person who holds or seeks positions in government
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A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government.

We have seen all too clearly that there are men—now in power in this country—who do not represent authority, who cannot cope with tradition, and who believe that the people of America are ready to support revolution as long as it is done with a cultured voice and a handsome profile. ~ Spiro T. Agnew
A shoemaker who loses himself in mystical ecstasy and begins to think of himself as a saviour of the people, sent by God, will inevitably cut the soles the wrong way and mess up his stitches. As time goes on, he will be faced with starvation. It is precisely by this process, on the other hand, that the politician becomes strong and rich. ~ Wilhelm Reich
CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , Respectfully Quoted , See also , External links


Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F

  • Some of the politicians in this country, in their feverish search for group acceptance, are ready to endorse tumultuous confrontation as a substitute for debate, and the most illogical and unfitting extensions of the Bill of Rights as protections for psychotic and criminal elements in our society…. We have seen all too clearly that there are men—now in power in this country—who do not represent authority, who cannot cope with tradition, and who believe that the people of America are ready to support revolution as long as it is done with a cultured voice and a handsome profile.
    • Spiro T. Agnew, address to the American Retail Federation, Washington, D.C. (May 4, 1970); reported in John R. Coyne, Jr., The Impudent Snobs (1972), p. 324.
  • It was weird seeing Ricky act so weaselly and calculating, like he’d become a politician all of a sudden.
  • Ὑπὸ λίθῳ γὰρ παντί που χρὴ
    μὴ δάκῃ ῥήτωρ ἀθρεῖν.
  • [Recipe for political success:] If a politician during a campaign finds it necessary to resort to flattery, he should spread it on, not in thin layers, but with a trowel, or better yet, a shovel. Politicians should not forget that voters never grow weary of illusory promises. Politicians should ever remember that the electorate suspects and distrusts men of superb intellect, calmness, and serenity. And, finally, the politician must always tell people what they want to hear.
    • Attributed to Senator Henry Fountain Ashurst; in John Rustgard, The Problem of Poverty, 2d ed. (1936), p. 211–12.
  • I would he were better, I would he were worse.
    • Attributed to U.S. Senator Joseph Weldon Bailey. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). Said to have been applied to President Theodore Roosevelt during debate on the Railroad Rate Bill of 1906.
  • The politician has not to revenge what has happened but to ensure that it does not happen again.
    • Otto von Bismarck, in 1867, following public criticism of courtesy shown to the defeated Napoleon III after the battle of Sedan, as quoted in A. J. P. Taylor, Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman (1955), p. 115. Also quoted in Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations (1997), p. 46.
  • If this law passes I’m going to make you guys forget about Mike Duffy, because I’ve got more information and more proof on politicians in this country than you can shake a stick at, I promise.
  • Politicians have prolonged deaths. In a way, they begin to die the moment they leave office, and their deaths continue thereafter as each of their identifying characteristics – this bold new drive, that exciting new initiative – goes up in smoke, borne away on the winds of change.
    • Craig Brown, "Of Eccles and Emu", in This is Craig Brown (2004)
  • While we bicker day-to-day about this politician or that one, the true power players like the military industrial complex are doing things like creating A.I. that will control our future world. By keeping us preoccupied with nonsense, they can build our prison in peace & quiet.
  • “It soon began to dawn on me
    He wasn’t very bright,
    Because when he was twenty-three
    He couldn’t read or write.

    shall we do?’ his parents sob.
    ‘The boy has got the vapors!
    He couldn’t even get a job
    Delivering the papers!’

    ‘Ah-ha,’ I said, ‘this little clot
    Could be a politician.’
    ‘Nanny,’ he cried, ‘Oh Nanny, what
    A super proposition!’

    ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘let’s learn and note
    The art of politics.
    Let’s teach you how to miss the boat
    And how to drop some bricks,
    And how to win the people’s vote
    And lots of other tricks.

    Let’s learn to make a speech a day
    Upon the T.V. screen,
    In which you never never say
    Exactly what you mean.
    And most important, by the way,
    Is not to let your teeth decay,
    And keep your fingers clean.’

    And now that I am eighty-nine,
    It’s too late to repent.
    The fault was mine the little swine
    Became the President.”
  • The politician follows the line of least resistance; it is easy to fall asleep over the unhappiness of others and to count it for very little; it is easier to throw a hundred men, ninety-seven of whom are innocent, into prison, than to discover the three culprits who are hidden among them; it is easier to kill a man than to keep a close watch on him; all politics makes use of the police, which officially flaunts its radical contempt for the individual and which loves violence for its own sake. The thing that goes by the name of political necessity is in part the laziness and brutality of the police. That is why it is incumbent upon ethics not to follow the line of least resistance; an act which is not destined, but rather quite freely consented to; it must make itself effective so that what was at first facility may become difficult.
  • Our society is run by a managerial bureaucracy, by professional politicians; people are motivated by mass suggestion, their aim is producing more and consuming more, as purposes in themselves.
  • That’s the basis of all politics: it has to be you or me, there’s not enough for both of us. Survival of the fittest... But we can do so much now, with so little, that we can take care of everybody. That’s why the idea of scarcity is all wrong. Up to now, the world of politics doesn’t know that. That’s why all nations are dependent on armaments, why we have the arms race. The politicians still say that it’s you or me, and that’s why they go for the gun... The young world is giving up any interest in their political system. They have decided that it is absolutely corrupt.

G - L

  • One can judge between candidates by remembering Georges Pompidou’s remark that a statesman is a politician who puts himself at his country’s service, whereas a politician is a statesman who puts the country at his own service—or that of a group or class, usually his own.
  • When Bobby Kennedy went after organized crime in the early 1960s, one of the things he learned was that the Mafia had a series of rituals new members went through to declare their loyalty and promise they’d never turn away from their new benefactors. Once in, they’d be showered with money and protection, but they could never leave and even faced serious problems if they betrayed the syndicate. Which brings us to the story of Kyrsten Sinema. For a republican democracy to actually work, average citizens with a passion for making their country better must be able to run for public office without needing wealthy or powerful patrons; this is a concept that dates back to Aristotle’s rants on the topic. And Sinema... Apparently... she decided that if you can only barely beat them, you’d damn well better join them. Sinema quickly joined other Democrats who’d followed the Citizens United path to the flashing neon lights of big money, joining the so-called “Problem Solvers” caucus that owes its existence in part to the Wall Street-funded front group “No Labels.” ... Political networks run by rightwing billionaires and the US Chamber of Commerce showered her with support... She’d proved herself as a “made woman,” just like the old mafiosi documented by RFK in the 1960s, willing to do whatever it takes, compromise whatever principles she espoused...
  • And this is a genuine crisis for America because if President Biden is frustrated in his attempt to pass his Build Back Better legislation (that is overwhelmingly supported by Americans across the political spectrum) — all because business groups, giant corporations and rightwing billionaires are asserting ownership over their two “made” senators — there’s a very good chance that today’s cynicism and political violence is just a preview of the rest of the decade. But this isn’t as much a story about Sinema as it is about today’s larger political dysfunction for which she’s become, along with Joe Manchin, a poster child. Increasingly, because of the Supreme Court’s betrayal of American values, it’s become impossible for people like the younger Sinema to rise from social worker to the United States Senate without big money behind them.... While the naked corruption of Sinema and Joe Manchin is a source of outrage for Democrats across America, what’s far more important is that it reveals how deep the rot of money in American politics has gone, thanks entirely to a corrupted Supreme Court. In Justice Stevens’ dissent in Citizens United, he pointed out that corporations in their modern form didn’t even exist when the Constitution was written...
  • Winston Churchill famously claimed that of all human qualities, courage was the most esteemed, because it guaranteed all others. He was right. Courage—moral courage—is the companion of great leadership. No politician could ever be viewed as exceptional unless he or she had it in spades. And historically there would have been no social progress if not for the presence of specific humans dissenting and breaking from herd-inspired suspicion and fear... At best, courage is self-sacrificing, non-violent, modest and based on universal principles — and immensely powerful.... Look at today’s politicians... keen to be viewed as the virile leaders of their respective countries; eager to inflate their image by harming migrants and refugees, the most vulnerable in society. If there is courage in that, I fail to see it. Authoritarian leaders, or elected leaders inclined toward it, are bullies, deceivers, selfish cowards. If they are growing in number it is because (with exceptions) many other politicians are mediocre... focused on their own image... too afraid to stand up...
  • Even back in the days when energy had been abundant, leaders or representatives might not have really been necessary. If everyone had properly understood how the world turned, what was beneficial for only a few, and what would be harmful to the whole, then they might not have needed to choose representatives. It was not that difficult to live without them. However, people had chosen this lazy approach for the sake of a petty peace and to make their lives easier, and as a result they had left the decision-making to others. It was only now—now that the universe was dying—that they belatedly realized the truth: that leaders and representatives were poisonous mushrooms that grew thick in the cracks and crevices widened by indolence, and they were a waste of energy.
    • Chang-Gyu Kim, Sentinel, (Korean 2010; English translation 2019)
  • The trouble is that modern countries are usually run by politicians and not by statesmen, which is a different thing altogether.
  • He need only not have been a politician (the very name was a stumbling-block to a young lady's romance), and he would have been erected into a hero fit for a modern novel.
  • The politician—oh, Job! the devil should have made you prime minister—set the Tories to impeach your religion, the Whigs your patriotism—placed a couple of Sunday newspapers before you—he certainly would have succeeded in making you curse and swear too; and then posterity—it will just be a mooted point for future historians, whether you were the saviour, the betrayer, or the tyrant of your country, those being the three choice epitaphs kept for the especial use of patriots in power.
  • Senator [Stephen] Douglas is of world-wide renown. All the anxious politicians of his party, or who have been of his party for years past, have been looking upon him as certainly, at no distant day, to be the President of the United States. They have seen in his round, jolly, fruitful face, postoffices, landoffices, marshalships, and cabinet appointments, chargeships and foreign missions, bursting and sprouting out in wonderful exuberance ready to be laid hold of by their greedy hands.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech at Springfield, Illinois (July 17, 1858); Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 506 (1953).

M - R

  • It may be, sir, that the politicians of the United States are not so fastidious as some gentlemen are, as to disclosing the principles on which they act. They boldly preach what they practise. When they are contending for victory, they avow their intention of enjoying the fruits of it. If they are defeated, they expect to retire from office. If they are successful, they claim, as a matter of right, the advantages of success. They see nothing wrong in the rule, that to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.
    • William Learned Marcy, remarks in the Senate (January 25, 1832), Register of Debates in Congress, vol. 8, col. 1325. Marcy was defending Martin Van Buren, nominated as minister to England, against the attacks of Senator Henry Clay.
  • Well, I think all politicians tend to behave badly under the peculiar pressures of their trade. So I think they have chosen a profession where it's hard to behave well.
  • There is no such thing as a nonpolitical speech by a politician.
    • Richard Nixon, address to Radio-Television Executives Society, New York City (September 14, 1955), as reported by The Christian Science Monitor (September 15, 1955), p. 6. This is not in the press release of the speech.
  • Today there is more acceptance than ever before that women bring different experiences, perspectives, and skills to the table and make irreplaceable contributions to decisions, policies and laws that work better for all
  • The politician cannot become religious – for the simple reason that politics, all politics, politics as such, is power politics. It is will-to-power. One wants to dominate, one wants to possess, one wants to be the decisive factor in people’s lives. These are the qualities of the ego.

    Obviously this type of person cannot be religious because religion is basically the experience of egolessness. In religion there is no place for will-to-power. In fact, in religion there is no place even for will. Will-to-power is far away; even will-to-be is not there. One is in the hands of existence, in a deep let-go. This let-go is what I call religiousness. That’s why I said that religion and politics are opposite dimensions.

    • Osho, "I Am a Man Who Hopes against Hope," From Darkness to Light
  • None [of the guardians] should have any property of his own beyond what is absolutely necessary. ... They will live together like soldiers in a camp. We will tell them that they have gold and silver of a divine sort in their souls as a permanent gift from the gods, and have no need of human gold in addition. And we will add that it is impious for the to defile this divine possession by possessing an admixture of mortal gold, because many impious deeds have been done for the sake of the currency of the masses, whereas their sort is pure.
    • Plato, The Republic, 416d, C. Reeve, trans. (2004)
  • If they acquire private land, houses, and money themselves, they will be household managers and farmers instead of guardians—hostile masters of the other citizens, instead of their allies. They will spend their whole lives hating and being hated, plotting and being plotted against, much more afraid of internal than of external enemies.
    • Plato, The Republic, 417a, C. Reeve, trans. (2004)
Lois Lane: You’re gonna end up fighting every elected official in this country!
  • So far as one can generalize, the most gracious, cultivated, and innovative people in this country are French Canadians. Certainly they have given us the most exciting politicians of our time: Trudeau, Lévesque. Without them, Canada would be an exceedingly boring and greatly diminished place.
    • Mordecai Richler, Reported in Donald Smith, D'une nation à l'autre: des deux solitudes à la cohabitation (Montreal: Éditions Alain Stanké, 1997), p. 61.
  • Now, I don't know why, but that bit of scheduling reminds me of a story which I'll share with you. An evangelical minister and a politician arrived at Heaven's gate one day together. And St. Peter, after doing all the necessary formalities, took them in hand to show them where their quarters would be. And he took them to a small, single room with a bed, a chair, and a table and said this was for the clergyman. And the politician was a little worried about what might be in store for him. And he couldn't believe it then when St. Peter stopped in front of a beautiful mansion with lovely grounds, many servants, and told him that these would be his quarters. And he couldn't help but ask, he said, "But wait, how -- there's something wrong -- how do I get this mansion while that good and holy man only gets a single room?" And St. Peter said, "You have to understand how things are up here. We've got thousands and thousands of clergy. You're the first politician who ever made it."
  • Every living creature will naturally attempt to discover and eliminate the cause of a catastrophe in which it finds itself involved. It will not repeat actions that brought about the catastrophe in the first place. This is how difficulties are surmounted by experience. Our politicians are far removed from such natural reactions. It would not be farfetched to say that it is in the nature of a politician that he does not learn anything from experience.
  • The working men and women who think and act in a work-democratic way do not come out against the politician. It is not his fault or his intention that the practical result of his work exposes the illusionary and irrational character of politics. Those who are engaged in practical work, regardless what field they are in, are intensely concerned with practical tasks in the improvement of life. Those who are engaged in practical work are not against one thing or another. It is only the politician who, having no practical tasks is always against and never for something. Politics in general is characterized by this ‘being against’ one thing or another. That which is productive in a practical way is not accomplished by politicians, but by working men and women, whether it is in accord with the politicians’ ideologies or not.

S - Z

  • He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.
  • I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.
    • Attributed to Socrates, but reported in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) as unverified in his writings or in interpretive writings about him. Possibly this is an interpretation of a passage from Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates (The Apology), trans. F. J. Church, p. 61 (1880, reprinted 1972): "I do not venture to come forward in the assembly, and take part in public councils…. For, Athenians, it is quite certain that if I had attempted to take part in politics, I should have perished at once and long ago, without doing any good either to you or to myself. And do not be vexed with me for telling the truth".
  • He gave it for his opinion, that whosoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.
  • The ego may be clever, but it is not intelligent. Cleverness pursues its own little aims. Intelligence sees the larger whole in which all things are connected. Cleverness is motivated by self interest, and it is extremely shortsighted. Most politicians and businesspeople are clever. Very few are intelligent. Whatever is attained through cleverness is shortlived and always turns out to be eventually self defeating. Cleverness divides; intelligence unites.
    • Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose, (2005)
  • I'm proud that I'm a politician. A politician is a man who understands government, and it takes a politician to run a government. A statesman is a politician who's been dead 10 or 15 years.
    • Harry S. Truman, impromptu remarks before the Reciprocity Club, Washington, D.C. (April 11, 1958), as reported by the New York World-Telegram and Sun (April 12, 1958), p. 4.
  • Anytime a politician said he wouldn't beat around the bush, you were well advised to keep your hand on your wallet.
  • I think politicians and movie actors and movie executives are similar in more ways than they're different. There is an egocentric quality about both; there is a very sensitive awareness of the public attitude, because you live or die on public favor or disfavor. There is the desire for publicity and for acclaim, because, again, that's part of your life…. And in a strange and bizarre way, when movie actors come to Washington, they're absolutely fascinated by the politicians. And when the politicians go to Hollywood, they're absolutely fascinated by the movie stars. It's a kind of reciprocity of affection by people who both recognize in a sense they're in the same racket.
    • Jack Valenti, special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, interview on National Public Radio (December 13, 1974); excerpt printed in The Washingtonian (March 1975), p. 162.
  • I'm not a politician and my other habits are good. I've no enemys to reward, nor friends to sponge. But I'm a Union man.
    • Artemus Ward, Fourth of July oration delivered at Weathersfield, Connecticut (July 4, 1859); in The Complete Works of Artemus Ward (1898), p. 175–76. According to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 15th ed. (1980), p. 616, footnote 2, the first sentence was a favorite quotation of John F. Kennedy's.

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations, (1989)

  • Man is by nature a political animal.
    • Aristotle, Politics, book 1, chapter 2.—Aristotle's Politics and Poetics, trans. Benjamin Jowett and Thomas Twining, p. 5 (1957). Jowett translated Politics. This statement appears again in book 3, chapter 6, p. 68.
  • POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1948), p. 259. Originally published in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book.
  • [Trying to obtain information from Mr. Mitchell was] Like trying to nail a drop of water to the wall.
    • George E. Danielson, remark referring to former Attorney General John N. Mitchell's testimony during the Watergate hearings held by the House Judiciary Committee, Washington, D.C., July 10, 1974.—The New York Times, July 11, 1974, p. 14.
  • A garden, you know, is a very usual refuge of a disappointed politician. Accordingly, I have purchased a few acres about nine miles from town, have built a house, and am cultivating a garden.
    • Alexander Hamilton, letter to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, December 29, 1802.—The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. John C. Hamilton, vol. 6, p. 551 (1851).
  • I don't believe in labels. I want to do the best I can, all the time. I want to be progressive without getting both feet off the ground at the same time. I want to be prudent without having my mind closed to anything that is new or different. I have often said that I was proud that I was a free man first and an American second, and a public servant third and a Democrat fourth, in that order, and I guess as a Democrat, if I had to take—place a label on myself, I would want to be a progressive who is prudent.
    • Lyndon B. Johnson, television and radio interview, March 15, 1964. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, book 1, p. 368.
  • "Don't teach my boy poetry", an English mother recently wrote the Provost of Harrow. "Don't teach my boy poetry; he is going to stand for Parliament". Well, perhaps she was right—but if more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place to live on this Commencement Day of 1956.
    • John F. Kennedy, address to the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association, Cambridge, Massachusetts, June 14, 1956.—Text, p. 11–12.
  • [Politicians] are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.
  • I once said cynically of a politician, "He'll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it".
  • You have to pursue the ideals of a Joan of Arc with the political prowess of an Adam Clayton Powell. Whatever you say about Joan, her purpose was noble. And whatever you say about Adam, his politics is effective; it gets things done he wants done.
    • Bill D. Moyers, remarks, conference on the returned Peace Corps volunteer, Washington, D.C., March 5–7, 1965.—Citizen in a Time of Change: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Report of the Conference, p. 69 (1965).
  • In my youth, I, too, entertained some illusions; but I soon recovered from them. The great orators who rule the assemblies by the brilliancy of their eloquence are in general men of the most mediocre political talents: they should not be opposed in their own way; for they have always more noisy words at command than you. Their eloquence should be opposed by a serious and logical argument; their strength lies in vagueness; they should be brought back to the reality of facts; practical arguments destroy them. In the council, there were men possessed of much more eloquence than I was: I always defeated them by this simple argument—two and two make four.
    • Napoleon, dictated to Count Montholon to be passed on to Napoleon's son.—Charles-Tristan de Montholon, History of the Captivity of Napoleon at St. Helena, vol. 3, p. 187 (1847).
  • I'd rather keep my promises to other politicians than to God. God, at least, has a degree of forgiveness.
    • Author unknown; reported in The Washington Post (June 9, 1978), p. C1, quoting a "veteran Virginia Democrat".

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