"Politics is the art by which politicians obtain campaign contributions from the rich and votes from the poor on the pretext of protecting each from the other,” wrote Oscar Ameringer (1870-1943) in his autobiography, If You Don’t Weaken (1940). It is not certain when Ameringer first used the quotation, but he was being given credit for it in several publications in 1932.
Oscar Ameringer has been called “the Mark Twain of American Socialism.” His efforts helped to elect John Calloway “Our Jack” Walton to be Oklahoma’s governor in 1922. Walton was impeached in 1923 and a disappointed and disillusioned Ameringer probably used his famous quotation at that time.
Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture
AMERINGER, OSCAR (1870-1943). Oscar Ameringer, “the Mark Twain of American Socialism,” was born in Achstetten, in Germany, August 4, 1870. He came to Oklahoma in 1907 and helped organize one of the largest socialist movements in American history. Ameringer synthesized Jeffersonian democratic principles, the frontier individualism of the Homestead Act, and Marxism in order to formulate “Industrial Democracy,” or “Industry of the People, by the People, and for the People.” He was friends with, and an ally of, moderate socialists such as Milwaukee’s Victor Berger and more radical socialists such as the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs. Ameringer advocated a tolerant, nonsectarian form of Marxism.
Ameringer also dabbled in local politics. In 1911 he received 23 percent of the vote in a three-way race for mayor of Oklahoma City, and in 1918, despite censorship and a federal indictment, he ran a strong race for U.S. Congress in Wisconsin. After one of the most intense campaigns of political repression in United States history, the Oklahoma Socialist Party was disbanded, and Ameringer helped organize the Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League, a progressive coalition similar to the South Dakota Nonpartisan League. The coalition helped elect “Our Jack” Walton as an anti-Ku Klux Klan governor. When betrayed by Walton, Ameringer quipped, “Politics is the art by which politicians obtain campaign contributions from the rich and votes from the poor on the pretext of protecting each from the other.”
Ameringer was a prolific writer. In 1931 he helped found, and edited, the American Guardian, which became an internationally respected socialist newspaper.
The Coming of a New Party
By Paul Howard Douglas
New York, NY: Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill Book Co.
As Oscar Ameringer has observed of the two old parties the Democrats solicit votes from the poor and contributions from the rich on the pretext of protecting each from the other.
24 September 1932, New York (NY) Times, “Liberals Are Urged to Vote for Thomas,” pg. 8:
A non-Socialist liberal who is out fighting for votes for Norman Thomas and his running mate, James J. Maurer, sat in Mr. Thomas’s office at 114 East Nineteenth Street, yesterday and told reporters why he believes every one who is not a conservative should cast his ballot this Fall for the Socialist ticket.
The speaker was Professor Paul H. Douglas, University of Chicago economist, who is chairman of the Thomas and Maurer Committee of 100,000, the organization of which began this month. While frankly conceding his doubts of the ultimate victory of socialism in the United States and his interest in the creation of a new political party to represent the interests of the workers, farmers and consumers, he emphasized his complete support of the Socialist candidates at the November elections.
“This is the only country in the world where both the major parties are conservative,” he said. “Both these old major parties solicit votes from the poor and money from the rich on the pretense of protecting each from the other, and in this game the poor always lose.”
23 May 1934, Wellington (New Zealand) Evening Post, pg. 8, col. 8:
“M. J. Noble” sends along this definition of politics for our further education and entertainment: --
“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.”
Judging from the past two or three years, adds M.J.N., it is now a full-fledged science as well.
Google News Archive
21 September 1936, Ludington (MI) Daily News, pg. 8, col. 3:
It has been said that politics is the art of extracting votes from the poor and money from the rich on a pretext of protecting each from the other.
A study in political dynamics
By Peter H. Odegard and E. Allen Helms
New York, NY: Harper & Bros.
Norman Thomas once described the political machines as “collecting money from the rich, and votes from the poor on the theory that they were protecting the one from the other.”
Party Government in the United States
By Charles Wallace McKenzie
New York, NY: Ronald Press
As Oscar Ameringer has observed of the two old parties, the Democrats solicit votes from the poor and contributions from the rich on the pretext of protecting each from the other.
If You Don’t Weaken;
The autobiography of Oscar Ameringer
By Oscar Ameringer
New York, NY: H. Holt and Co.
I wrote these words about politicians of Our Jack’s school: “Politics is the art by which politicians obtain campaign contributions from the rich and votes from the poor on the pretext of protecting each from the other.”
Milo Reno, Farmers Union pioneer
By Roland A. White
New York, NY: Arno Press
. Page 81, paragraph 3, sentence 4. Oscar Ameringer, The American Guardian, Oklahoma City, Okla., date undetermined. Previously printed in last issue of Milwaukee Leader before it was barred from the mails in World War I and quoted in If You Don’t Weaken, 1940, Ameringer’s autobiography, thus: “Politics is the art by which politicians obtain campaign contributions from the rich and votes from the poor on the pretext of protecting each from the other.” Ameringer’s paper had a substantial circulation in Iowa in the depression years.
The autobiography of a law practice
By Arthur Garfield Hays
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
Or, as Oscar Ameringer, the veteran Socialist editor, once put it, “It is the business of the old party politician to get campaign contributions from the rich and votes from the poor on the ground that he will protect one from the other.”
Being a fulsome compendium of observations, mostly disenchanted and dyspeptic, about politics and politicians and their arcane doings down through the ages, from time immemorial
By Ferdinand Lundberg
New York, NY: Stuart
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.
Oscar Ameringer (1870-1943): The American Guardian
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Tuesday, November 30, 2010 • Permalink