I am looking for a definition, a negative one, to describe a politician who is not doing politics in the public interest.

  • 1
    Or "crook". If you like Greek, there's always "kleptocrat". Apr 16, 2014 at 23:16
  • 7
    I think the best word depends on what interest the politician is actively working for— his own career, his own ideology, his financial interests, his criminal outfit, etc. Otherwise, in our cynical age, the word for a politician acting in other than the public interest is simply politician.
    – choster
    Apr 16, 2014 at 23:23
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Jun 7, 2014 at 20:48

3 Answers 3


Politicaster: Po*lit"i*cas`ter\, n. [Cf. It. politicastro.] A petty politician; a pretender in politics. --Milton.

Snollygoster: One, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles.

Politicaster: n. 1. A petty politician; a pretender in politics

Highbinder: 2.a dishonest political official or leader.

  • +1 for snollygoster; never heard that one before, but I like it! Apr 17, 2014 at 7:23
  • 2
    ... you have "politicaster" listed twice...
    – Catija
    Jul 3, 2017 at 22:51

politician: 2b : a person primarily interested in political offices for selfish or other narrow usually shortsighted reasons.

politician: 3. : one who seeks personal or partisan gain, often by scheming or maneuvering.

politician: 3. : (Goverment, Politic & Diplomacy) derogatory chiefly (US) a person who engages in politics out of a wish for personal gain, as realized by holding a public office.

politician: a person who uses public office to advance personal or partisan interests.

politician: 2. : one who deceives or outmaneuvers others for personal gain.

politician: one who regards elected political office as a career.

politician: (disapproving) : a person who is good at using different situations in an organization to try to get power or advantage for himself or herself.

More offensive terms are "shyster," "pettifogger," "carpetbagger," and "peanut politician."

carpetbagger: a politician who moves to a place where he/she sees an opportunity to promote his/her career.


Here is Reinhard Luthin's definition of a specific type of politician who doesn't do politics in the public interest, namely a demagogue:

What is a demagogue? He is a politician skilled in oratory, flattery and invective; evasive in discussing vital issues; promising everything to everybody; appealing to the passions rather than the reason of the public; and arousing racial, religious, and class prejudices—a man whose lust for power without recourse to principle leads him to seek to become a master of the masses. He has for centuries practiced his profession of 'man of the people'. He is a product of a political tradition nearly as old as western civilization itself.

Source: American Demagogues by Reinhard Luthin (1954), p. 3.

  • 1
    Good suggestion! I always liked this word demagogue ever since I read (in Colleen McCullough's The First Man in Rome) about a demagogue in the Roman Republic circa 100BC who 'promised the vote to the rabble' -- therefore also called 'rabble-rouser' -- a demagogue is an unprincipled politician because he/she makes reckless populist promises that cannot be fulfilled, if only because the established social order will not allow it -- their actions are disruptive & don't help the public; the demagogue in that novel about ancient Rome was eliminated by the patricians -- good answer and I upvote! Jul 8, 2017 at 13:05
  • 1
    Wikipedia says & I quote:"A demagogue or rabble-rouser is a leader in a democracy who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation (...) Demagogues have appeared in democracies since ancient Athens.They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, it is possible for the people to give that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population." Source: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demagogue Jul 8, 2017 at 13:12

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