Politics is a common theme in The Simpsons, and this phenomenon has had some crossover with real American politics. Some U.S. conservatives have voiced opposition to the show. Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush has even said that the U.S. needs to be closer to The Waltons than to The Simpsons. If the show has a liberal slant, this was joked about in the episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular," in which reference was made to "hundreds of radical right-wing messages inserted into every show by creator Matt Groening." More recently, however, at least one conservative has adopted character Groundskeeper Willie's derisive term for the French, "cheese-eating surrender monkeys".
In the DVD commentaries, creator Matt Groening and the majority of people who work on the show state several times that they are very liberal, but some, such as John Swartzwelder (the writer of the most episodes), are conservative.
Political topics addressed on The Simpsons include gay marriage (in the episode "There's Something About Marrying"), gun rights ("The Cartridge Family"), evolution vs. creationism ("The Monkey Suit"), and election campaigns ("Sideshow Bob Roberts," "Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington").
Election campaigns and corruption
Several episodes seemingly critique how election campaigns are run. For example, in his campaign for governor, Mr. Burns blatantly lies about a three-eyed fish, portraying a mutation resulting from poor safety standards at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant as a natural phenomenon. In "Sideshow Bob Roberts", Sideshow Bob runs a negative campaign against Mayor Quimby, and eventually Bob rigs the election (although the fact that Homer and Krusty were shown to vote for Bob over Quimby implied that Bob would have won anyways even if he didn't rig it). The episode "Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington" also sees Republican nominee Krusty winning an election partly through conservative bias in FOX broadcasting, specifically Fox News Channel, with the presenter referring to John Armstrong, his Democratic opponent as 'our red friend', with devil horns while anti-Democratic slurs scroll along the news ticker such as "Do Democrats cause cancer?", "Dan Quayle: Awesome" and "Hillary Clinton" embarrasses self, nation".
In the episode "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington," Lisa Simpson witnesses her representative, Congressman Bob Arnold, receive a bribe, and subsequently her patriotism is severely damaged. However, the show goes on to depict his downfall with his removal from Congress, and Lisa's confidence in the system is restored.
In "See Homer Run", Mayor Quimby faces corruption charges and accidentally quotes the town charter, which allows for recall elections. Over two hundred people run (in a parody of the 2003 California Recall), including Rainier Wolfcastle (also spoofing Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won the recall election) and even Homer. Homer is initially a sure-win candidate, but at a debate, his Safety Salamander costume, which is the reason for his popularity, tears apart. In the end, no one receives the five percent needed to unseat Quimby, leaving him as mayor of Springfield.
Occasionally, complaints about over-taxation can be seen in The Simpsons, such as in "The Trouble with Trillions," in which Mr. Burns, Homer, and Smithers actually leave the US, claiming it was due to its taxes. However, Burns was also wanted by the FBI for "grand grand grand grand larceny", and this was likely the real reason for their flight.
Judges have been seen to perform acts that are in some way illegal; in "The Boy Who Knew Too Much", the judge re-opens an already finished prosecution case on the basis that she "Can't say no to children", and Judge Snyder admits to "wildly exceeding his judicial authority" when banning all sugar from Springfield in "Sweets and Sour Marge." He has also been known to declare legal mandates even when a trial isn't in session, often of an unconstitutional nature, such as, in "The Principal and the Pauper," requiring everyone in Springfield to act as though the events of the episode never happened "under penalty of torture."
A debate on government funding of education can be seen in "The PTA Disbands". Edna Krabappel claims that the demands of the teachers are reasonable, asking simply for better supplies and a modest cost of living wage increase. Principal Seymour Skinner replies that the school is on a very tight budget as it is, pointing out that there's no more money in the school's budget even after the cutbacks he has made, since the school's funding has been cut yet again. Mrs. Krabappel is urging parents to support the teachers in their strike to better their children's futures, while Principal Skinner claims that to pay what the teachers are asking, they would be forced to raise taxes. The audience at the PTA meeting is left debating over whether the education system is worth greater investment through taxation.
The episode "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment" can be seen as a statement against Prohibition, as a Prohibition scheme fails in the episode, and an officer charged with enforcing the law is catapulted out of town.
While "The Cartridge Family" clearly mocks irresponsibility with firearms hiding behind the Second Amendment. Krusty is seen making a speech about how guns are valuable if handled responsibly ("Guns aren't toys. They're for family protection, hunting dangerous or delicious animals and keeping the king of England out of your face.").
The episode "Bart-Mangled Banner" relates to concerns about the USA PATRIOT Act and free-speech. In the episode the Simpson family is sent to a "re-education center" for defaming the USA, almost completely by accident. There they meet Bill Clinton who had been sent to the center for criticizing tax cuts. The family eventually escapes to France before returning to the US as immigrants.
Although technically a critique against the Star Wars prequel trilogy rather than of politics directly, some of the critiques for the in-universe film Cosmic Wars: The Gathering Shadow in the episode "Co-Dependent's Day" dealt with the over-focus on politics in the film, with Bart saying "Amendments?! Regulatory agencies?! What the Fark-bot?!" when seeing the opening scroll for the film and Lisa complaining "I can't believe The Gathering Shadow was all about senate redistricting!" when the film ended, as well as a gag humorously implying that most of the film's content (implied to consist of several hours) dealt with the galactic senator doing a role call of the senate, as well as a AT-AT requesting a tack on to a Space Bill.
A satire on collective bargaining is presented in the episode "Last Exit to Springfield". The episode makes reference to union corruption, when Homer is told corruption is the only way he can be financially rewarded as union leader. In fact, the previous, now-deceased union leader who promised to clean up its corruption is not missed by anyone, found buried in a football field, even as union member Carl Carlson knowingly jokes about his disappearance, hoping that he'll "turn up alive and well". Furthermore, Homer considers union ties to organized crime a job perk. However, the episode also depicts the union as effectively saving the company dental plan through strike action. Nevertheless, in "The PTA Disbands," Homer later speaks out against striking and instead advocates sloth in the workplace.
The Simpsons has also covered immigration controversies in the episode "Much Apu About Nothing. Amidst concern over high taxes, Mayor Quimby blames illegal immigrants, using them as a convenient scapegoat. Homer goes along with the anti-immigrant buzz, until realizing that his friend Apu would be deported if the policy came in. He finally gives a strong liberal speech about the benefits of immigrants. In the 2009 season finale, Coming to Homerica, the town of Springfield is forced to deal with a crash in neighboring Ogdenville's economy thanks to tainted barley crops. The Ogdenvilleians go to Springfield where their cheap labor is welcomed by the lazy inhabitants of Springfield. Eventually the townspeople get sick of the changes, for example, overcrowded hospitals with foreign medical sheets. This leads to the police patrolling the border which allows even more immigrants. Next private citizens go out to the border with their guns but this still does not work. Mayor Quimby and the town decide to build a wall to keep them out, and naturally the wall is built by Ogdenvilleians since they have cheap labor. The episode ends happily, but this is a clear parody of the situation with Mexican immigrants into America.
The end of "The Day the Earth Looked Stupid" in "Treehouse of Horror XVII" has Kang and Kodos invading earth after the infamous fake invasion told on the radio by Orson Welles in 1938. The segment ends with Kang and Kodos overlooking the occupation of Springfield and getting into an argument over the merits of the occupation; they weren't greeted as liberators as they rid Earth's weapons of mass disintegration during "Operation Enduring Occupation", references to weapons of mass destruction and Operation Enduring Freedom.