Witty Quotations on Elections, Politicians, Voters — and You

Painfully Sharp Observations by Some of Our Most Perceptive Writers

Theodore Roosevelt
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Unknown / Wikimedia
Reading Time: 4 minutes

1. The problem with political jokes is they get elected. —Henry Cate, VII

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

3. Why pay money to have your family tree traced; go into politics and your opponents will do it for you. —Author Unknown

George Washington

“George Washington is the only president who didn’t blame the previous administration.”  Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Brooklyn Museum / Gilbert Stuart Painting / Wikimedia

4. George Washington is the only president who didn’t blame the previous administration for his troubles. —Author Unknown

5. If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it. —Attributed to Mark Twain

6. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything. —Joseph Stalin

Boss Tweed

“The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” —Stalin  Photo credit: Cartoon by Thomas Nast from Harper’s Weekly / Wikimedia

7. Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. —George Carlin

8.The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them. —Karl Marx

9. There are always too many Democratic congressmen, too many Republican congressmen, and never enough US congressmen. —Author Unknown

10. We stand today at a crossroads: One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other leads to total extinction. Let us hope we have the wisdom to make the right choice. —Woody Allen

11. If you put your politicians up for sale, as the US does … then someone will buy them — and it won’t be you; you can’t afford them. —Juan Cole

12. Don’t buy a single vote more than necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide. —Joseph P. Kennedy

Hundred Dollar Bill

“If you put your politicians up for sale … then someone will buy them — and it won’t be you; you can’t afford them.” —Juan Cole
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Andrew Magrill / Flickr

13. By the time a man gets to be presidential material, he’s been bought ten times over. —Gore Vidal

14. When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators. —P.J. O’Rourke

15. In a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy. —Matt Taibbi

16. In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem. —George Carlin

17. The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. —Winston Churchill

18. Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. —Isaac Asimov

19. Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half. —Gore Vidal

My Vote

“A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election,” remarked Bill Vaughan. (Though this image shows two servicemen voting by absentee ballot from Vietnam in 1968.)
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from USMC Archives / Flickr

20. A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election. —Bill Vaughan

21. If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side. —Orson Scott Card

22. President Bush remained undeterred by the massive display of American opposition, even though much of it came from the hundreds of thousands of voters who supported him by voting for Nader.—Jon Stewart

23. A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation. —James Freeman Clarke Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters. —Abraham Lincoln

25. A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user. —Theodore Roosevelt

26.  Every election is determined by the people who show up.” —Larry J. Sabato


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Unknown / Wikimedia

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10 responses to “Witty Quotations on Elections, Politicians, Voters — and You”

  1. William MacAdams says:

    “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.” —Attributed to Mark Twain
    The source is Emma Goldman.

  2. Tarry Faster says:

    Without fair elections, the wellspring of democracy becomes but a shallow puddle of mud.

    Tarry Faster

  3. MrLiberty says:

    “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
    H.L. Mencken

  4. MrLiberty says:

    I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.
    H. L. Mencken

    The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he
    comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.
    H. L. Mencken

    Each party steals so many articles of faith from the other, and the candidates spend so much time making each other’s speeches, that by the time election day is past there is nothing much to do save turn the sitting rascals out and let a
    new gang in.
    H. L. Mencken

    Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
    H. L. Mencken

    Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
    H. L. Mencken

  5. Steven Smith says:

    Mark Twain and George Carlin are two of my all-time heroes. Keeping it real!

  6. VoxFox says:

    No one can top George Carlin in his political analyses (aka ‘rants’).

  7. Leslie Sharp says:

    brilliant compilation; who would expect anything less from Ms. Cranor and whowhatwhy? If Twain didn’t say that, I’ll be he wished that he had, Mr. Frick.

  8. Thomas Frick says:

    Re #5–[from Snopes]
    Although the famed author of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer (among other works) has been connected to this bon mot by a number of web sites, none of these sites provides any documentation about where and when Twain either uttered or wrote these words, and the quote is nowhere to be found among his literary writings, letters, or recorded speeches. Additionally, the wording of the quotation changes from source to source (e.g., “If voting made any difference, it would be illegal”; “If voting made any difference it would never be allowed”), which suggests it has no fixed origin.

    Additionally, Mark Twain’s isn’t the only name that has been attached to this though. American peace activist Phillip Berrigan and Russian writer Emma Goldman have also been credited with originating this expression, although there is no evidence that either of them said or wrote it.