Quotations about   politics

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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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Added on 9-Jun-19 | Last updated 9-Jun-19
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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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Added on 10-Apr-19 | Last updated 10-Apr-19
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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]
Added on 6-Nov-18 | Last updated 6-Nov-18
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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)
Added on 26-Feb-18 | Last updated 26-Feb-18
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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.
Added on 3-May-17 | Last updated 3-May-17
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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)
Added on 17-Apr-17 | Last updated 17-Apr-17
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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)
Added on 22-Feb-17 | Last updated 22-Feb-17
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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)
Added on 17-Nov-16 | Last updated 17-Nov-16
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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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Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always been the systematic organization of hatreds.

Henry Adams (1838-1918) American journalist, historian, academic, novelist
The Education of Henry Adams, ch. 1 (1907)

Restated by George Will in saying that the value of political parties was that "They organize our animosities." Interview, The Colbert Report (3 Jun 2008) at 6:43.
Added on 13-Oct-16 | Last updated 26-Oct-18
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A city is in many respects a great business corporation, but in other respects it is enlarged housekeeping. … May we not say that city housekeeping has failed partly because women, the traditional housekeepers, have not been consulted as to its multiform activities?

Jane Addams (1860-1935) American reformer, suffragist, philosopher, author
Newer Ideals of Peace, “Utilization of Women in City Government” (1907)
Added on 30-Aug-16 | Last updated 30-Aug-16
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When the political columnists say “Every thinking man,” they mean themselves, and when candidates appeal to “Every intelligent voter,” they mean everybody who is going to vote for them.

Adams - vote for them - wist_info quote

Franklin Pierce Adams (1881-1960) American journalist and humorist
Nods and Becks (1944)
Added on 22-Aug-16 | Last updated 22-Aug-16
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Every time the Church has gotten into the political game, no matter what the manner of her entry, no matter what her opinion or posing choices in a political situation with regard to an institution, she has been drawn every time into a betrayal, either of revealed truth or of the incarnate love. She has become involved every time in apostasy. … Politics is the Church’s worst problem. It is her constant temptation, the occasion of her greatest disasters, the trap continually set for her by the Prince of this world.

Ellul - politics is the churchs worst problem - wist_info quote

Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) French philosopher, law professor, sociologist, theologian
The Presence of the Kingdom [Présence au monde moderne] (1948) [tr. Wyon (1951)]
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The United States brags about its political system, but the President says one thing during the election, something else when he takes office, something else at midterm and something else when he leaves.

Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) Chinese revolutionary, politician, statesman [Teng Hsiao-p'ing]
Comment (1983)
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When asked by a group of American professors about China's political stability. Quoted in Philip West and Frans A. M. Alting von Geusau, The Pacific Rim and the Western World: Strategic, Economic, and Cultural Perspectives (1987).
Added on 18-Jul-16 | Last updated 18-Jul-16
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He serves his party best who serves the country best.

Hayes - serves his party best - wist_info quote

Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) American attorney, soldier, politician, US President (1877-81)
Inaugural address (5 Mar 1877)
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If conservatives get to call universal health care “socialized medicine,” then I get to call private, for-profit health care “soulless, vampire bastards making money off human pain.”

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Real Time with Bill Maher (24 Jul 2009)
Added on 22-Jun-16 | Last updated 22-Jun-16
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You can’t divorce religious belief and public service. I’ve never detected any conflict between God’s will and my political duty. If you violate one, you violate the other.

Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) American politician, US President (1977-1981), Nobel laureate [James Earl Carter, Jr.]
Speech, Southern Baptist Brotherhood Commission (16 Jun 1978)
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Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.

Ronald Reagan (1911-2006) US President (1981-89), politician, actor
Remarks, business conference, Los Angeles (2 Mar 1977)
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For 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. Politics must be the concern of every citizen who wants to see our national well-being increased and our international leadership strengthened. In that combined sense, politics is the noblest of professions. In the ranks of that kind of politics, every American should be enrolled.

Eisenhower - politics part-time profession - wist_info quote

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Republican Lincoln Day Dinners (28 Jan 1954)
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Often paraphrased: "Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free men."

The speech was filmed for the Republican National Committee and distributed to state and local committees to be shown at the Lincoln Day dinners.
Added on 17-May-16 | Last updated 17-May-16
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A man plunges into politics to make his fortune, and only cares that the world should last his days.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Letter to Thomas Carlyle (1835)
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I am not sure what it means when one says that he is a conservative in fiscal affairs and a liberal in human affairs. I assume what it means is that you will strongly recommend the building of a great many schools to accommodate the needs of our children, but not provide the money.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
News conference (Fall 1955)
Added on 8-Apr-16 | Last updated 8-Apr-16
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The world today is ruled by harassed politicians absorbed in getting into office or turning out the other man so that not much room is left for determining great issues on their merits.

Churchill - harassed politicians - wist_info quote

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
Speech, New York (25 Jan 1932)
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Monarchy is like a sleek craft, it sails along well until some bumbling captain runs it into the rocks. Democracy, on the other hand, is like a raft. It never goes down but, dammit, your feet are always wet.

Ames - feet are always wet - wist_info quote

Fisher Ames (1758-1808) American politician, orator
(Attributed)

Variant: "A monarchy is a merchantman which sails well, but will sometimes strike on a rock and go to the bottom; a republic is a raft which will never sink, but then your feet are always in the water." This variant is often attributed to a speech in the House of Representatives in 1795, but is not found in records of Ames' speeches.

This is the earliest reference I can find to this metaphor, which has also been used by / attributed to Joseph Cook, Russell Long, and Colin Powell.
Added on 1-Apr-16 | Last updated 6-Apr-16
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If you have a weak candidate and a weak platform, wrap yourself up in the American flag and talk about the Constitution.

Matthew Stanley Quay (1833-1904) American political boss, politician, US Senator
(Attributed, 1886)
Added on 1-Apr-16 | Last updated 1-Apr-16
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The methods now being used to merchandise the political candidate as though he were a deodorant positively guarantee the electorate against ever hearing the truth about anything.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Brave New World Revisited (1958)
Added on 25-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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There are two major kinds of promises in politics: the promises made by candidates to the voters and the promises made by the candidates to persons and groups able to deliver the vote. Promises falling into the latter category are loosely called “patronage,” and promises falling into the former category are most frequently called “lies.”

Richard Claxton "Dick" Gregory (b. 1932) American civil rights activist, social critic, writer, and comedian
Dick Gregory’s Political Primer (1972)
Added on 18-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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For a candidate to spend millions of dollars during the primaries to win a job that pays only $100,000 a year, doesn’t bode well for the citizens’ hopes of electing a man to this high office whose knowledge of economics will balance our national budget.

Goodman Ace (1899-1982) American humorist [b. Goodman Aiskowitz]
(Attributed)
Added on 11-Mar-16 | Last updated 11-Mar-16
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Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other.

Ameinger - politics is the gentle art - wist_info quote

Oscar Ameringer (1870-1943) German-American political activist, Socialist organizer, author, politican
The American Guardian
Added on 26-Feb-16 | Last updated 1-Jun-16
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But freedom isn’t free. It shouldn’t be a bragging point that, “Oh, I don’t get involved in politics,” as if that makes someone cleaner. No, that makes you derelict of duty in a republic. Liars and panderers in government would have a much harder time of it if so many people didn’t insist on their right to remain ignorant and blindly agreeable.

Maher - involved in politics - wist_info quote

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden (2002)
Added on 16-Feb-16 | Last updated 1-Jun-16
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There are no friends at cards or world politics

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
(Attributed)
Added on 12-Feb-16 | Last updated 12-Feb-16
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You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.”

Mitchell - look at that - wist_info quote

Edgar "Ed" Mitchell (1930-2016) American aviator, engineer, astronaut
(Attributed)

The earliest source I can find of the quote is in People (8 Apr 1974), where it appears as an epigraph for a story on Mitchell three years after his flight to the Moon.
Added on 9-Feb-16 | Last updated 9-Feb-16
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Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.

Charles Péguy (1873-1914) French poet, essayist, editor
“The Modern World: Politics and Mysticism,” Basic Verities [tr. Green & Green (1943)]
Added on 27-Jan-16 | Last updated 27-Jan-16
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When you say “radical right” today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
“Barry Goldwater’s Left Turn,” The Washington Post (28 Jul 1994)
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Added on 14-Jan-16 | Last updated 14-Jan-16
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And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
Speech, US Senate (16 Sep 1981)
Added on 7-Jan-16 | Last updated 7-Jan-16
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Your public servants serve you right.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Los Angeles (11 Sep 1952)
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On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) American politician
Speech, US Senate (16 Sep 1981)
Added on 10-Dec-15 | Last updated 7-Jan-16
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The more lies are told, the more important it becomes for the liars to justify themselves by deep moral commitments to high-sounding objectives that mask the pursuit of money and power.

Bertram M. Gross (1912-1997) American social scientist, academic, bureaucrat
Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America, ch. 9 (1980)
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Every honest and God-fearing man is a mighty factor in the future of the Republic. Educated men, business men, professional men, should be the last to shirk the responsibilities attaching to citizenship in a free government. They should be practical and helpful — mingling with the people — not selfish and exclusive. It is not necessary that every man should enter into politics, or adopt it as a profession, or seek political preferment, but it is the duty of every man to give personal attention to his political duties. They are as sacred and binding as any we have to perform.

William McKinley (1843-1901) US President (1897-1901)
Speech, Woodstock, Connecticut (4 July 1891)
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The trouble with this country is that there are too many politicians who believe, with a conviction based on experience, that you can fool all of the people all of the time.

Franklin Pierce Adams (1881-1960) American journalist and humorist
Nods and Becks (1944)

See Lincoln.
Added on 19-Aug-15 | Last updated 19-Aug-15
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Divide and rule, the politician cries;
Unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Sprüche in Prosa (1819)
Added on 17-Aug-15 | Last updated 17-Aug-15
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Would you persuade, speak of Interest, not of Reason.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (Jun 1734)
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We believe in only the government we need, but we insist on all the government we need. We believe in a government that is characterized by fairness and reasonableness, a reasonableness that goes beyond labels, that doesn’t distort or promise to do things that we know we can’t do. We believe in a government strong enough to use words like “love” and “compassion” and smart enough to convert our noblest aspirations into practical realities. We believe in encouraging the talented, but we believe that while survival of the fittest may be a good working description of the process of evolution, a government of humans should elevate itself to a higher order.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
Keynote Address, Democratic National Convention (16 Jul 1984)
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When philosophers try to be politicians, they generally cease to be philosophers.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
A Preface to Politics, ch. 3 (1914)
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Now I realize that on any particular decision a very great amount of heat can be generated. But I do say this: life is not made up of just one decision here, or another one there. It is the total of the decisions that you make in your daily lives with respect to politics, to your family, to your environment, to the people about you. Government has to do that same thing. It is only in the mass that finally philosophy really emerges.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Republican National Committee Luncheon (17 Feb 1955)
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A President is best judged by the enemies he makes when he has really hit his stride.

Maxwell "Max" Lerner (1902-1992) American journalist, columnist, educator
Column, New York Star (9 Jan 1949)

Reprinted in "The Education of Harry Truman," pt. 4, The Unfinished Country (1959).
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Polls are like perfume — nice to smell, dangerous to swallow.

Shimon Peres (b. 1923) Polish-Israeli politician, statesman
In International Herald Tribune (25-26 Jan 2003)
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It is a basic economic proposition that as long as a relatively few men own the railroads, the telegraph, the telephone, own the oil fields and the gas fields and the steel mills and the sugar refineries and the leather tanneries — own, in short, the sources and means of life — they will corrupt our politics, they will enslave the working class, they will impoverish and debase society, they will do all things that are needful to perpetuate their power as the economic masters and the political rulers of the people.

Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) American union leader, activist, socialist, politician
“The Issue,” Speech, Girard, Kansas (23 May 1908)
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The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk.

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
“We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore,” In These Times (26 Aug 2004)
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All lawful authority, legislative, and executive, originates from the people. Power in the people is like light in the sun: native, original, inherent, and unlimited by anything human. In governors it may be compared to the reflected light of the moon, for it is only borrowed, delegated, and limited by the intention of the people; whose it is, and to whom governors are to consider themselves as responsible, while the people are answerable only to God; — themselves being the losers, if they pursue a false scheme of politics.

James Burgh (1714-1775) British politician and writer
Political Disquisitions, Book 1 “Of Government, briefly” (1774)
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‘Patriotism is not enough.’ But neither is anything else. Science is not enough, religion is not enough, art is not enough, politics and economics are not enough, nor is love, nor is duty, nor is action however disinterested, nor, however sublime, is contemplation. Nothing short of everything will really do.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
The Island, “Notes on What’s What” (1962)
Added on 22-Oct-14 | Last updated 22-Oct-14
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If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.

Elizabeth Warren (b. 1949) American academic and politician [née Herring]
Speech, Emily’s List PAC, New York (22 Sep 2014)
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A novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images. And in a good novel, the whole of the philosophy has passed into the images. But if once the philosophy overflows the characters and action, and therefore looks like a label stuck on the work, the plot loses its authenticity and the novel its life. Nevertheless, a work that is to last cannot dispense with profound ideas. And this secret fusion between experiences and ideas, between life and reflection on the meaning of life, is what makes the great novelist.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Review of Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea, in Alger Républicain (20 Oct 1938)
Added on 6-Oct-14 | Last updated 6-Oct-14
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The statesman values principles more than measures, and measures more than party. I am afraid the politician reverses this rule, valuing his party most, measures next, and principles least.

James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888) American theologian and author
“Wanted, a Statesman!”, Old and New Magazine (Dec 1870)
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Added on 3-Oct-14 | Last updated 3-Oct-14
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