I first came across this quote years ago when I ran race2004.net, an earlier version of this website. It stuck in my mind as witty and insughtful, and I've repeated it on multiple occasions over the years.
When it came time to build this website, the domain name race2012.com was taken by domain squatters. After considering a few other options, I purchased inademocracy.com and began creating this website. Knowing I would have to research the history of the quote, I sat down with Google and began searching for answers.
I was surprised to find that Winston Churchill never made this statement. Nor was this exact quote ever publicly used in any noteworthy fashion. What I did find was the quote, "People will always elect the government they deserve", commonly attributed to Alexis de Toqueville. Historians are uncertain that de Toqueville ever made that statement either, as his writing style was quite different.
What is confirmed is that Joseph de Maistre wrote in 1811 (published in 1851), "toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite". Translated, this means "every country has the government it deserves". As observers point out, it's entirely possible that de Toqueville quoted or paraphrased de Maistre in another context, although there is no evidence to support that.