Politics and Politicians


  • The body politic, like the human body, begins to die from its birth, and bears in itself the causes of its destruction —Jean Jacques Rousseau
  • A cannibal is a good deal like a Democrat, they are forced to live off each other —Will Rogers, weekly newspaper article, April 14, 1929
  • The Democratic party is like a man riding backward in a railroad car; it never sees anything until it has got past it —Thomas B. Reed
  • The Democratic party is like a mule, without pride of ancestry or hope of posterity —Emory Storrs
  • The Democrats are like someone at a funeral who just found out they won the lottery —Eleanor Clift, McLaughlin Group television show, December 28, 1986

The comparison was made during a discussion of the Iran Contra aid scandal.

  • Elections … are like mosquitoes, you can’t very well fight ‘em off without cussing ‘em —Will Rogers, letter to Los Angeles Times, November 10, 1932
  • In politics as in religion, it so happens that we have less charity for those who believe the half of our creed, than for those that deny the whole —Charles Caleb Colton
  • In politics, as in womanizing, failure is decisive. It sheds its retrospective gloom on earlier endeavor which at the time seemed full of promise —Malcolm Muggeridge
  • Like American beers, presidential candidates these days are all pretty much the same, heavily watered for blandness, and too much gas —Russell Baker
  • A man running for public office is like a deceived husband; he is usually the last person to realize the true state of affairs —Robert Traver
  • A man without a vote is, in this land, like a man without a hand —Henry Ward Beecher
  • Merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal … gather votes like box tops —Adlai Stevenson
  • In his August 18, 1956 speech accepting the presidential nomination, Stevenson used this double simile to verbally shake his head at the idea that politics is just like product merchanding.
  • Ministers fall like buttered bread; usually on the good side —Ludwig Boerne
  • One revolution is just like one cocktail; it just gets you organized for the next —Will Rogers
  • Patronage personnel are like a broken gun, you can’t make them work, and you can’t fire them —Peter Dominick, from the monthly newsletter of Senator Dominick, August, 1966
  • Political elections … are a good deal like marriages, there’s no accounting for anyone’s taste —Will Rogers, weekly newspaper article, May 10, 1925
  • Political rhetoric has become, like advertising, audible wallpaper, always there but rarely noticed —George F. Will
  • A politician is like quick-silver; if you try to put your finger on him, you find nothing under it —Austin O’Malley
  • Politicians are like drunks. We’re the ones who have to clean up after them —Bryan Forbes
  • Politicians are like the bones of a horse’s foreshoulder, not a straight one in it —Wendell Phillips, 1864 speech
  • Politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous —Sir Winston Churchill

Churchill followed up the simile with, “In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times.”

  • Politics are like a labyrinth, from the inner intricacies of which it is even more difficult to find the way of escape than it was to find the way into them —William E. Gladstone
  • Politics is like a circus wrestling match —Nikita S. Khrushchev
  • Politics is like a race horse. A good jockey must know how to fall with the least possible damage —Edouard Herriot
  • Politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it’s important —Eugene McCarthy
  • Politics is like waking up in the morning. You never know whose head you will find on the pillow —Winston Churchill
  • Politics, like religion, hold up the torches of martyrdom to the reformers of error —Thomas Jefferson
  • Presidential appointments are left to us like bad debts after death —Janet Flanner
  • Professional politicians are like chain smokers, lighting a new campaign on the butt of the old one —Steven V. Roberts, New York Times, November 24, 1986
  • This was the only simile in Roberts’ article. Yet, as is so often the case, it was the phrase highlighted as a boxed blurb to get reader attention.
  • The public is like a piano. You just have to know what keys to poke —John Dewey
  • The pursuit of politics is like chasing women: the expense is damnable, the position ridiculous, the pleasure fleeting —Robert Traver
  • Running for public office was not unlike suffering a heart attack; overnight one’s whole way of life had abruptly to be changed —Robert Traver
  • So long as we read about revolutions in books, they all look very nice … like those landscapes which, as artistic engravings on white vellum, look so pure and friendly —Heinrich Heine
  • (They said) the range of political thinking is round, like the face of a clock —Tony Ardizzone
  • A voter without a ballot is like a soldier without a bullet —Dwight D. Eisenhower, New York Times Book Review, October 27, 1957
  • Watching foreign affairs is sometimes like watching a magician; the eye is drawn to the hand performing the dramatic flourishes, leaving the other hand, the one doing the important job, unnoticed —David K. Shipler, New York Times, March 15, 1987


“Politics is the art of the possible” [Prince Otto von Bismarck]
“A week is a long time in politics” [Harold Wilson]
“Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable” [John Kenneth Galbraith Ambassador’s Journal]
“Politics…has always been the systematic organisation of hatreds” [Henry Brooks Adams The Education of Henry Adams]
“Practical politics consists in ignoring facts” [Henry Brooks Adams The Education of Henry Adams]
“In politics the middle way is none at all” [John Adams]
“In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly” [Samuel Taylor Coleridge Table Talk]
“There is a holy mistaken zeal in politics as well as in religion. By persuading others, we convince ourselves” [Junius Public Advertiser]
“Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed” [Mao Tse-tung]
“Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary” [Robert Louis Stevenson Familiar Studies of Men and Books]
“Most schemes of political improvement are very laughable things” [Dr. Johnson]
“politics: a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage” [Ambrose Bierce The Devil’s Dictionary]
“Politics makes strange bedfellows”


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