If noth­ing else, Elec­tion Day is fod­der for mem­o­rable quips

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - CHRIS DAVIS Con­tact the writer at chris­davis@chi­nadai­lyusa.com.

When I lived in Kenya, there was a sign of­ten posted on the walls of bars and saloons, large and small, an ad­mon­ish­ment ap­par­ently aimed at keep­ing the peace. “Never ar­gue with a fool,” it read. “Peo­ple might not know the dif­fer­ence.”

I thought about that tid­bit of tribal wis­dom more than once dur­ing this past pres­i­den­tial cam­paign cy­cle, most of the time not sure which side was the one that should be heed­ing the ad­vice.

Who­ever moves into the White House next, the sure win­ner of this US pres­i­den­tial race has been ran­cor. And just like lis­ten­ing to next door neigh­bors quar­rel through pa­per-thin walls, it’s a re­lief when its fi­nally ends.

One good thing about elec­tions is that they are a time for famous quotes. Hear­ing them in the midst of the process, es­pe­cially one as in­tense as this has been, re­minds us of the power that words have to carry wis­dom down through the ages. They also re­mind us that very lit­tle is new un­der the sun.

The quip of the late great Ge­orge Car­lin — co­me­dian, ac­tor, so­cial critic and au­thor — couldn’t be more apro­pos than to­day. “In Amer­ica,” he said, “any­one can be­come pres­i­dent. That’s the prob­lem.”

Win­ston Churchill left be­hind a record of opin­ions that might be seen as con­tra­dic­tory. “The best ar­gu­ment against democ­racy,” he said on one oc­ca­sion, “is a five-minute con­ver­sa­tion with the av­er­age voter.”

Yet at a dif­fer­ent time, he re­port­edly said, “It has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of govern­ment ex­cept all the oth­ers that have been tried.”

Ad­lai Steven­son had a famous quip that sounds so per­fect for this race that it’s hard to be­lieve nei­ther side ever co-opted it. “I of­fer my op­po­nents a bar­gain,” he said. “If they stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.”

Even famous Com­mu­nists have weighed in on the elec­toral process. Joseph Stalin said, “The peo­ple who cast the votes de­cide noth­ing. The peo­ple who count the votes de­cide ev­ery­thing.”

How do you say “the whole sys­tem’s rigged” in Rus­sian?

And one of Karl Marx’s lines sounds right in tune with the anti-po­lit­i­cal elitism sen­ti­ment that echoed through some of this past year’s stump speeches. “The op­pressed are al­lowed once ev­ery few years to de­cide which par­tic­u­lar rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the op­press­ing class are to rep­re­sent and re­press them,” he wrote.

Writ­ing in his book Tragedy and Hope: A His­tory of the World in Our Time, Ge­orge­town his­tory pro­fes­sor Car­roll Quigley (and ap­par­ently Bill Clin­ton men­tor) gives Marx a back­handed slap on the back. Po­lit­i­cal “par­ties should be al­most iden­ti­cal, so that the Amer­i­can peo­ple can ‘throw the ras­cals out’ at any elec­tion, with­out lead­ing to any pro­found or ex­ten­sive shifts in pol­icy.”

Mark Twain said, “If vot­ing made any dif­fer­ence they wouldn’t let us do it,” a sen­ti­ment that was echoed by an­ar­chist Emma Gold­man: “If vot­ing changed any­thing, they’d make it il­le­gal.”

What quotes will Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump be re­mem­bered for when this elec­tion is fi­nally in the books?

“As ev­ery­body knows,” Trump tweeted, “but the haters & the losers refuse to ac­knowl­edge, I do not wear a wig. My hair may not be per­fect but it’s mine.”

Some of his quotes, of course, are too vul­gar to re­peat, and for a sign of how far the bound­aries of what’s ac­cept­able have been stretched, some­time google Earl Butz, who served as sec­re­tary of agri­cul­ture un­der pres­i­dent Richard Nixon and Ger­ald Ford, and see how quickly he got sum­mar­ily drummed out of of­fice for his garbage mouth.

Clin­ton’s big­gest gaff is one she prob­a­bly won’t live down any time soon and like Mitt Rom­ney’s cel­e­brated “47 per­cent” line was prob­a­bly not put out there for pub­lic con­sump­tion. “To just be grossly gen­er­al­is­tic,” she said, “you can put half of Trump sup­port­ers into what I call the bas­ket of de­plorables.”

But the all-time win­ning Elec­tion Day quote is at­trib­uted to Henry Cate VII (who­ever that is): “The prob­lem with po­lit­i­cal jokes is they get elected.”

“In Amer­ica, any­one can be­come pres­i­dent. That’s the prob­lem.” Ge­orge Car­lin — co­me­dian, ac­tor, so­cial critic and au­thor

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