Robert Francis: The two-headed snake and some election wisdom

Will Rogers statue

Election night (or in this case nights) can be tense. So I decided to go for the funny bone.

I was trying to come up with something profound and funny to say about the current election, so I decided to see what some of America’s great humorists had to say on the subject.

My only election wisdom is a slight rephrasing of something I heard someone say once: Trying to defeat an incumbent is like fighting a two-headed snake. Once you think it’s dead, it’s ready to strike.

The original quote was something like: Trying to wrestle your demons, it’s like trying to kill a two-headed snake. You chop off one head and the other is getting ready to strike.
I thought I’d just share some wisdom from a couple of great American humorists.

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First up, a humorist with plenty of Fort Worth connections, one William Penn Adair Rogers, namesake of the Will Rogers Coliseum and a close friend of former Fort Worth booster and Fort Worth Star-Telegram owner Amon G. Carter.

Here’s a few election quotes from Rogers, who lived from 1879 to 1935, when he died in a plane crash. At the height of his popularity, Rogers was a star of films, the stage and had a popular newspaper column.

These quotes are from a website, Will Rogers A to Z:

A fool and his money are soon elected.

I was born on Nov. 4, which is election day … my birthday has made more men and sent more back to honest work than any other days in the year.

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We always want the best man to win an election. Unfortunately, he never runs.

This one seems particularly relevant this year:

There is only one redeeming thing about this whole election. It will be over at sundown, and let everybody pray that it’s not a tie, for we couldn’t go through with this thing again.

I don’t think either one of them knows what it’s all about, to be honest with you. Both sides are doing nothing but just looking towards the next election.

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Every time we have an election, we get in worse men and the country keeps right on going. Times have proven only one thing and that is you can’t ruin this country even with politics.

I guess truth can hurt you worse in an election than about anything that can happen to you.

If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these acceptance speeches there wouldn’t be any inducement to go to heaven.

fountain pen on black lined paper
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The next scribe I searched was the great Mark Twain. There’s a great quote “attributed” to him:

“If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it,” the quote goes. You can even buy a coffee mug with the quote. But Twain didn’t say that, according to Twain’s take on voting was more positive and nuanced:

In a 1905 interview in Boston, he said: “In this country we have one great privilege which they don’t have in other countries. When a thing gets to be absolutely unbearable the people can rise up and throw it off. That’s the finest asset we’ve got — the ballot box.”

According to, Twain did say this:

I have said there that when Europe gets a ruler lodged in her gullet, there is no help for it but a bloody revolution; here we go and get a great big, emetical ballot, and heave it up.

– Interview Dec. 1889

Emetical is not a word we use much these days, but basically he’s saying the ballot makes you want to vomit.

Another quote:

If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election times.

– Mark Twain’s Autobiography