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Politics: a Trojan horse race. ~ Stanisław Jerzy Lec
People always have been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be, until they have learned to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. ~ Vladimir Lenin
An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought. ~ Attributed to Simon Cameron by Allen Johnson
The political activity prevailing in the United States is something one could never understand unless one had seen it. No sooner do you set foot on American soil than you find yourself in a sort of tumult; a confused clamor rises on every side, and a thousand voices are heard at once, each expressing some social requirements. All around you everything is on the move: here the people of a district are assembled to discuss the possibility of building a church; there they are busy choosing a representative; further on, the delegates of a district are hurrying to town to consult about some local improvements; elsewhere it's the village farmers who have left their furrows to discuss the plan for a road or a school. ~ Alexis de Tocqueville
All that I grasped was that to repeat what everybody else was thinking was, in politics, the mark not of an inferior but of a superior mind. ~ Marcel Proust
The only mark-to-market thing in politics is Election Day; everything else is hot air. ~ Mike Muprhy

Politics (from Greek: πολιτικός politikos, meaning "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the practice and theory of influencing other people on a global, civic or individual level. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a state or civilization. Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (a hierarchically organized population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities and states.

Arranged alphabetically by author or source:
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P · Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations · The Dictionary of Legal Quotations · Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations · See also · External links


  • He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state or anything else, will obtain the clearest view of them.
  • All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    • Lord Acton, letter to Mandell Creighton, April 1887. Reprinted in John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, Essays on Freedom and Power, 1949, Boston:The Beacon Press, p. 364.
  • Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.
    • Lord Acton, "Freedom in Antiquity", in The History of Freedom and Other Essays: And Other Essays‎ (1907), p. 22.
  • There is only one thing more useful in politics than having the right friends, and that is having the right enemies.
  • It is necessary therefore that the person who is to study, with any tolerable chance of profit, the principles of nobleness and justice and politics generally, should have received a good moral training. For our data here are moral judgments, and if a man knows what it is right to do, he does not require a formal reason. And a person that has been thus trained, either possesses these first principles already, or can easily acquire them. As for him who neither possesses nor can acquire them, let him take to heart the words of Hesiod:
  • ‘He is the best of all who thinks for himself in all things. He, too, is good who takes advice from a wiser (person). But he who neither thinks for himself, nor lays to heart another's wisdom, this is a useless man.’
  • The shifty language of politics,... that strange language full of Maya and falsities of self-illusion and deliberate delusion of others, which almost immediately turns all true and vivid phrases into a jargon, so that men may fight in a cloud of words without any clear sense of the thing they are battling for....
    • Sri Aurobindo, September, 1918, quoted from Sri Aurobindo, ., Nahar, S., Aurobindo, ., & Institut de recherches évolutives (Paris). India's rebirth: A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writing, talks and speeches. Paris: Institut de Recherches Evolutives. 3rd Edition (2000). [1]


  • “My only remaining question is, why an honest pimp, con man, fraud, and kidnapper like yourself would get involved in something as nasty as large-scale corporate activity?”
    “The money was good.”
    “Oh, but if that’s your excuse, what will be next? Politics?”
  • POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.
  • POLITICS, n. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
  • In politics, you have your word and your friends; go back on either and you're dead.
  • In volunteer politics, a builder can build faster than a destroyer can destroy.
  • Moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics.
  • Politics is not an exact science.
    • Die Politik ist keine exakte Wissenschaft.
    • Otto von Bismarck, speech to Prussian upper house (18 December 1863)
    • Variant: Die Politik ist keine Wissenschaft, wie viele der Herren Professoren sich einbilden, sondern eine Kunst.
      • Politics is not a science, as the professors are apt to suppose. It is an art.
      • Expression in the Reichstag (1884), as quoted in The Quote Verifier : Who Said What, Where, and When (2006) by Ralph Keyes.
  • Die Politik ist die Lehre vom Möglichen.
    • Politics is the art of the possible.
    • Otto von Bismarck, remark to Meyer von Waldeck, 11 August 1867. Quoted in Heinz Amelung, Bismarck-Worte, 1918; as reported in The Yale Book of Quotations, Yale University Press, 2006. This is widely attributed to Bismarck but there is no firsthand account of his exact words, as discussed in Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier, Macmillan, 2006.
  • Have you ever seen a candidate talking to a rich person on television?
    • Art Buchwald,Quotations for our Time by Laurence J. Peter (1977).
  • Too bad all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair.
    • George Burns, quoted in Antony Jay, Lend Me Your Ears: The Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations. Oxford University Press, (p.49-50).


  • An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.
    • Attributed to Simon Cameron by Allen Johnson, Chronicles of America Series, Yale University Press, 1918. (Cameron was forced to resign as United States Secretary of War in 1862, due to allegations of corruption).
  • The pendulum will swing back.
    • Joseph Gurney Cannon, maxim indicating that in life and politics the things detested today may be praised tomorrow. Quoted in a tribute to Cannon on his retirement, The Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, March 4, 1923.—Congressional Record, March 4, 1923, vol. 64, p. 5714. "Uncle Joe" Cannon, who was Speaker of the House 1903–1911, served in the House for 46 years.
  • Politics and Religion are obsolete. The time has come for Science and Spirituality.
    • Often quoted by Arthur C. Clarke as one of his favorite remarks of Jawaharlal Nehru, though some of his earliest citations of it, in Voices from the Sky : Previews of the Coming Space Age (1967), p. 154 indicate that Nehru may himself been either quoting or paraphrasing a statement of Vinoba Bhave.
  • Lucien B. Fenimore, after three hundred years of politics, no longer believed in coincidence. He didn’t believe in accidental accidents either.


  • In my whole legal career I have not met worse types of criminals than in politics.
    • Chittaranjan Das, quoted from Sri Aurobindo, ., Nahar, S., Aurobindo, ., & Institut de recherches évolutives (Paris). India's rebirth: A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writing, talks and speeches. Paris: Institut de Recherches Evolutives. 3rd Edition (2000). [2]
  • Finality is not the language of politics.
  • Politicians are like nappies, they should be changed regularly and for the same reason.
  • The true destiny of America is religious, not political: it is spiritual, not physical.


  • Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.
    • Albert Einstein, as quoted by Virgil Henshaw in Albert Einstein: Philosopher Scientist (1949) edited by Paul A. Schilpp
  • That is simple, my friend. It is because Politics is more difficult than physics.
    • Albert Einstein when asked "Dr. Einstein, why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?” a conferee at a meeting at Princeton, N.J. (Jan 1946), as recalled by Greenville Clark in "Letters to the Times" in New York Times (22 Apr 1955), 24.
Golivinski: But sir, shouldn’t we keep this political?
Soloviev: In Russia religion and politics are the same! Our people will believe anything negative about the Jews! Go ahead boy!
  • Researcher: In almost every country there are people trying to seize political power! What is the easy way?
Graphic novelist: Well…I guess by identifying a felt threat to the people and leading a defense!
So you pick a group of people who are vulnerable and could seem to be a threat!
  • Ibid, p. 115.
  • Whether or not our position fairly can be charged as “apolitical” depends entirely upon how one defines “political.” If “political” be taken in the narrow sense, as signifying those means and methods the world regularly accepts as normative for its doing of politics, then the position of me and mine clearly and is that of apoliticism. If, however, “political” be understood in the broad, etymological sense, as identifying whatever actions have public effect upon the life of the “city” (polis), then there are no grounds for accusing either “me” or any of “mine” of advocating apoliticism.
    • Vernard Eller, Christian Anarchy: Jesus’ Primacy Over the Powers (1987).


  • I say that politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres. All my predecessors have said the same thing, for many years at least, albeit with different accents. I believe that Catholics involved in politics carry the values of their religion within them, but have the mature awareness and expertise to implement them. The Church will never go beyond its task of expressing and disseminating its values, at least as long as I'm here.
  • Politics must not be subject to the economy, nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of technocracy.
    • Pope Francis, in his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato si', paragraph 189
  • Politics is policy. What policy should you follow in view of the idea that there isn’t enough to go around — the power of the few, or the needs of the many? Political economy is based on misassumptions... That’s the basis of all politics: it has to be you or me, there’s not enough for both of us. Survival of the fittest... But we can do so much now, with so little, that we can take care of everybody. That’s why the idea of scarcity is all wrong. Up to now, the world of politics doesn’t know that. That’s why all nations are dependent on armaments, why we have the arms race. The politicians still say that it’s you or me, and that’s why they go for the gun... The young world is giving up any interest in their political system. They have decided that it is absolutely corrupt.


  • Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.
  • There's no real power in Politics. Every day, it's all about whose turn it is to get punched in the face.
    • Ricky Gervais, in "Dead Funny", an Interview with Graham Wray in Event, a Mail on Sunday weekend magazine, 06.04.2014, P. 15.
  • Life isn’t binary — and neither is politics. If you are adrift in the ocean, your enemy isn’t just sharks; it’s thirst, hunger, drowning, and despair itself. If you face your predicament assuming the only thing you have to worry about is being eaten by a shark, you might fend off the sharks, but you will also probably die. Indeed, by ignoring other threats, you’d probably make yourself more vulnerable to a shark attack.
  • We will stand by our friends and administer a stinging rebuke to men or parties who are either indifferent, negligent, or hostile, and, wherever opportunity affords, to secure the election of intelligent, honest, earnest trade unionists, with clear, unblemished, paid-up union cards in their possession.
    • Samuel Gompers, "Men of Labor! Be Up and Doing" (editorial), American Federationist (May 1906)
  • They [governments] talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the fools and the suckers.
  • Nothing lies outside the political sphere understood in this way. Everything has a political color. It is always in the political fabric - and never outside of it - that a person emerges as a free and responsible being, as a person in relationship with other people, as someone who takes on a historical task. Personal relationships themselves acquire an ever-increasing political dimension. Man enter into relationships among themselves through political means.


[P]olitics takes on religious overtones when religion proper withers... ~ Paul Hollander
  • I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. "I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs." "I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking." "Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!"
  • It has been pointed out often enough that politics takes on religious overtones when religion proper withers, at any rate among intellectuals.
    • Paul Hollander, The Survival of the Adversary Culture (1991), Transaction Publishers, pp. 157–158
  • Religious ideas, supposedly private matters between man and god, are in practice always political ideas.
    • Christopher Hitchens, The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain's Favourite Fetish (1990), Chatto Counterblasts.
  • According to Chomsky, the Doomsday Clock setting at 100 seconds to midnight is based upon: (1) global warming (2) nuclear war and (3) disinformation, or the collapse of any kind of rational discourse. As such, number three makes it impossible to deal with the first two major problems. Along those lines, within the Republican Party there’s virtually a disappearance of any pretense of rational discourse. Twenty-five (25%) percent of Republicans believe the government is run by an elite satanic group of pedophiles. Seventy percent (70%) of Republicans believe that the election was stolen. Only fifteen percent (15%) of Republicans believe that global warming is a serious problem. Therein lies an insurmountable problem to solving the main issues that continually tick the clock ever closer to a disaster scenario that will likely be unprecedented in the annals of warfare and environmental degradation. As a result, Chomsky says: “We’re living in a world of total illusion and fantasy.... Unless this is dealt with soon, it’ll be impossible to deal with the two major issues within the time span that we have available, which is not very long.”




  • I will have nothing to do with this pseudo-religious approach to politics. I part company with the Congress and Gandhi. I do not believe in working up mob hysteria. Politics is a gentleman's game.
    • Muhammad Ali Jinnah speaking to journalist Durga Das in London (December 1920) as quoted in Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity : The Search for Saladin (1997) by Akbar S. Ahmed, p. 67.


  • Acts of commemoration are the very stuff of politics; in and through our political process we decide who or what should be remembered or memorialized and in what ways. As David Thelen argues, “[M]emory, private and individual, as much as collective and cultural is constructed, not reproduced. . . . [T]his construction is not made in isolation but in conversations with others that occur in the contexts of community, broader politics, and social dynamics.” Should law and legal process lend themselves to these processes? Can they do so without compromising values central to law’s integrity? These normative questions have so far driven scholarship of law and memory.
  • In all times and ages, political crimes have always been punished more severely than others – even in the degenerate State of Nicholas II. The fact that in modern 'democracies' we lean towards political clemency proves only one thing: the loss of any sense of the 'political' in general.
  • Uatu: Despite the intentions of human politics, history has shown that it is often the one, not the many, who have led the world towards its destiny... now turn your eyes to Earth once more and tell me what you see.


  • ... for our English grumbling is equally distributed between the weather and politics, and the case would be desperate when confined to the last.
  • Then the great question of government is also in an unsatisfactorv condition; for I think all will agree that there is no country in the world which is governed, as every country in the world ought to be, solely with regard to the interests and advancement of the people who are governed. On the contrary we find everywhere personal and party considerations, and matters are in such condition that even the wisest and the best of our statesmen cannot do many things which they wish to do, and find themselves forced into many actions of which in truth they do not approve... All of these difficulties arise from ignorance and selfishness. If men understood the plan of evolution, instead of working each for his own personal ends they would all join together as a community and work harmoniously for the good of all with mutual tolerance and forbearance. It is obvious that if this were done all of these evils would almost immediately cease or at any rate could very shortly be removed. p. 326
  • A great change too will come over the power side of man’s development; the whole question of government and organization will stand upon a different basis. Men will see then vividly and clearly the effect upon the astral plane of many of their actions upon the physical, and thus much that is now done thoughtlessly will become an absolute impossibility There could be no possibility of the slaughter of animals for food, for example, if only men were able to see the results upon the astral plane which that slaughter produces. The crime which men call sport would be utterly abolished if they were able to see what it is that they are really doing. It needs so slight a development to change the whole face of this which we call civilization, and to change it very much for the better. p. 345
  • Political institutions are a superstructure resting on an economic foundation.
    • Vladimir Lenin, The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism (1913), p. 5.
  • People always have been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be, until they have learned to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises.
  • Politics was for those who had too much to eat.
    • Ken Liu, A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel (2013), reprinted in Rich Horton (ed.) The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 (p. 346)


  • Furthermore, historians must not abandon political history entirely for sociology or cultural studies. Like it or not, politics matter to our societies and to our lives. We need only ask ourselves how different the world would have been if Hitler and the Nazis had not seized control of one of Europe’s most powerful states. Or what could have happened to American capitalism and the American people if Franklin Delano Roosevelt had not been able, as president, to implement the New Deal.
  • I think there's a less than 5 percent chance that what I'd like to see happen actually happens. But it seems to me an obligation, even if it's a 5 percent chance, to try to make it happen. You could call it a triumph of hope over experience. But what else is politics if not that?
    • Kanan Makiya, as quoted in "The Dissident" (3 November 2002), by Laura Secor, The Boston Globe, Massachusetts: Globe Newspaper Company, p. D1
  • “I didn’t know that you were into politics.”
    “Anyone with money has to be. Real money, I mean. Even criminals need to keep a politician in their pockets these days.”
    • Paul J. McAuley, Four Hundred Billion Stars (1988) Chapter 3, “The Keep”
  • Politics is about being able to do things that your colleagues couldn't do, and for them to recognize that. What marks out successful leaders from the unsuccessful is their decisiveness, courage and clarity - a strategic vision.


  • Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None, Part I, Chapter 11, “Vom neuen Götzen” (“The New Idol”). Published in four parts between 1883 and 1891 Another translation: “But the state lieth in all languages of good and evil; and whatever it saith it lieth; and whatever it hath it hath stolen.”
  • There's an increasing sense in our political life that in both parties politicians call themselves public servants but act like bosses who think that voters work for them. Physicians who routinely help the needy and the uninsured do not call themselves servants. They get to be called the 1%. Politicians who jerk around doctors, nurses and health systems call themselves servants, when of course they look more like little kings and queens instructing the grudging peasants in how to arrange their affairs.
    • Peggy Noonan, "Our Selfish 'Public Servants'," The Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, January 18-19, 2014, A13


  • I think it’s great that we (in the USA) have multiple female presidential candidates, so there’s not the woman running... I’m very excited about there being multiple women across — that can represent different parts of the political spectrum on the left, so that’s something that I’m thankful for... what we’re trying to do is is frame the debate and the conversation... that we’re going to be having in the next two years...


  • When citizens are relatively equal, politics has tended to be fairly democratic. When a few individuals hold enormous amounts of wealth, democracy suffers. The reason for this pattern is simple. Through campaign contributions, lobbying, influence over public discourse, and other means, wealth can be translated into political power. When wealth is highly concentrated—that is, when a few individuals have enormous amounts of money—political power tends to be highly concentrated, too. The wealthy few tend to rule. Average citizens lose political power. Democracy declines.
  • Politics is nothing but common action to secure more favorable living conditions.
  • Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote.
  • Perhaps there is a pattern set up in the heavens for one who desires to see it and seeing it, to found one in himself. But whether it exists anywhere or ever exists is no matter; for this is the only commonwealth in whose politics he can ever take part.
  • All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.
  • Politics is a harsh blood sport and the (Irish) electorate is not easily impressed.
    • Jim Power, The Irish Examiner, 9th January 2020
  • I can't help feeling wary when I hear anything said about the masses. First you take their faces from 'em by calling 'em the masses and then you accuse 'em of not having any faces.
  • All that I grasped was that to repeat what everybody else was thinking was, in politics, the mark not of an inferior but of a superior mind.
    • Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove, C. Moncrieff, trans. (1982), p. 495.


  • Politics is the art of postponing decisions until they are no longer relevant.


  • The politics of the unpolitical—these are the politics of those who desire to be pure in heart: the politics of men without personal ambition; of those who have not desires wealth or an unequal share of worldly possessions; of those who have always striven, whatever their race or condition, for human values and not for national or sectional interests.
For our Western world, Christ is the supreme example of this unselfish devotion to the good of humanity, and the Sermon on the Mount is the source of all the politics of the unpolitical.
  • Herbert Read, “The Politics of the Unpolitical,” To Hell with Culture (1963), p. 38.
  • I don't make jokes. I just watch the Government and report the facts.
  • Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.
  • More people than ever before look to government as their best chance of securing well-being rather than as their inevitable enemy. Politics as a contest to capture state power has at times apparently replaced religion (sometimes even appearing to eclipse market economics) as the focus of faith that can move mountains.
    • J. M. Roberts, The New Penguin History of the World (Fifth Edition) (2007)


  • In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.
    • Carl Sagan (1987) Keynote address at CSICOP conference, as quoted in Do Science and the Bible Conflict? (2003) by Judson Poling, p. 30.
  • Political systems are self-destructive constructs. They possess a de-evolutionary or cannibalizing nature, locked firmly within closed-ended structures, micromanaged from top tiers, and endowed with an overwhelming capacity to crank out external controls in assembly-line fashion. With clockwork precision, these systems manufacture rules and a legal apparatus which in turn erect artificial barriers to prevent the optimizing processes of evolution and information fluidity.
    • L.K. Samuels, In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action, Cobden Press (2013) p. 11.
  • Money and generous benefits can easily alter a person’s political outlook. Ideology follows the money.
    • L.K. Samuels, In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action, Cobden Press (2013) p. 301.
  • I was dealing with a political story where much of the action took place on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and one of the edicts that came down from the Mt. Sinai of advertisers row was that at no time in a political drama must a speech or a character be equated with an existing political party or current political problems. So several million viewers were treated to an incredible display of senators shouting, gesticulating and talking in hieroglyphics, saying not a single thing germane to the current political scene.
    • Rod Serling, Patterns, (1957); as quoted in "Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval", American Masters, (November 29, 1995).
  • Conscience has no more to do with gallantry than it has with politics.
  • Politics is simply the way human beings treat
    one another on the earth.
  • I don't understand how people can disconnect politics from daily life, because that's how politics count. We're daily life people and that's where politics become a reality to us.
  • The separation between politics and economics, between state and civil society is how the bourgeois society appears and presents itself. But it is not its real essence. In reality, politics is the quintessence, or the concentrated form of economics. The political sphere is built on the sphere of production, and there is a close relationship between those who command production and those who wield power.
  • I have no faith in political arithmetic.
  • To refuse political equality is to rob the ostracized of all self-respect.
    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, reported in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Correspondence, Writings, Speeches (1981), p. 249.
  • “Our ideas” are only partly our ideas. Most of our ideas are abbreviations or residues of the thought of other people, of our teachers (in the broadest sense of the term) and of our teachers’ teachers; they are abbreviations and residues of the thought of the past. These thoughts were once explicit and in the center of consideration and discussion. It may even be presumed that they were once perfectly lucid. By being transmitted to later generations they have possibly been transformed, and there is no certainty that the transformation was effected consciously and with full clarity. … This means that the clarification of our political ideas insensibly changes into and becomes indistinguishable from the history of political ideas.
    • Leo Strauss, What is Political Philosophy? (1959), p. 73


  • The pursuit of wealth generally diverts men of great talents and strong passions from the pursuit of power; and it frequently happens that a man does not undertake to direct the fortunes of the state until he has shown himself incompetent to conduct his own.
  • Politics is, as it were, the gizzard of society, full of grit and gravel, and the two political parties are its two opposite halves,—sometimes split into quarters, it may be, which grind on each other. Not only individuals, but States, have thus a confirmed dyspepsia, which expresses itself, you can imagine by what sort of eloquence.
  • The main mark of modern governments is that we do not know who governs, de facto any more than de jure. We see the politician and not his backer; still less the backer of the backer; or, what is most important of all, the banker of the backer.
  • Throned above all, in a manner without parallel in all past, is the veiled prophet of finance, swaying all men living by a sort of magic, and delivering oracles in a language not understood of the people.
  • A leader has to lead, or otherwise he has no business in politics.
    • Harry Truman, reported in Merle Miller, Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman (1974), p. 422.




  • Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.
  • Take the so-called politics of fear — the constant reference to risks, from hoodies on the street corner to international terrorism. Whatever the truth of these risks and the best ways of dealing with them, the politics of fear plays on an assumption that people cannot bear the uncertainties associated with them. Politics then becomes a question of who can better deliver an illusion of control.
  • The term “political overconfidence” should be at the front of our awareness in political discussions, and the political overconfidence we should each be most aware of and most eager to expose is, of course, our own.


  • The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.
  • Why is it the Mongols of this world always tell us they're defending us against the Mongols?
  • I was aggressively nonpolitical. I believed that people who make a fuss about politics do so because their heads are too empty to think about more important things. So I felt nothing but impatient contempt for Osborne's Jimmy Porter and the rest of the heroes of social protest.
  • Aristocracy and exclusiveness tend to final overthrow, in language as in politics.
    • William Dwight Whitney, Language and the Study of Language: Twelve Lectures on the Principles of Linguistic Science (1868), p. 150.
  • A cult is a religion with no political power.




  • Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.
  • Every Communist must grasp the truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
  • Politics is like bad cinema — people overact, take it too far. When I speak with politicians, I see this in their facial expressions, their eyes, the way they squint. I look at things like a producer. I would often watch a scene on the monitor, and the director and I would yell, ‘Stop, no more, this is unwatchable! No one will believe this.’

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 610-13.
  • All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.
  • Of this stamp is the cant of, not men, but measures.
    • Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent. Phrase used in letter by Earl of Shelburne (July 11, 1765), before Burke's use of it.
  • Away with the cant of "Measures, not men!"—the idle supposition that it is the harness and not the horses that draw the chariot along. No Sir, if the comparison must be made, if the distinction must be taken, men are everything, measures comparatively nothing.
  • One of the greatest of Romans, when asked what were his politics, replied, "Imperium et libertas." That would not make a bad programme for a British Ministry.
  • Here the two great interests IMPERIUM ET LIBERTAS, res olim insociabiles (saith Tacitus), began to incounter each other.
  • It is a condition which confronts us—not a theory.
  • Information upon points of practical politics.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, Vivian Gray, Chapter XIV. Given by Walsh as first appearance of the phrase "practical politics".
  • Oh! we'll give 'em Jessie
    When we rally round the polls.
    • Popular song of Fremont's Supporters in the Presidential Campaign of 1856.
  • Measures, not men, have always been my mark.
  • Who, born for the universe, narrow'd his mind,
    And to party gave up what was meant for mankind.
  • Who will burden himself with your liturgical parterre when the burning questions [brennende Fragen] of the day invite to very different toils?
    • Karl Rudolf Hagenbach, Grundlinien der Liturgik und Homiletik (1803). "Burning question" used by Edward Miall, M.P., also by Disraeli in the House of Commons (March, 1873).
  • Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.
  • If a due participation of office is a matter of right, how are vacancies to be obtained? Those by death are few; by resignation, none.
    • Usually quoted, "Few die and none resign." Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elias Shipman and Merchants of New Haven (July 12, 1801).
  • Of the various executive abilities, no one excited more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow-citizens in the hands of honest men, with understanding sufficient for their stations. No duty is at the same time more difficult to fulfil. The knowledge of character possessed by a single individual is of necessity limited. To seek out the best through the whole Union, we must resort to the information which from the best of men, acting disinterestedly and with the purest motives, is sometimes incorrect.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elias Shipman and Merchants of New Haven (July 12, 1801). Paraphrased as "Put the right man in the right place" by John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States Volume II, p. 586.
  • Factions among yourselves; preferring such
    To offices and honors, as ne'er read
    The elements of saving policy;
    But deeply skilled in all the principles
    That usher to destruction.
  • Every time I fill a vacant office I make ten malcontents and one ingrate.
  • Car c'est en famille, ce n'est pas en public, qu'un lave son linge sale.
    • But it is at home and not in public that one should wash ones dirty linen.
    • Napoleon I of France, on his return from Elba, speech to the Legislative Assembly.
  • Better a hundred times an honest and capable administration of an erroneous policy than a corrupt and incapable administration of a good one.
  • A weapon that comes down as still
    As snowflakes fall upon the sod;
    But executes a freeman's will,
    As lightning does the will of God;
    And from its force, nor doors nor locks
    Can shield you; 'tis the ballot-box.
  • Old politicians chew on wisdom past,
    And totter on in business to the last.
  • A mugwump is a person educated beyond his intellect.
  • Abstain from beans.
    • Pythagoras. Advice against political voting, which was done by means of beans. See Lucian Gallus, IV. 5. Vitarum Auctio. Sect. 6. The superstition against beans was prevalent in Egypt however. See Herodotus, II. 37, also Sextus Empiricus. Explanations to abstain from beans from lost treatise of Aristotle in Diog. Laertes, VIII. 34. Beans had an oligarchical character on account of their use in voting. Plutarch gives a similar explanation in De Educat, Chapter XVII. Caution against entering public life, for the votes by which magistrates were elected were originally given by beans. Pythagoras referred to by Jeremy Taylor—Holy Living. Section IV, p. 80.
  • Get thee glass eyes;
    And, like a scurvy politician, seem
    To see the things thou dost not.
  • O, that estates, degrees, and offices
    Were not deriv'd corruptly, and that clear honour
    Were purchased by the merit of the wearer!
  • The gratitude of place expectants is a lively sense of future favours.
  • I am not a politician, and my other habits air good.
  • Politics I conceive to be nothing more than the science of the ordered progress of society along the lines of greatest usefulness and convenience to itself.
Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 196-198.
  • There may be cases in which there is so much of difficulty in knowing where the law stands that we take time to consider, and sometimes doubt much and sometimes differ among ourselves. But I believe every one of the Judges acts upon the principle that he is before man and God in the discharge of his duty, and acts upon his solemn oath, and declares tbe law not according to any political fancy, or for the purposes of serving one party or serving another, but according to the pure conviction of his own mind without looking to any party.
  • I am in too high a situation to fear any man or class of men. I thank God I am in a position which puts me above politics.
    • Earl of Clonwell, Case of Glennan and others (1796), 26 How. St. Tr. 459.
  • Political arguments, in the fullest sense of the word, as they concern the government of a nation, must be, and always have been, of great weight in the consideration of the Court.
    • Lord Hardwicke, The Earl of Chesterfield v. Janssen (1750), 1 Atk. 352; id. 2 Ves. Sen. 153.
  • One cannot look too closely at and weigh in too golden scales the acts of men hot in their political excitement.
    • Hawkins, J., Ex parte Castioni (1890), 60 L. J. Rep. (N. S.) Mag. Cas. 33.
  • It cannot but occur to every person's observation, that as long as parties exist in the country (and perhaps it is for the good of the country that parties should exist to a certain degree, because they keep ministers on their guard in their conduct), they will have their friends and adherents. A great political character, who held a high situation in this country some years ago, but who is now dead, used to say that ministers were the better for being now and then a little peppered and salted. And while these parties exist, they will have their friendships and attainments, which will sometimes dispose them to wander from argument to declamation.
  • The learned counsel has very properly avoided all political discussions unconnected with the subject, and I shall follow his example. Courts of justice have nothing to do with them.
    • Lord Kenyon, L.C.J., Trial of John Vint and others (1799), 27 How. St. Tr. 640.
  • Men argue differently, from natural phenomena and political appearances: they have different capacities, different degrees of knowledge, and different intelligence. But the means of information and judging are open to both: each professes to act from his own skill and sagacity; and, therefore, neither needs to communicate to the other.
  • The Constitution does not allow reasons of State to influence our judgments: God forbid it should! We must not regard political consequences, how formidable soever they might be: if rebellion was the certain consequence, we are bound to say, "Fiat justitia mat caelum." The Constitution trusts the King with reasons of State and policy; he may stop prosecutions,1 he may pardon offences2; it is his, to judgewhetherthelaworthecriminalshould yield. We have no election.

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)

  • Practical politics consists in ignoring facts.
    • Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, ed. Ernest Samuels, chapter 24, p. 373 (1973). Originally published in 1906.
  • The only way you can do that [decrease taxes, balance the budget, and increase military spending] is with mirrors, and that's what it would take.
    • John B. Anderson, remarks at GOP Presidential Forum, Des Moines, Iowa, January 5, 1980, as reported by the Des Moines Sunday Register, January 6, 1980, p. 4A.
  • PUSH, n. One of the two things mainly conducive to success, especially in politics. The other is Pull.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, p. 270 (1948). Originally published in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book.
  • Politics is not an exact science.
    (Die Politik ist keine exakte Wissenschaft.)
    • Otto von Bismarck, Prussian Chamber, December 18, 1863.—The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3d ed., p. 84 (1979).
  • Politics is the art of the possible.
    (Die Politik ist die Lehre von Moglichen.)
    • Otto von Bismarck, conversation with Meyer von Waldeck, August 11, 1867.—The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3d ed., p. 84 (1979).
  • All political power is primarily an illusion…. Illusion. Mirrors and blue smoke, beautiful blue smoke rolling over the surface of highly polished mirrors, first a thin veil of blue smoke, then a thick cloud that suddenly dissolves into wisps of blue smoke, the mirrors catching it all, bouncing it back and forth.
    • Jimmy Breslin How the Good Guys Finally Won, Notes from an Impeachment Summer, p. 33–34 (1975). The phrase is usually quoted as "blue smoke and mirrors".
  • A political career brings out the basest qualities in human nature.
    • James Bryce; in Owen Wister, Roosevelt: The Story of a Friendship, p. 66 (1930). This remark was made during a conversation with Wister in London in 1921.
  • Politics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion of duties. Those who quit their proper character to assume what does not belong to them are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave and of the character they assume.
    • Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790", The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol. 3, p. 246 (1899).
  • Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, address recorded for the Republican Lincoln Day dinners, January 28, 1954. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954, p. 219.
  • The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
    • H. L. Mencken, "Women as Outlaws", A Mencken Chrestomathy, p. 29 (1949). This essay was first published in The Smart Set, December 1921.
  • The whole art of politics consists in directing rationally the irrationalities of men.
    • Reinhold Niebuhr. This statement is attributed to him in his obituary in The New York Times, June 2, 1971, p. 45. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • They are wrong who think that politics is like an ocean voyage or a military campaign, something to be done with some particular end in view, something which leaves off as soon as that end is reached. It is not a public chore, to be got over with. It is a way of life. It is the life of a domesticated political and social creature who is born with a love for public life, with a desire for honor, with a feeling for his fellows; and it lasts as long as need be.
    • Attributed to Plutarch in The Great Quotations, ed. George Seldes, p. 570 (1966). Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency.
    • Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, remarks to Harvard and Yale undergraduates invited to Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, Long Island, June 1901.—Hermann Hagedorn, The Roosevelt Family of Sagamore Hill, p. 112 (1954).
  • Politics is the practical exercise of the art of self-government, and somebody must attend to it if we are to have self-government; somebody must study it, and learn the art, and exercise patience and sympathy and skill to bring the multitude of opinions and wishes of self-governing people into such order that some prevailing opinion may be expressed and peaceably accepted. Otherwise, confusion will result either in dictatorship or anarchy. The principal ground of reproach against any American citizen should be that he is not a politician. Everyone ought to be, as Lincoln was.
    • Elihu Root, "Lincoln as a Leader of Men", Men and Policies, Addresses by Elihu Root, ed. Robert Bacon and James B. Scott, p. 75 (1924).
  • Who put up that cage?
    Who hung it up with bars, doors?
    Why do those on the inside want to get out?
    Why do those outside want to get in?
    What is this crying inside and out all the time?
    What is this endless, useless beating of baffled wings at these bars, doors, this cage?
    • Carl Sandburg, "Money, Politics, Love and Glory", The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, rev. and expanded ed., p. 394 (1970).
  • Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.
  • The political activity prevailing in the United States is something one could never understand unless one had seen it. No sooner do you set foot on American soil than you find yourself in a sort of tumult; a confused clamor rises on every side, and a thousand voices are heard at once, each expressing some social requirements. All around you everything is on the move: here the people of a district are assembled to discuss the possibility of building a church; there they are busy choosing a representative; further on, the delegates of a district are hurrying to town to consult about some local improvements; elsewhere it's the village farmers who have left their furrows to discuss the plan for a road or a school.
    • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence, vol. 1, part 2, chapter 6, p. 242 (1969). Originally published in 1835–1840.
  • There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.
    • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence, vol. 1, part 2, chapter 8, p. 270 (1969). Originally published in 1835–1840.
  • Politics is a fascinating game, because politics is government. It is the art of government.
    • Harry S. Truman.—William Hillman, Mr. President: The First Publication from the Personal Diaries, Private Letters, Papers and Revealing Interviews of Harry S. Truman, p. 198 (1952).
  • Politics makes strange bed-fellows.
  • Until you've been in politics
    you've never really been alive
    it's rough and sometimes it's
    dirty and it's always hard
    work and tedious details
    But, it's the only sport for grownups—all other
    games are for kids.
    • Author unknown. Framed saying on the mantel of Senator John C. Culver's private office, 1978. Elizabeth Drew, "A Reporter at Large (Senator John C. Culver—part I)", The New Yorker, September 11, 1978, p. 60. Disclaimed by Robert A. Heinlein, noted science-fiction author.

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