STORRS, Conn. — “Practical politics consists in ignoring facts,” said John Oliver. Or maybe it was Henry Adams. (Hint: It was Adams.)

Sometimes it’s tough to figure out how far we’ve moved along our cultural and political timeline.

So let’s do a quiz: One of the quotations in each pair is from the past and one is drawn from the major presidential candidates in this election.

Let’s make it even trickier: Is the line you identify as contemporary made by Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

No Googling, please. Pencils ready? (Answers at the end.)

On class:


A. “Where there is no middle class, and the poor generally exceed in number, troubles arise, and the state soon comes to an end.”

B. “We are pricing out middle-class, working and poor families. There’s no doubt about that.”

On pride and leadership:

A. “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked. … It works the same way in any country.”

B. “We are the greatest country the world has ever known. … But for too long we’ve been pushed around, used by other countries, and ill-served by politicians.”

On money:


A. “I shall not be content till this country can produce every single thing we need, even coffee, cocoa and rubber, and so keep all our dollars at home … we shall have such a balance of trade as will go far to carry out my often criticized yet completely sound idea of from $3,000 to $5,000 per year for every single family – that is, I mean every real American family.”

B. “I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18 if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or … make that down payment on their first home.”

On the influence of parents:

A. “If I have done anything in life worth attention, I feel sure that I inherited the disposition from my mother.”

B. “My mother … was strong, but also warm and fair-minded. … She was also one of the most honest and charitable people I have ever known, and a great judge of character.”

On equal rights for women:


A. “We ask only for justice and equal rights – the right to vote, the right to our own earnings, equality before the law.”

B. “Women deserve the same rights as men in every aspect of our economy and our society, here at home and around the world.”

On work and business:

A. “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.”

B. “In recent years, long-established expectations about doing business have given way under the pressures of the modern economy. … Too often, this means that they view most employees as costs, not investments.”

On getting paid for speeches:


A. “My attitude is if somebody’s willing to pay me $225,000 to make a speech, it seems stupid not to show up.”

B. “Look. I made speeches to lots of groups. I told them what I thought. I answered questions.”

As you might have guessed, or figured out, all the “A” answers are from the past while the “B” list is drawn from our current political discussion.

Here are the “A” authors in order of appearance: Aristotle, Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering, American novelist Sinclair Lewis from “It Can’t Happen Here,” abolitionist orator and author Booker T. Washington, suffragette Lucy Stone, Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump. (Trump’s line was from 1997; doesn’t that count as ancient history? OK, that was a trick question.)

The B list answers are as follows: Clinton, Trump, Clinton, Trump, Clinton, Clinton and Clinton.

The more things change, the more political discourse remains the same. Was it Jon Stewart in 2015 who quipped, “Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously, and the politicians as a joke, when it used to be vice versa”? Or was it Will Rogers in 1932?

(Sigh: It was Rogers.)

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