Quotations about   politics

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It’s the problem with politics. Your enemies are often your allies. And vice versa.

Daniel Abraham
Daniel Abraham (b. 1969) American writer [pseud. James S. A. Corey (with Ty Franck), M. L. N. Hanover]
Leviathan Wakes, ch. 19 (2011) [with Ty Franck]
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Added on 28-Apr-22 | Last updated 28-Apr-22
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When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movements become headlong — faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thoughts of obstacles and forget the precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it’s too late.

Frank Herbert (1920-1986) American writer
Dune, Book 3 “The Prophet” (1965)
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Jessica, quoting a Bene Gesserit proverb.

In Appendix 2, there is reference to another Bene Gesserit teaching: "When religion and politics ride the same cart, when that cart is driven by a living holy man (baraka), nothing can stand in their path."
Added on 10-Mar-22 | Last updated 10-Mar-22
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We are never going to have someone who’s perfect [for President]. We have to change our system so that it can operate with flawed people.

Hendrik Hertzberg (b. 1943) American journalist, editor, speech writer, political commentator
Speech, Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs (17 Feb 1995)
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Politics: a Trojan horse race.

Stanislaw Lec (1909-1966) Polish aphorist, poet, satirist
More Unkempt Thoughts [Myśli nieuczesane nowe] (1964) [tr. Gałązka (1969)]
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One of the things he deplored about the loss of religion, it meant that people elevated politics into a religious faith and that was dangerous.

P. D. James (1920-2014) British mystery writer [Phyllis Dorothy James White]
“Mortal Consequences,” A Taste for Death (1986)
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There are many people who can exercise virtue in their own affairs, but are unable to do so in their relations with others. This is why the aphorism of Bias, “Office will reveal the man”, seems a good one, since an official is, by virtue of his position, engaged with other people and the community at large.

[πολλοὶ γὰρ ἐν μὲν τοῖς οἰκείοις τῇ ἀρετῇ δύνανται χρῆσθαι, ἐν δὲ τοῖς πρὸς ἕτερον ἀδυνατοῦσιν. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο εὖ δοκεῖ ἔχειν τὸ τοῦ Βίαντος, ὅτι ἀρχὴ ἄνδρα δείξει: πρὸς ἕτερον γὰρ καὶ ἐν κοινωνίᾳ ἤδη ὁ ἄρχων.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 5, ch. 1 (5.1.15-16) / 1129b.33ff (c. 325 BC) [tr. Crisp (2000)]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

I mean, there are many who can practise virtue in the regulation of their own personal conduct who are wholly unable to do it in transactions with their neighbour. And for this reason that saying of Bias is thought to be a good one, “Rule will show what a man is;” for he who bears Rule is necessarily in contact with others, i.e., in a community.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 2]

For many there be who can make good use of their virtue in their own matters, but not towards their fellow-man. And, hence, Bias would seem to have said well, saying that, "It is authority that shows the man." For whosoever is in authority stands ipso facto in relation to his fellow-man, in that he is a fellow-member of the body politic.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

For there are many people who are capable of exhibiting virtue at home, but incapable of exhibiting it in relation to their neighbors. Accordingly there seems to be good sense in saying of Bias that "office will reveal a man," for one who is in office is at once brought into relation and association with others.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

For there are many who can be virtuous enough at home, but fail in dealing with their neighbours. This is the reason why people commend the saying of Bias, “Office will show the man;” for he that is in office ipso facto stands in relation to others, and has dealings with them.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

For many men can exercise virtue in their own affairs, but not in their relations to their neighbour. This is why the saying of Bias is thought to be true, that "rule will show the man"; for a ruler is necessarily in relation to other men and a member of a society.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

For there are many who can practise virtue in their own private affairs but cannot do so in their relations with another. This is why we approve the saying of Bias, "Office will show a man"; for in office one is brought into relation with others and becomes a member of a community.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

For many people are able to use their virtue in what properly belongs to themselves, but unable to do so in issues relating to another person. And this is why Bias' saying, "ruling office shows forth the man," seems good, since a ruler is automatically in relation to another person and in a community with him.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

I say this because there are plenty of people who can behave uprightly in their own affairs, but are incapable of doing so in relation to somebody else. That is why Bias's saying "Office will reveal the man" is felt to be valid; because an official is eo ipso in relation to, and associated with, somebody else.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

For many people are able to use virtue in dealing with the members of their household, but in their affairs together regarding another, they are unable to do so. And on this account, the saying of Bias seems good, that "office will show the man." For he who rules is already in relation to another and within the community.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

Added on 15-Feb-22 | Last updated 15-Feb-22
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If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.

David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) American author, academic
McCain’s Promise (2006)
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Of course, when stood next to the choice of American political parties (“So, would you like Right Wing, or Supersized Right Wing with Extra Fries?”) my English fuzzy middle-of-the-roadness probably translates easily as bomb-throwing Trotskyist, but when I get to chat to proper lefties like Ken MacLeod or China Mieville I feel myself retreating rapidly back into the woffly Guardian-reading why-can’t-people-just-be-nice-to-each-otherhood of the politically out of his depth.

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
“Walking Down the Street Naked, Possibly with a Mullet,” blog entry (15 Jun 2003)
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When asked whether (and denying) he is a Communist.
Added on 17-Nov-21 | Last updated 17-Nov-21
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Politics is mostly non-rational; the world is suffering from some kind of mental disorder which must be diagnosed before it can be cured.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“As I Please” column, Tribune (29 Nov 1946)
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All citizens do have a measure of control, at least in democracies where their votes are counted, of how they belong to their nations. Perhaps they will have more confidence in unconventional choices if they see that each nation’s founders were disobedient and unpredictable, men and women of imagination and ambition. The steel of every national monument was once molten.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
The Red Prince, “Orange: European Revolutions” (2008)
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Life is political, not because the world cares about how you feel, but because the world reacts to what you do.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017)
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You don’t get the power you ask for, you get the power you take.

Abrams - You don't get the power you ask for, you get the power you take - wist.info quote

Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams (b. 1973) American politician, lawyer, activist
(Attributed)

See Baldwin.
Added on 13-Jul-21 | Last updated 10-Aug-21
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If political loyalty is signaled by believing a true story, anyone can fake it. But believing ridiculous and outlandish stories exacts greater cost, and is therefore a better signal of loyalty. If you believe your leader only when he or she tells the truth, what does that prove? In contrast, if you believe your leader even when he or she builds castles in the air, that’s loyalty! Shrewd leaders might sometimes deliberately say nonsensical things as a way to distinguish reliable devotees from fair-weather supporters.

Yuval Noah Harari
Yuval Noah Harari (b. 1976) Israeli public intellectual, historian, academic, writer [יובל נח הררי]
“Why Fiction Trumps Truth,” New York Times (24 May 2019)
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Added on 29-Jun-21 | Last updated 29-Jun-21
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I think one must engage in politics — using the word in a wide sense — and that one must have preferences: that is, one must recognise that some causes are objectively better than others, even if they are advanced by equally bad means. As for the nationalistic loves and hatreds that I have spoken of, they are part of the make-up of most of us, whether we like it or not. Whether it is possible to get rid of them I do not know, but I do believe that it is possible to struggle against them, and that this is essentially a moral effort. It is a question first of all of discovering what one really is, what one’s own feelings really are, and then of making allowance for the inevitable bias.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
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History is thought of largely in nationalist terms, and such things as the Inquisition, the tortures of the Star Chamber, the exploits of the English buccaneers (Sir Francis Drake, for instance, who was given to sinking Spanish prisoners alive), the Reign of Terror, the heroes of the Mutiny blowing hundreds of Indians from the guns, or Cromwell’s soldiers slashing Irishwomen’s faces with razors, become morally neutral or even meritorious when it is felt that they were done in the “right” cause. If one looks back over the past quarter of a century, one finds that there was hardly a single year when atrocity stories were not being reported from some part of the world; and yet in not one single case were these atrocities — in Spain, Russia, China, Hungary, Mexico, Amritsar, Smyrna — believed in and disapproved of by the English intelligentsia as a whole. Whether such deeds were reprehensible, or even whether they happened, was always decided according to political predilection.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
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Added on 9-Mar-21 | Last updated 9-Mar-21
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After any disturbance (such as two world wars coinciding with a period of growing economic and monetary incomprehensibility) we find our old concepts inadequate and look for new ones. But it unfortunately happens that the troubled times which produce an appetite for new ideas are the least propitious for clear thinking.

Rebecca West (1892-1983) British author, journalist, literary critic, travel writer [pseud. for Cicily Isabel Fairfield]
In The Sunday Telegraph, London (1981)
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The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) American politician, diplomat, sociologist
Godkin Lecture, Harvard (1985)
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As reprinted in his book, Family and Nation (1986).
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Now, that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregarious animals is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech.

[διότι δὲ πολιτικὸν ὁ ἄνθρωπος ζῷον πάσης μελίττης καὶ παντὸς ἀγελαίου ζῴου μᾶλλον, δῆλον. οὐθὲν γάρ, ὡς φαμέν, μάτην ἡ φύσις ποιεῖ·]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 1, ch. 2, sec. 10 / 1253a.7-11 [tr. Jowett (1885)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "And that man is a social animal in a fuller sense than any bee or gregarious animal is evident; for nature, we say, makes nothing without an object, and man is the only animal that possesses rational speech." [tr. Bolland (1877)]
  • "The gift of speech also evidently proves that man is a more social animal than the bees, or any of the herding cattle: for nature, as we say, does nothing in vain, and man is the only animal who enjoys it." [tr. Ellis (1912)]
  • "And why man is a political animal in a greater measure than any bee or any gregarious animal is clear. For nature, as we declare, does nothing without purpose; and man alone of the animals possesses speech." [tr. Rackham (1932)]
  • "That man is much more a political animal than any kind of bee or any herd animal is clear. For, as we assert, nature does nothing in vain; and man alone among the animals has speech." [tr. Lord (1984)]
  • "It is also clear why a human is more of a political animal than any bee or any other gregarious animal. For nature does nothing pointlessly, as we say, and a human being alone among the animals has speech." [tr. Reeve (2007)]
  • "It is clear that man is a political animal, more than every bee and herd animal: for nature makes nothing in vain and man alone of living things has reason." [tr. @sentantiq (2011)]
Added on 12-Feb-21 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
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Our political system has been thoroughly corrupted, and by the usual suspect — money, what else? The corruption is open, obscene, and unmistakable. The way campaigns are financed is a system of legalized bribery. We have a government of special interests, by special interests, and for special interests. And that will not change until we change the way campaigns are financed.

Molly Ivins (1944-2007) American writer, political columnist [Mary Tyler Ivins]
You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You, Introduction (1998)
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I’ve always said that in politics, your enemies can’t hurt you, but your friends will kill you.

Ann Richards (1933-2006) American politician [Dorothy Ann Willis Richards]
“Sadder but Wiser,” interview with Paul Burka, Texas Monthly (Apr 1994)
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Referring to appointees whose failures had caused her political problems as governor.
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I would rather be defeated than make capital out of my religion.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
Speech, Chatauqua (1 Apr 1880)
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In politics as on the sickbed, people toss from one side to the other, fancying that they will be more comfortable.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Conversation with Friedrich von Müller (29 Dec 1825)
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In Biedermann, Goethes Gespräche, Gesamtausgabe, #2379 (1909). Usual variant: "In politics, as on the sickbed, people toss from one side to the other, thinking they will be more comfortable."
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The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.

Thomas Sowell (b. 1930) American economist and political commentator
“Student Loans,” Is Reality Optional? (1993)
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Added on 16-Nov-20 | Last updated 16-Nov-20
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[The right wing] believe that their prestige in the community, even indeed their self-esteem, depends on having these values honored in public. Besides their economic expectations, people have deep emotional commitments in other spheres — religion, morals, culture, race relations — which they also hope to see realized in political action. Status politics seeks not to advance perceived material interests but to express grievances and resentments about such matters, to press claims upon society to give deference to non-economic values.

Douglas R. Hofstadter (b. 1945) American academic, cognitive scientist, author
“Pseudo-Conservatism Revisited — 1965,” sec. 4 (1965)
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Political strategies and tactics are not jealous lovers. You don’t have to be monogamous. Direct Action will not feel betrayed if you also vote from time to time — you can be poly in your tactics. And I am. Of course I vote! If you’re a woman, or a person of color, or a person who doesn’t own property, or even a white male who doesn’t belong to the nobility, centuries of struggle and many deaths have bought you the right to vote. I vote to keep faith with peasant rebels and suffragist hunger strikers and civil rights workers braving the lynch mobs of the South, if for no other reason. But there is another reason — because who we vote for has an enormous impact on real peoples’ lives.

Starhawk (b. 1951) American writer, activist, feminist theologian [b. Miriam Simos]
“Pre-Election Day Thoughts,” blog post (7 Nov 2016)
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Build movements. Vote with your values, but vote strategically. Voting isn’t a Valentine. It’s a chess move.

Rebecca Solnit (b. 1961) American writer, historian, activist
Facebook (17 Oct 2016)
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Solnit is credited with the core message of the last two sentences. She indicates (including from that Facebook post) that it was something she had said that was extracted and perhaps tweaked by May Boeve. E.g., "That 2016 aphorism that I sort of said and May Boeve made into this stand-alone slogan." (1 Nov 2018) "I said that off the cuff in 2016 and May Boeve caught it and it went on to have a nice life. It's also not the only chess move you get." (11 Aug 2020).

Variants:
  • "Voting is a chess move, not a valentine. And here's the joy of being politically engaged all year round every year; you get to work with a whole lot of chess pieces and players and strategies and long-term visions, so you don't agonize over whether this little hop with a pawn we call voting defines you. You get to define yourself by what you're passionately committed to, by who you align with, by your dreams and your visions, you get to move a lot of pieces a lot of times, you get heroic allies, and you play to win above, beyond, around elections. But you vote, because you know it matters too." (7 Nov 2016)
  • "I think of voting as a chess move, not a valentine. It’s just a little part of the picture of how we make the world." ("The 2000 Election Unleashed Disaster on the World. We Can’t Let that Happen Again in 2016," The Nation (3 Nov 2016))
  • "A vote is not a valentine. You are not confessing your love for the candidate. It's a chess move for the world you want to live in."
  • "Voting isn't a valentine, it's a chess move. Just one of many with one of your many pieces, if you're using what you've been given."
Added on 14-Oct-20 | Last updated 14-Oct-20
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I can only say that politics, like misery, “bring a man acquainted with strange bedfellows.”

William Gifford (1756-1826) English critic, editor, poet, satirist
The Baviad, and Mæviad (1797)
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First recorded connection between Shakespeare's quote on misery and politics, leading to the eventual "Politics makes for strange bedfellows."
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The art of leadership is a serious matter. One must not lag behind a movement, because to do so is to become isolated from the masses. But one must not rush ahead, for to rush ahead is to lose contact with the masses. He who wishes to lead a movement and at the same time keep touch with the vast masses, must conduct a fight on two fronts, against those who lag behind and against those who rush ahead.

Josef Stalin (1879-1953) Georgian revolutionary and Soviet dictator
Leninism, Vol. 2 (1926) [tr. Paul (1933)]
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Often elided, "He who wishes to lead a movement must conduct a fight on two fronts, against those who lag behind and against those who rush ahead."
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What I’m suggesting is, stand for yourself, be for something and the hell with it. Because the hand-wringers and the editorialists and the sigh-and-pontificate crowd will be against you, whatever you do.

James Carville (b. 1944) American political consultant
Interview with Joan Walsh, Salon (11 Mar 2002)
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The philosophical historian must admit that all the changes which the Catholic Church has undergone — its concessions to Pagan superstition, its secular power, its ruthless extirpation of rebels against its authority, its steadily growing centralisation and autocracy — were forced upon it in the struggle for existence. Those who wish that Church history had been different are wishing the impossible, or wishing that the Church had perished. But this argument is not valid as a defence of a divine institution. It is rather a merciless exposure of what happens, and must happen, to a great idea when it is enslaved by an institution of its own creation. The political organisation which has grown up round the idea ends by strangling it, and continues to fight for its own preservation by the methods which govern the policy of all other political organisations –force, fraud, and accommodation.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Institutionalism and Mysticism” (1914), Outspoken Essays: First Series (1914)
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A politician or political thinker who calls himself a political realist is usually boasting that he sees politics, so to speak, in the raw; he is generally a proclaimed cynic and pessimist who makes it his business to look behind words and fine speeches for the motive. This motive is always low.

Mary McCarthy (1912-1989) American author, critic, political activist
“American Realist Playwrights,” On the Contrary (1961)
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Modern politics cannot be a matter of genuine moral consensus. And it is not. Modern politics is civil war carried on by other means.

Alasdair MacIntyre (b. 1929) Scottish philosopher
After Virtue: A Study of Moral Theory, ch. 17 (1981)
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Politics is, among other things, the art of anticipating consequences, and even trying to anticipate unfamiliar consequences.

Irving Howe (1920-1993) American literary and social critic [b. Irving Horenstein]
“The Agony of the Campus,” Dissent #16 (Sep-Oct 1969)
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The art of politics is ostentatious giving and surreptitious taking.

No picture available
Roger J. Vaughan (b. 1946) American economist, economic analyst
In Stephen Labaton, “Presidential Candidates Ignore Banking Problem,” New York Times (7 Oct 1992)
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It is strange that we sort the wheat from the chaff and the unfit from the fit in war, but we do not excuse evil men from the service of the state.

[ἄτοπον ἔφη τοῦ μὲν σίτου τὰς αἴρας ἐκλέγειν καὶ ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ τοὺς ἀχρείους, ἐν δὲ πολιτείᾳ τοὺς πονηροὺς μὴ παραιτεῖσθαι]

Antisthenes (c. 445 - c. 365 BC) Greek Cynic philosopher
Fragment 104 [tr. Laurén]
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In Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Book 6, ch. 1.

Alt. trans.:
  • "He used to say that it is strange that we sift out the chaff from the wheat and those useless for war, but we do not forbid scoundrels in politics." [@sentantiq (3 Jun 2020)]
  • "He used to say that it was strange that we separate the wheat from the chaff, the useless in war, but we do not ban wicked men from public life." [@sentantiq (21 Feb 2017)]
  • "That it seemed very absurd to separate the chaff from the wHeat, to discharge a coward from the army, and not to extrude the envious from the state." [Source (1753)]
  • "'It is strange,' said he, 'that we weed out the darnel from the corn and the unfit in war, but do not excuse evil men from the service of the state.'" [Loeb Classical (1925)]
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One great secret of the art of politics all over the world is never to push evil or beneficial measures to that point where resistance commences on the part of the governed.

Edwin Percy Whipple 1819-1886) American essayist and critic
“Character” (1857), Character and Characteristic Men (1866)
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American capitalism is predatory, and American politics are corrupt: The same thing is true in England and the same in France; but in all these three countries the dominating fact is that whenever the people get ready to change the government, they can change it.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
Letter to John Reed (22 Oct 1918)
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Politics demands a great capacity for self-deception, which rescues the politician from hypocrisy. He can normally manage to believe what he is saying for the time it takes him to say it. This gives him a certain sincerity even when he is saying opposite things to opposite people.

Garry Wills (b. 1934) American author, journalist, historian
Confessions of a Conservative, ch. 15 (1979)
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In politics you have no friends, only allies.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
(Attributed)

A frequent maxim of Kennedy's.
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Every time I fill a vacant office I make a hundred malcontents and one ingrate.

Louis XIV (1638-1715) French monarch (1643-1715) [Louis the Great, the Sun King)
(Attributed)

Quoted in Voltaire, The Age of Louis XIV, ch. 26 (1751).
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A political convention is just not a place where you come away with any trace of faith in human nature.

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
Column on the 1960 Republican National Convention, Chicago (28 Jul 1960)
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Political campaigns tend to be exercises in progressive degeneration. The steady increase, week after week, in excitement and strain and weariness produces an oversimplification of issues, an over dramatization of alternatives, a growing susceptibility to extreme and catastrophic statements. Candidates find themselves shouting things in the fall that they would never dream of whispering in the summer.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
The Age of Roosevelt, ch. 33, sec. 8 (1960)
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BETTY OLDHAM: Look, Sir Humphrey, whatever we ask the Minister, he says is an administrative question for you, and whatever we ask you, you say is a policy question for the Minister. How do you suggest we find out what is going on?

SIR HUMPHREY: Yes, yes, yes, I do see that there is a real dilemma here. In that, while it has been government policy to regard policy as a responsibility of Ministers and administration as a responsibility of Officials, the questions of administrative policy can cause confusion between the policy of administration and the administration of policy, especially when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration conflicts, or overlaps with, responsibility for the policy of the administration of policy.

BETTY OLDHAM: Well, that’s a load of meaningless drivel. Isn’t it?

SIR HUMPHREY: It’s not for me to comment on government policy. You must ask the Minister.

Jonathan Lynn (b. 1943) English actor, comedy writer, director
Yes Minister, S2E7 “A Question of Loyalty” (9 Apr 1981) [with Anthony Jay]
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In art as in politics we must deal with people as they are, not as we wish them to be. Only by working with the real can you get closer to the ideal.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
In Her Day, Preface, “A Note to the Feminist Reader” (1976)
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The salvation of America and of the human race depends on the next election, if we believe the newspapers. But so it was last year, and so it was the year before, and our fathers believed the same thing forty years ago.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (Oct 1848)
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If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Fourth Annual Republican Women’s National Conference, Washington, DC (6 Mar 1956)
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GRACCHUS: You know, this republic of ours is something like a rich widow. Most Romans love her as their mother, but Crassus dreams of marrying the old girl, to put it politely.

Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) American screenwriter and novelist [James Dalton Trumbo]
Spartacus (1960) [novel by Howard Fast]
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If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircle us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
In Young India (12 May 1920)
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As democracy is perfected, the office [of the President] represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Bayard vs. Lionheart,” The Baltimore Evening Sun (26 Jul 1920)

Variant: "As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron."

Verification and discussion of this quotation here, here, and here.
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A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.

It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Politics and the English Language,” Horizon (Apr 1946)
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Look at the tyranny of party — at what is called party allegiance, party loyalty — a snare invented by designing men for selfish purposes — and which turns voters into chattels, slaves, rabbits, and all the while their masters, and they themselves are shouting rubbish about liberty, independence, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, honestly unconscious of the fantastic contradiction; and forgetting or ignoring that their fathers and the churches shouted the same blasphemies a generation earlier when they were closing their doors against the hunted slave, beating his handful of humane defenders with Bible texts and billies, and pocketing the insults and licking the shoes of his Southern Master.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
“The Character of Man” (23 Jan 1906), in The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (2010)
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While all other Sciences have advanced, that of Government is at a stand; little better understood; little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Thomas Jefferson (9 Jul 1813)
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We ought to consider what is the end of government before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all divines and moral philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
“Thoughts on Government,” letter to George Wythe (Jan 1776)
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Practical politics consists in ignoring facts.

Henry Adams (1838-1918) American journalist, historian, academic, novelist
The Education of Henry Adams, ch. 22 (1907)
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The test of every religious, political, or educational system is the man which it forms.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881) Swiss philosopher, poet, critic
Journal (17 Jun 1852) [tr. Ward (1887)]
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