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See also Politicians.

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. 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.




  • PRESIDENCY, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics.
  • Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive.
    • Attributed to William F. Buckley, Jr. by Jonathon Green, The Cynics' Lexicon: A Dictionary of Amoral Advice (1984) , p. 34.
  • 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).


  • 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.
  • I don't make jokes. I just watch the Government and report the facts.


  • Politicians are like nappies, they should be changed regularly and for the same reason.
    • Ken Dodd
    • This quote has been credited to multiple sources, including Mark Twain, José Maria de Eça de Queiroz (translated from Portuguese), and "unknown, originated around 1992" (see The Big Apple, Entry from December 12, 2009: “Politicians and diapers should both 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
  • This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
    • Dwight Eisenhower, Farewell address, January 17, 1961; Final TV Talk 1/17/61 (1), Box 38, Speech Series, Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower as President, 1953–61, Eisenhower Library; National Archives and Records Administration.


  • 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.


  • There's no real power in Politics. Every day, it's all about whose turn it is to get punched in the face.
    • Ricky Dene Gervais, in "Dead Funny", an Interview with Graham Wray in Event, a Mail on Sunday weekend magazine, 06.04.2014, P. 15.
  • If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.
  • They [governments] talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the fools and the suckers.


  • 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!"
  • 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
  • That mysterious independent variable of political calculation, Public Opinion.



  • 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


  • Uatu the Watcher: 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.
    • Earth X, ch. 3, script and story by Jim Krueger, story by Alex Ross


  • Political institutions are a superstructure resting on an economic foundation.
    • Vladimir Lenin, The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism (1913), p. 5.


  • Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor, not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscure and propitious fortune.
  • After years of secret slavery the Republican Party and the Democratic Party come out into the open and reveal to themselves and to the nation as nothing but the right wing and the left wing of the same bird of prey. There is not a word in either of their platforms that might not have been written and unanimously endorsed by a convention exclusively of corporation lawyers and Wall Street Bankers. The only difference between these platforms as some one has remarked, is the number of words used to say nothing. Confronted by the gravest crisis in the history of civilization, they have demonstrated, even to their own adherents, that they are without the vision of statesmanship, the courage of leadership or the conviction of patriotism.
  • The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's goodbye to the Bill of Rights.
    • H.L. Mencken, "A Time to be Wary" (1933), collected in A Carnival of Buncombe.
  • As far I'm concerned, the two poles of politics were not Left Wing or Right Wing. In fact they're just two ways of ordering an industrial society and we're fast moving beyond the industrial societies of the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • As long as I have a pen in my hand and a revolver in my pocket, I fear no one.
    • Benito Mussolini, 1914. Quoted in Paolo Monelli, Mussolini:the intimate life of a demagogue, Vanguard Press, 1954.



  • Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.


  • What we’re sick of — and it’s getting even worse — is: You either like Michael Moore or you wanna f**kin’ go overseas and shoot Iraqis. We find just as many things to rip on the left as we do on the right. People on the far-left and the far-right are the same exact person to us.
  • Each generation is responsible to make the future of the next.
  • 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.
  • Had previous chroniclers neglected to speak in praise of History in general, it might perhaps have been necessary for me to recommend everyone to choose for study and welcome such treatises as the present, since men have no more ready corrective of conduct than knowledge of the past. But all historians, one may say without exception, and in no half-hearted manner, but making this the beginning and end of their labour, have impressed on us that the soundest education and training for a life of active politics is the study of History, and that surest and indeed the only method of learning how to bear bravely the vicissitudes of fortune, is to recall the calamities of others. Evidently therefore no one, and least of all myself, would think it his duty at this day to repeat what has been so well and so often said. For the very element of unexpectedness in the events I have chosen as my theme will be sufficient to challenge and incite everyone, young and old alike, to peruse my systematic history. For who is so worthless or indolent as not to wish to know by what means and under what system of polity the Romans in less than fifty-three years have succeeded in subjecting nearly the whole inhabited world to their sole government — a thing unique in history? Or who again is there so passionately devoted to other spectacles or studies as to regard anything as of greater moment than the acquisition of this knowledge?
  • 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.
  • La propriété, c'est le vol!
  • Translated: Property is theft!
    • Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property? (1840), Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution". Alternately translated as "Property is robbery!"


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


  • Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.
    • Jamie Raskin, 2006-03-01
    • Raskin was responding to state senator Nancy Jacobs at a hearing on a proposed Maryland constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage [4]. At the time, Raskin was himself a candidate for senate.
  • 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


  • 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.
  • Money and generous benefits can easily alter a person’s political outlook. Ideology follows the money.
    • Quote in In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action by L.K. Samuels, Cobden Press, (2013) p. 301.
  • Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy.
    • George Bernard Shaw, reported in Norman Thomas et al., eds., The World Tomorrow‎ (1934), p. 401.
  • Right wing (definition): As with the left wing, half the propulsive force of a flightless bird.


  • 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.



  • 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 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.
    • W. D. Whitney, Language and the Study of Language: Twelve Lectures on the Principles of Linguistic Science (1868), p. 150.
  • As a woman I have no country. As a woman, I want no country.




  • 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.

Bipartisanship, patriotism, and unity[edit]

Main article: patriotism
  • Patriotism is in political life what faith is in religion.
    • Lord Acton in 'Nationality', in The Home and Foreign Review (July 1862).
  • Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy.
    • George Bernard Shaw, reported in Norman Thomas et al., eds., The World Tomorrow‎ (1934), p. 401.
  • Right wing (definition): As with the left wing, half the propulsive force of a flightless bird.
  • 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?


  • 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).
  • POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. ~ Ambrose Bierce in The Devil's Dictionary.
  • POLITICS, n. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. ~ Ambrose Bierce in The Devil's Dictionary.
  • Government succeeds by failing: the more incompetence, the greater the potential reward in the arena of the public sector.
    • Quote in In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action by L.K. Samuels, Cobden Press, (2013) p. 246
  • 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.


Main article: Democracy
  • In Switzerland, 500 years of democracy and peace. And what does it produce? The cuckoo clock.
  • Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.
    • Gore Vidal, "Gods and Greens" (1989), in A View from the Diner's Club (1991).
  • Because democracy is not a spectator sport. ~ US presidential election slogan, Democrats (2004).
  • Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
  • The 20th century has been characterised by three developments of great political importance. The growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda against democracy.
    • Alex Carey, Taking the Risk out of Democracy, 1997, University of Illinois Press, ch. 2 p. 18.
  • The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it. ~ Edward Dowling, Editor and Priest, Chicago Daily News (28 July 1941).
  • Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
    • Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons: The Official Report, House of Commons (5th Series), 11 November 1947, vol. 444, cc. 206–07.
  • a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequaled alike.
    • Plato, describing democracy, Republic 558c

Dictatorships, totalitarianism, and tyranny[edit]

  • Politics is a form of evil. The greatest mistake of my life.
    • Spanish: La política es una forma de la maldad. El mayor error que he cometido en mi vida.
    • Mario Vargas Llosa
  • If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator. ~ CNN.com, (December 18, 2000) George Bush
  • Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.
    • Winston Churchill, letter with unspecified recipient (November 11, 1937), reported in Winston Churchill, Step by Step: 1936-1939‎ (1939), p. 159.
  • The craziest of all political systems, the unique dictatorship, found its earned end. History will note for eternity that the German people were not able on their own initiative to shake off the yoke of the National Socialists. The victory of the Americans, English and Russians was a necessary occurrence to disrupt the National Socialists' delusions and plans for world domination.
  • I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how.
    • Russian: Я считаю, что совершенно неважно, кто и как будет в партии голосовать; но вот что чрезвычайно важно, это - кто и как будет считать голоса.
    • Joseph Stalin, 1923, as quoted in The Memoirs of Stalin's Former Secretary (1992) by Boris Bazhanov [Saint Petersburg] (Борис Бажанов. Воспоминания бывшего секретаря Сталина). (Text online in Russian).
    • Common paraphrase: "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything".
  • Communism was a great system for making people equally poor. In fact, there was no better system in the world for that than communism. -The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman.
  • "Many of our moral and political policies are designed to preempt what we know to be the worst features of human nature. The checks and balances in a democracy, for instance, were invented in explicit recognition of the fact that human leaders will always be tempted to arrogate power to themselves. Likewise, our sensitivity to racism comes from an awareness that groups of humans, left to their own devices, are apt to discriminate and oppress other groups, often in ugly ways. History also tells us that a desire to enforce dogma and suppress heretics is a recurring human weakness, one that has led to recurring waves of gruesome oppression and violence. A recognition that there is a bit of Torquemada in everyone should make us wary of any attempt to enforce a consensus or demonize those who challenge it." ~ What is Your Dangerous Idea? (2007) ed., John Brockman, "Introduction," Steven Pinker, p. xxxi.
  • Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.
  • 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.
    • Discworld politics explained (Terry Pratchett, Mort).

Equality, freedom, liberty, and rights[edit]

  • All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
  • As soon as men live entirely in accord with the law of love natural to their hearts and now revealed to them, which excludes all resistance by violence, and therefore hold aloof from all participation in violence — as soon as this happens, not only will hundreds be unable to enslave millions, but not even millions will be able to enslave a single individual.
  • Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting that vote.
    • Author unknown; reported in William F. Shughart, Robert D. Tollison, Policy Challenges and Political Responses (2005), p. 130 (noting that the quote is frequently attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but is anachronistic in that it contains the phrase "to have for lunch", a usage which does not appear until the 1840s).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Self government is preferable to good government.
    • Author unknown; variously reported as an old maxim or slogan, as reported in East Africa and Rhodesia‎ (1960), p. 1087, and Douglas Jay, Socialism in the New Society‎ (1962), p. 104; and attributed to authors such as Campbell Bannerman, reported in William White, Notes and Queries‎ (1942), p. 138; Alfred Milner, reported in Vernon McKenzie, Here Lies Goebbels! (1940), p. 184.

Politics, laws of politics[edit]

  • 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 the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Quote in In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action by L.K. Samuels, Cobden Press, (2013) p. 11
  • 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).
  • 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 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.
    • David Miliband, The World Wars (2014).
  • All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.
  • Conscience has no more to do with gallantry than it has with politics.
  • A cult is a religion with no political power.
  • Finality is not the language of politics.
  • I have no faith in political arithmetic.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.
  • 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.
  • There is only one thing more useful in politics than having the right friends, and that is having the right enemies.
    • Anonymous, Economist 375: 8432 (25 June 2005), p. 84.
  • All social cooperation on a larger scale than the most intimate social group requires a measure of coercion.
    • Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics 1932.

Public safety, domestic security, and gun control[edit]

  • A great many sportsmen have urged me to support this bill. It is hard for me to understand the interest of sportsmen in pistols. I myself have fished and hunted a great deal. I have a deep interest in outdoor sports and the various associations which foster them, but it is common knowledge, of course, that fishermen never use a pistol and hunters practically never use a pistol... [even for] theoretical self-protection, the value of a revolver is very problematical.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1931, opposing the Hanley-Fake firearms bill which would have increased access to hanguns. Quoted in Gun Violence in America:The Struggle for Control, Alexander DeConde, 2003 (p.132).
  • By... our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim; by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing; by allowing all of these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.
    • Martin Luther King, Jr., November 1963. Quoted in I have a Dream: the Life and Times of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Lenwood G. Davis, 1973. (p.266).
  • No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.
  • Most gun dealers follow the law and run honest businesses. But the statistics show that 1 percent of dealers sell more than half of all illegal guns. Why isn't the federal government going after them? Here's one reason: unlike mayors, members of Congress don't get a phone call in the middle of the night when a cop is shot and killed. They don't deliver the eulogies.
  • [The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
  • Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American. The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.
    • Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
  • The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned.
    • Pennsylvania Constitution of 1790.
  • To "bear arms" is, in itself, a military term. One does not bear arms against a rabbit.
    • Garry Wills, "To Keep and Bear Arms", The New York Review of Books", September 21, 1995.

Religion, separation of church and state[edit]

  • 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
  • Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.
    • Jamie Raskin, 2006-03-01
    • Raskin was responding to state senator Nancy Jacobs at a hearing on a proposed Maryland constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage [6]. At the time, Raskin was himself a candidate for senate.
  • The true destiny of America is religious, not political: it is spiritual, not physical.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

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.
  • Listen! John A. Logan is the Head Centre, the Hub, the King Pin, the Main Spring, Mogul, and Mugwump of the final plot by which partisanship was installed in the Commission.
  • It is necessary that I should qualify the doctrine of its being not men, but measures, that I am determined to support. In a monarchy it is the duty of parliament to look at the men as well as at the measures.
  • We are Republicans, and don't propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.
  • 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.
  • Nam ego in ista sum sententia, qua te fuisse semper scio, nihil ut feurit in suffragiis voce melius.
    I am of the opinion which you have always held, that "viva voce" voting at elections is the best method.
    • Cicero, De Legibus, III. 15. Philippics, IV. 4. Tacitus, Agricola, Chapter III.
  • It is a condition which confronts us—not a theory.
  • Party honesty is party expediency.
    • Grover Cleveland, interview in New York Commercial Advertiser (Sept. 19, 1889).
  • Laissez faire, laissez passer.
    Let it alone. Let it pass by.
    • Colbert, according to Lord John Russell. See report of his speech in the London Times, April 2, 1840. Attributed to Gournay, Minister of Commerce, at Paris, 1751. Also to Quesnay. Quoted by Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations.
  • Free trade is not a principle, it is an expedient.
  • The Right Honorable gentleman [Sir Robert Peel] caught the Whigs bathing and walked away with their clothes.
  • Information upon points of practical politics.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, Vivian Gray, Chapter XIV. Given by Walsh as first appearance of the phrase "practical politics".
  • All the ten-to-oners were in the rear, and a dark horse, which had never been thought of, and which the careless St. James had never even observed in the list, rushed past the grand stand in sweeping triumph.
  • Damned Neuters, in their Middle way of Steering,
    Are neither Fish, nor Flesh, nor good Red Herring.
    • John Dryden, Duke of Guise, Epilogue. Phrase used by Dr. Smith. Ballet, Chapter IX. In Musarum Deliciæ.
  • What is a Communist? One who has yearnings
    For equal division of unequal earnings.
  • Oh! we'll give 'em Jessie
    When we rally round the polls.
    • Popular song of Fremont's Supporters in the Presidential Campaign of 1856.
  • I always voted at my party's call,
    And I never thought of thinking for myself at all.
  • 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?
    • 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).
  • He serves his party best who serves the country best.
  • The freeman casting, with unpurchased hand,
    The vote that shakes the turrets of the land.
  • Non ego ventosæ plebis suffragia venor.
    I court not the votes of the fickle mob.
  • Like an armed warrior, like a plumed knight, James G. Blaine marched down the halls of the American Congress and threw his shining lance full and fair against the brazen foreheads of the defamers of his country, and the maligners of his honor.
  • 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.
  • Skilled to pull wires he baffles nature's hope, who sure intended him to stretch a rope.
  • 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.
  • Agitate, agitate, agitate.
    • Lord Melbourne. In Torrens, Life of Lord Melbourne, Volume I, p. 320, and in Walpole's History of England from Conclusion of the Great War, Volume III, p. 143.
  • 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.
    • E. J. Phelps, at a dinner of the New York Chamber of Commerce (Nov. 19, 1889).
  • The White Plume of Navarre.
    • Name given to New York Tribune during the Civil War. See Wendell Phillips, Under the Flag (Boston, April 21, 1861).
  • 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.
  • Party-spirit, which at best is but the madness of many, for the gain of a few.
  • 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.
  • I will drive a coach and six through the Act of Settlement.
    • Stephen Rice, quoted by Macaulay, History of England, Chapter XII. Familiarly known as "Drive a coach and six through an Act of Parliament".
  • There is a homely old adage which runs: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." If the American nation will speak softly and yet build and keep at a pitch of the highest training a thoroughly efficient navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far.
  • 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!
  • When I first came into Parliament, Mr. Tierney, a great Whig authority, used always to say that the duty of an Opposition was very simple—it was to oppose everything and propose nothing.
    • Lord Stanley, debate (June 4, 1841). See Hansard's Parliamentary Debates.
  • As long as I count the votes what are you going to do about it? Say.
  • Defence, not defiance.
    • Motto adopted by the "Volunteers," when there was fear of an invasion of England by Napoleon (1859).
  • The king [Frederick] has sent me some of his dirty linen to wash; I will wash yours another time.
    • Voltaire, reply to General Manstein, CXI.
  • 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.
  • Tippecanoe and Tyler too.
    • Political slogan, attributed to Orson E. Woodbury. (1840).

The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

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.
    • Bayley, J., Case of Edmonds and others (1821), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 899.
  • 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.
    • Lord Kenyon, Holt's Case (1793), 22 How. St. Tr. 1234.
  • 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)[edit]

  • 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.
  • People who think the mighty in Washington can be persuaded, or corrupted, if you will, by anything less than votes just don't understand what it's all about and never will. They don't know what Washington juice is made of.
    • George E. Allen, Presidents Who Have Known Me, chapter 16, p. 219 (1950). Allen was a longtime personal aide to President Harry Truman and was director of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation 1946–1947.
  • 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).
  • Thus, then, on the night of the tenth of May, at the outset of this mighty battle, I acquired the chief power in the State, which henceforth I wielded in ever-growing measure for five years and three months of world war, at the end of which time, all our enemies having surrendered unconditionally or being about to do so, I was immediately dismissed by the British electorate from all further conduct of their affairs.
    • Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm (vol. 1 of The Second World War), p. 666–67 (1948). However, he was prime minister again, 1951–1955.
  • 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.

See also[edit]

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