, I think, resurgent. One reason is that more and more people are so painfully aware of the alternative. ~John Kenneth Galbraith, 1989


And that conviction will, I dare say, be backed up by the greatest torrent of money ever poured out to influence an American election — poured out by the men who fear nothing so much as change and who want everything to stay as it is — only more so. This idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal — that you can gather votes like box-tops — is, I think, the ultimate indignity to the democratic process. ~Adlai E. Stevenson, 1956


The Statesman whom a Nation most reveres
Is he that Leads, not he that Domineers.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Politics," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924


[M]en in power... courted some strong Party to carry them into office and they find they must court it still.... So that most nominal kings and presidents and governors are merely clerks of some real power which stands erect at their side and does its will by them. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, sermon, 1831


But the President has paid dear for his White House. It has commonly cost him all his peace and the best of his manly attributes. To preserve for a short time so conspicuous an appearance before the world, he is content to eat dust before the real masters, who stand erect behind the throne. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Compensation," 1841


The difference between a cactus and a caucus is in a cactus all the pricks are on the outside. ~Lyndon B. Johnson  [This has been attributed to many, most notably LBJ. I've not yet verified that he was the first quoted. –tg]


But I am now seasoned enough to have learned that the hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning. ~Adlai E. Stevenson, 1956


      People can become monster-like when their economic expectations come under attack. The widening income gap and hollowing out of the middle class are prompting Americans to rage against others who are superficially different from them, closing their eyes to the humanity of their fellow citizens...
      If we are to fight to make sure that America lives up to the American Dream, then we must become citizen warriors and resist backing down before our fellow citizens when they exhibit troll behavior. We are called upon to marshal the self-discipline to respond effectively, which means not reacting with angry sword thrusts of our own. We must deal with our grief in healthy ways as we work with those of our fellow citizens who are thrashing around in their own unexamined grief...
      I believe that we can defeat our monsters, just as the Great warriors defeated theirs, if we keep a firm grip, wield the sword of fairness, resist the flames of dragon despair, and stand strong together. The battle before us is a battle worthy of a great people. ~Robin R. Bates, How Beowulf Can Save America: An Epic Hero's Guide to Defeating the Politics of Rage, 2012, betterlivingthroughbeowulf.com


I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them. ~Adlai E. Stevenson, 1952


The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. ~Oscar Wilde, 1891


Thanksgiving Day will be under an extra strain this year. It comes after election and the extra session of Congress. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor


Every two years the American politics industry fills the airwaves with the most virulent, scurrilous, wall-to-wall character assassination of nearly every political practitioner in the country — and then declares itself puzzled that America has lost trust in its politicians. ~Charles Krauthammer, 1994


To read the future, a man would need to have an eye in the back of his head. For the Greeks were right in calling the future the time behind us and the past the time before us. We who are less logical talk as if the future were something that lay stretched before us like a landscape — something into which we are marching with keen and comprehending eyes. Alas, we can march into it only backwards, and all that confronts our eyes is the long winding road of the past. If statesmen could see the future with anything but the backs of their heads, does anyone think that history would have been such a record of bumps and misdirections and fallings into the ditch? "Look where you are going," people are constantly saying to each other. But that is the very direction in which it is impossible to look. The eyeless condition of the back of the head is an eternal fact which governs all the activities of statesmen. It may be that in time we shall evolve a new eye where it is most needed, or be able to invent a substitute for an eye. Till this happens, the human race must inevitably go on in the old ludicrous fashion, making the old mistakes in politics, in love, and in backing horses. ~Robert Lynd, "Peering into the Future," Solomon in All His Glory, 1923


By the year 1982, Congress will meet but once in ten years. Other legislative bodies will meet but once in five years. Congress and legislatures will not be permitted to remain in session over one month. All time wasted in deadlocks and factional struggles will be charged to the factionists at the rate of four times the pay they would receive if about the public business. ~Edward Payson Powell (1833–1915), "New Year in 1982," Liberty and Life: Discourses by E. P. Powell, 1889  [a little altered. —tg]


DEMAGOGUE  From Grk. demos. people, and Eng. gag. One who gags the people. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary, Executed by Gideon Wurdz, Master of Pholly, Doctor of Loquacious Lunacy, etc., 1904


The tidal waves of tyranny always begin as tiny ripples of indifference. ~William Arthur Ward, Thoughts of a Christian Optimist, 1968


He was a young man, appallingly educated and very earnest. He regarded politics as a mission, and had put a very fine law practice with a noted firm in cold storage while he devoted a few years to the saving of his country... He came from a fine, old, hand-polished, inlaid mahogany family with traditions and securities to protect... Each well-trained hair on his head was in its place... What he detested about Washington official society was rudderless agitators with well-seasoned jaws attaining political power from some umbrageous and nether region of the nation. ~George Fitch, "Cupid vs. Geography," 1915  [a little altered —tg]


Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks. ~Doug Larson, United Feature Syndicate, as quoted in The Reader's Digest, 1993


Mugwump, n.
Definition 1:  a bolter from the Republican party in 1884
Definition 2:  a person who is independent (as in politics) or who remains undecided or neutral
Did You Know?  Mugwump is an anglicized version of a word used by Massachusett Indians to mean "war leader." The word was sometimes jestingly applied in early America to someone who was the "head guy." The first political mugwumps were Republicans in the presidential race of 1884 who chose to support Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland rather than their own party's nominee. Their independence prompted one 1930s humorist to define a mugwump as "a bird who sits with its mug on one side of the fence and its wump on the other."
~Merriam-Webster Dictionary, merriam-webster.com  [Per The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories, 1991, the quoted humorous definition was commonly attributed to Albert J. Engel around 1936, but it appeared anonymously prior to that in 1934. —tg]


A "mugwump" is simply a man who on some question which he deems vital breaks away from his political party... As is frequently the case in American politics, the word was used as a term of derision and reproach by one section, and accepted with a half-humorous sense of its aptness by the other... In any case, the mugwump is an independent voter. ~Anonymous, in Notes and Queries, 1886  [You may also recognize this word from Roald Dahl's 1972 book Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator — "But my dear old muddleheaded mugwump," said Mr Wonka, turning to Mrs Bucket. —tg]


A mugwump is a man in politics who never votes for anybody, but who is always voting against somebody. ~Richard Croker, 1890s


Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so. ~Gore Vidal, unverified


Foul Language is with him as common,
As Scolding to an Oyster-Woman,
And from him Oaths in clusters slip,
Like Flatt'ries from a Courtier's Lip,
Yet seldom swears, but swears awry,
That is, to justify a Lie,
Or, vice versa, stains his Mouth
With Oaths, to falsify the Truth,
As if it was his sole delight,
To make Right Wrong and Falsehood Right;
Nor is there any way to know
The Truth of what he does avow,
But to believe the quite reverse
Of e'ery thing he says or swears...
~Edward Ward, "The Contending Candidates: or, The Broom-Staff Battles, Dirty Skirmishes, and Other Comical Humours of the late Southwark Election," 1722


The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put makeup on two faces. ~Maureen Murphy, as quoted in New Woman, 1986


I am working for the time when unqualified blacks, browns, and women join the unqualified men in running our government. ~Cissy Farenthold, 1974


No fundamental social change occurs merely because government acts. It’s because civil society, the conscience of a country begins to rise up and demand — demand — demand change. ~Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Remarks to the Press with Q&A in Guatemala, 2014


There are always too many Democratic congressmen, too many Republican congressmen, and never enough U.S. congressmen. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, compiled by Evan Esar, 1968


Instinctively, the Liberal tries to keep every phase of life elastic. He doesn't want today's reform to think of itself as the final good. Tomorrow will reveal something further, if only life is permitted to grow. He believes that, with sufficient leeway, mistakes will adjust themselves. ~Dorothy Thompson, Political Guide: A Study of American Liberalism and Its Relationship to Modern Totalitarian States, 1938


Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other. ~Oscar Ameringer


Sometimes the campaign runs the candidate and sometimes the candidate runs the campaign. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1904, George Horace Lorimer, editor


Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right? ~Robert Orben


Why pay money to have your family tree traced; just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, compiled by Evan Esar, 1968


Conservatism is the policy of make no change and consult your grandmother when in doubt. ~Woodrow Wilson, 1918


Wise politicians don't try to fool the people all the time, but only when votes are needed. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor


I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. ~Charles de Gaulle


Politicians say they're beefing up our economy. Most don't know beef from pork. ~Harold Lowman, as quoted in The Reader's Digest, 1993


He didn't say that. He was reading what was given to him in a speech. ~Richard Darman, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, explaining why President George H. W. Bush was not following up on his campaign pledge that there would be no loss of wetlands, as quoted in Richard Lederer, The Bride of Anguished English, 2000


Members of Congress should be compelled to wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers, so we could identify their corporate sponsors. ~Caroline Baum, unverified


The liberal spirit is the breath of liberal democracy. And the liberal spirit is something instantly recognizable but very difficult to define. It has about it a refreshing common sense... It is even-tempered, and of even tempo... Reform, and constant reform, is a necessity of democracy. But reform in a hurry... is jerry-built, and it blows down in the first storm. ~Dorothy Thompson, speech, 1937


There are too many men in politics and not enough elsewhere. ~Hermione Gingold, as quoted in Michael Rogers, Political Quotes, 1982


      Sometimes I think I'd like to get more involved politically, but I get depressed when I look at the two major name-brand political parties... The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They're the kind of people who'd stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn't bother to stop because they'd want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club...
      But the biggest problem I have with both major political parties is that they seem to be competing in some kind of giant national scavenger hunt every four years to see who can find the biggest goober to run for President. ~Dave Barry, "Politics after 40," Dave Barry Turns 40, 1990


In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican. ~H. L. Mencken


A straight vote is often cast for crooked candidates. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1906, George Horace Lorimer, editor


Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first. ~Ronald Reagan


DEMOCRACY.  The theory that two thieves will steal less than one, and three less than two, and four less than three, and so on ad infinitum; the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. ~H. L. Mencken


I never accept anything about the Government until it has been officially denied; then I know it is true. ~The Tri-Weekly Gleaner, 1897  [Garson O'Toole, The Quote Investigator, has found several variations of this quotation but this is the earliest thus far. Another: "It is an axiom of practical politics never to believe anything until it has been officially denied." ~The Times (London), 1900. For more history on this quote, click here. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


The United States Senate opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)


Some people say that liberalism is dead in the world... But actually, I am sure, there are more liberals in America than any other kind of mental animal. ~Dorothy Thompson, Political Guide: A Study of American Liberalism and Its Relationship to Modern Totalitarian States, 1938


Politics is a most interesting subject but is out of place behind the pharmacy counter. ~"Edlets," The Spatula: An Illustrated Magazine for Pharmacists, 1919


Moderator: What about Norman Mailer's assertion that all this trouble we're in the world now is caused by 300 years of conservative ideology?...
Malcolm Muggeridge: He didn't say that, actually. He said that this conservatism had existed and had been unable to correct what was happening and he's quite right.
Norman Mailer: I think it's solved the problem too superficially.... it created a life which worked reasonably well. In fact, looking back it worked very well for a large number of people but it didn't work well enough, finally, for the entire world.
Muggeridge: The conservative has never known what he wants to conserve, anyway....
Mailer: I know exactly what I'd like to conserve.
Muggeridge: What would you conserve, Norman?
Mailer: The trees, first....
Marshall McLuhan: There's a wonderful sign hanging on a junkyard in Toronto which says, "Help beautify junkyards — throw something lovely away today." I think this is a thought that conservatives need to consider.
~"The Way It Is," 1968, moderator Bob Fulford


BUCK: Can you give a definition of an orator?
PRIVATE: Sure. He's a fellow that's always ready to lay down your life for his country.
~American Legion Weekly, 1922


Politics:  "poli" (many) and "tics" (blood-sucking parasites). ~Author unknown, c. 1998


The word "politics" is derived from the word "poly," meaning "many," and the word "ticks," meaning "blood-sucking parasites." ~Larry Hardiman, c. 1999


How come we choose from just two people to run for President and 50 for Miss America? ~Author unknown


Midas (we read) with wond'rous art of old,
Whate'er he touch'd, at once transform'd to gold.
This modern statesmen can reverse with ease,
Touch them with gold, they'll turn to what you please.
~The Spirit of English Wit, 1809


There is a lot of people who got Confidence, but they are careful who they have it in. We have plenty of Confidence in this country, but we are a little short of good men to place our Confidence in. ~Will Rogers


It's an odd thing. Politics — I don't know why — but they seem to have a tendency to separate us, to keep us from one another, while nature is always and ever making efforts to bring us together. ~Sean O'Casey, in Wisdom: Conversations with the Elder Wise Men of Our Day, James Nelson, editor, 1958


Washington seems to be more concerned about political mud than radioactive dust. ~Walter Winchell, 1959


I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.... one ought to recognise that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin where it belongs. ~George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 1946


He's not a Republican, he's a Republican't. ~Author unknown


...when once a man has cast a longing eye on [offices], a rottenness begins in his conduct. ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Tench Coxe, 1799, Monticello


It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellow-men, and, anyhow, there are not enough of them to fill the offices. ~George E. Macdonald, in Liberty: Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order, 1907


A political convention is just not a place from which you can come away with any trace of faith in human nature. ~J. Murray Kempton, 1960


Political scandal: High infidelity. ~Arnold H. Glasow (1905–1999)


They say women talk too much. If you have worked in Congress you know that the filibuster was invented by men. ~Clare Boothe Luce


If the World Series runs until election day, the networks will run the first one-half inning and project the winner. ~Lindsey Nelson, 1980


In fact, before you can begin to think about politics at all you have to abandon the notion that there is a war between good men and bad men. That is one of the great American superstitions. More than any other fetish it has ruined our sense of political values... ~Walter Lippmann, "Routineer and Inventor," A Preface to Politics, 1913


In politics, lies are just facts that haven't been repeated enough yet. ~Animaniacs, "Pinko and the Brain," 2020, teleplay by Kathleen Chen, Brian Polk, & Wellesley Wild


A conservative is a man who just sits and thinks, mostly sits. ~Woodrow Wilson


The Conservatives, as being by the law of their existence the stupidest party, have much the greatest sins of this description to answer for: and it is a melancholy truth, that if any measure were proposed, on any subject, truly, largely, and far-sightedly conservative, even if Liberals were willing to vote for it, the great bulk of the Conservative party would rush blindly in and prevent it from being carried. ~John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, 1861  [Later: "I do not retract this assertion; but I did not mean that the Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally Conservative." —tg]


If Obama sees his shadow tomorrow, do we get six more years of Bush? ~David J. Beard (1947–2016), @Raqhun, tweet, 2009 January 19th


I dunno. I just find it hard to discuss the Affordable Care Act with people who think it's one of the prophecies of Nostradamus. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com, 2013


I've been waiting for 7 years for Obama to take my gun and all I got was a job, health insurance and marriage equality. ~@LOLGOP, tweet, 2016


The principle is that the qualities that get a man into power are not those that lead him, once established, to use power wisely. There is a simple democratic theory that the best man gets the office. In American thinking this is badly mixed up with the idea that some men "deserve" office, as if the right to control other men, to blast or benefit the future, were something that should be paid over as a reward for achievement in other fields or for virtue. ~Lyman Bryson, 1946


An American is fond of referring to the plain people, but he never claims to belong to them unless he is running for office. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1906, George Horace Lorimer, editor


During a political campaign the air is full of speeches — and vice versa. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, compiled by Evan Esar, 1968


Cicero was the first Senatorial muck-raker; the last one hasn't been born yet. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1906, George Horace Lorimer, editor


When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators. ~P. J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government, 1991


Radical conservatives — Radcons, I call them — are taking over the public agenda, and they are meeting with woefully little resistance... The Radcon agenda, undiluted and unopposed, is dramatically out of sync with the needs of America and the world. As such, it endangers our future... They would rather police bedrooms than board rooms. ~Robert B. Reich, Introduction, Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America, 2004


America today is in danger. It faces the threat by a radical, authoritarian right wing that refers to itself as "conservative," as if it were preserving and promoting American values. In fact, it has been trampling on them. ~George Lakoff, Preface, Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision, 2006


The Christian Right is neither. ~Author unknown, c. 1990s


I'm not a leftist; I'm where the righteous ought to be. ~Moses Coady


Politics are almost as exciting as war and quite as dangerous. In war you can be killed only once, but in politics many times. ~Winston Churchill


      Trump's brazen, repeated, and unapologetic lying on the campaign trail has already caused journalists to complain that fact checkers cannot keep up with the stream of lies. They saw the danger that fact checking his statements would become futile because the falsehoods would have become so common that they would soon be normalized. Beyond that, each and every preposterous statement is an explicit fight that Trump picks with the media in order to further polarize his supporters and render their cognitive bubble even more hermetic...
      Aside from reinforcing the Trump base, the next four years of non-stop gaslighting could erode the basic standards of discourse in a healthy civil society. The truly horrible thing about propaganda in authoritarian regimes is not that it convinces the true believers, but that it demoralizes opponents by saying in effect: "Yes, we know that you know we are lying, but we don't care! We do it because we can and you can't stop us!" As for the majority of apolitical citizens, it infects them with a corrosive cynicism and dissuades them from all forms of public engagement. Apathy may be a more powerful silencer of dissent than overt physical coercion. ~Mike Lofgren, "Is Sean Spicer Gaslighting the Press?," WashingtonMonthly.com, 2017 January 22nd


Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed. ~Mao Zedong, 1938





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