Back in 2006, The A.V. Club ran a piece called “Simpsons Quotes For Everyday Use,” illustrating how Simpsons lines could comfortably stand in as the reaction to many ordinary events in our lives. While The Simpsons still stands as the go-to source for pithy, universal responses to life, other pop-culture sources also have useful things to say when we can’t find the right words ourselves. For instance, when our political candidates lose:
1. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Democracy simply doesn’t work.” —Kent Brockman, The Simpsons
Newscaster Kent Brockman draws his political conclusions far too broadly after Congress proposes a bill to evacuate Springfield before a comet smashes it, an opportunist adds in a rider for “$30 million of taxpayer money to support the perverted arts,” and the bill fails. Still, his conclusion is applicable to a wide range of circumstances: Pretty much any time an election doesn’t go your way, it can be taken as proof that everyone else must doing something wrong.
2. “So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause.” —Padme Amidala, Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
When the villainous Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) finally brings his plans to fruition in the Star Wars prequels, dissolving the Republic and forming the Empire, he’s done such a good job of manipulating the masses with trumped-up threats that they cheer him on. Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) reacts with a bitterness that matches Kent Brockman, but she throws in a little extra contempt for everyone dumb enough to clap enthusiastically for their own disenfranchisement. Her tart summation has a vaguely noble, above-it-all ring that might come in handy for anyone looking for a more elegant way of saying, “Y’all is stupid.”
3. “You politicians have stayed professionals only because the voters have remained amateurs.” —Mary Matthews, State Of The Union
The estranged wife and moral compass of an aircraft magnate and political naïf who’s been manipulated into running for president, Mary Matthews (Katharine Hepburn) issues this supreme burn to the corrupt wheeler-dealers who’ve been masterminding her husband’s sham campaign. It’s cold comfort to accept that an undesirable election result lies in the accursed alchemy between a largely uninformed, easily manipulated public and an unscrupulous, impenetrable political machine, but at least that absolves disappointed voters who feel guilty that they didn’t do more to influence the outcome.
4. “We just lost a vote. We’re not bumfuzzled. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to cancel a photo op with a goat.” —C.J. Cregg, The West Wing
Allison Janney earned a fandom with her portrayal of West Wing’s White House Press Secretary C.J., a brisk, smart, no-nonsense professional with a talent for clever phrasing and no-nonsense rebuttals. When her administration floats a massive foreign-aid bill and has it shot down, a White House press correspondent (who happens to be her friend, and eventual husband) takes her to task for meekly pulling punches with the Republican opposition, and asks, “Why are Democrats always so bumfuzzled?” At first blush, the randomness of her snappish response seems inapplicable to everyday life, but it’s a good distraction to leave taunters baffled and momentarily stunned. Besides, “bumfuzzled” is a great word, and the overall implication is that one loss doesn’t end the struggle, and tomorrow is another day.
5. “Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job.” —Douglas Adams, The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe
Zaphod Beeblebrox and his crew aboard the starship Heart Of Gold are on their way to meet the mysterious Ruler Of The Universe when author Douglas Adams takes a break from the action for a brief chapter on political theory. Speaking directly to readers, he reiterates the basic idea that anyone with the ambition and ability to take power clearly possesses the exact qualities that will make them apt to mismanage that power. That lesson has been borne out more times than humanity can count. If your candidate goes down in flames, though, this quote is useful for pointing out that the other guy’s victory implies something unsavory about him all on its own. Also useful: Adams immediately goes on to summarize, “People are a problem.”
6. “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.” —Homer Simpson, The Simpsons
Perhaps the only upside to landing on the losing side of an election is the ability to claim you knew better all along when things inevitably go to shit. Homer Simpson takes advantage of this position when he and the rest of his fellow puny earthlings are enslaved in service of President Kang, a giant green alien who wins the 1996 election after Homer accidentally ejects Bill Clinton and Bob Dole into outer space, leaving the electorate to decide between Kang and his identical partner, Kodos. (It’s a two-party system, after all, and no one’s going to vote for a third-party candidate.) Homer, Marge, and the rest of Springfield’s inhabitants will likely live out their days toiling to build a giant ray-gun for Kang, but at least Homer can take comfort in the knowledge that Kodos never would have done such a thing.
7. “This used to be a hell of a good country. I don’t understand what’s going on with it.” —George Hanson, Easy Rider
The Vietnam-era hippie heroes of Easy Rider are on a road trip that often feels like a dangerous passage through hostile territory. Along the way, they pick up George Hanson (Jack Nicholson), a friendly, liberal lawyer who’s the black sheep of his good Southern family. After the guys take shit from mean rednecks in a diner, George sadly expresses his bewilderment at being part of a country divided into two opposing camps with no interest in trying to understand each other. He’s the movie’s voice of reason, and soon after, the rednecks come upon him as he sleeps, and beat him to death. That precedent may make this quote seem like a dangerous response to an election, but muttered in the safety of home, or on the Internet, it’s a concise yet generally applicable response to anything and everything that doesn’t seem to be working out.
8. “This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That’s democracy for you.” —Mr. Burns, The Simpsons
When Springfield plutocrat Mr. Burns runs for governor, hoping to change environmental law so he can save $56 million by not updating his dangerously broken-down power plant, the Simpson family, as usual, gets in the way. His annoyance and confusion at the strange values of our skewed legal system sets a standard for anyone who’s been following the increasingly ramped-up aggression and demonization of people with different opinions these days, and just can’t understand why it’s illegal to murder people they disagree with. After all, they voted wrong, right?
9. “I’d better get used to having to pick between a douche and a turd sandwich, because it’s usually the choice I’ll have.” —Stan Marsh, South Park
South Park’s episode-length lesson on the hypocrisies of democracy, “Douche And Turd,” centers on a prank-skewed election that has its kids choosing between a giant douche or a shit sandwich as their new school mascot. Regular protagonist Stan Marsh, realizing the whole election is a sham and objecting to both candidates, attempts to register a protest by not voting, but the whole town vilifies him, then exiles him. In the end, he breaks down and votes just to go along with the crowd, delivering a final weary objection with this quote. Certainly Americans can relate, after yet another election cycle where constant negativism and character assassination makes them feel like all their voting options are bad. If your candidate loses, Stan’s bitterness is useful for summing up the sour-grapes, it-never-mattered-anyway response.
10. “No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.” ―Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country
On the other hand, though, there’s Kurt Vonnegut’s look-on-the-bright-side positivism, probably most appropriate for readers on a pop-culture site. At least adversity, disenfranchisement, and anger tend to prompt terrific response art.