W. C. Fields? Franklin P. Adams? H. L. Mencken? Richard Croker? Franklin D. Roosevelt? Will Rogers?
Dear Quote Investigator: There is a family of sardonic sayings about the behavior of voters. Here are three examples:
- I never vote for anybody. I always vote against.
- People vote against somebody rather than for somebody.
- The people never vote for anything. They always vote against something.
This viewpoint has been attributed to popular columnist Franklin P. Adams, curmudgeonly commentator H. L. Mencken, and star comedian W. C. Fields. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a Pennsylvanian newspaper in 1893. Richard Croker, a powerful New York City politician, applied the saying to a group of political activists. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
Boss Croker, of Tammany, defines a mugwump as a man who always votes against somebody and never votes for anybody. That’s a pretty clever description.
Franklin P. Adams used an instance of the saying in 1916, but he disclaimed credit for the expression. H. L. Mencken used an instance in 1925, but he also disclaimed credit. A version was ascribed to W. C. Fields in a 1949 biography. Detailed information appears further below.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1893 October 30, Harrisburg Telegraph, (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 2, Column 1, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) ↩