Here's a real gem from the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs: "Campaign Tips From Cicero: The Art of Politics, From the Tiber to the Potomac." The article is in two parts. The first is an excerpt from the Commentariolum Petitionis, or "Little Book of Electioneering," a memo full of campaign advice (probably) written by Quintus Tullius Cicero for his famous older brother Marcus on the occasion of his run for Consul in 64 B.C. (A new translation has just been published by the classicist Phillip Freeman.) The second part is a commentary by the political strategist James Carville, who notes -- mournfully, guiltily, gleefully -- that Cicero's advice is completely relevant today.
Some choice bits, about going negative early:
[One] factor that can help you as an outsider is the poor quality of those men of the nobility who are competing against you.... Who would believe that men as pathetic as Publius Galba and Loucius Cassius would run for the highest office in the land, even though they come from the best families?.... But, you might say, what about the other candidates, Antonius and Catiline?.... You should be grateful to run against men like those two.... Remember how [Antonius] was expelled from the Senate after a careful examination by the censors?.... After he was elected... he disgraced himself by going down to the market and openly buying a girl to keep at home as his sex slave.
As for Catiline, [he] was born into a poor family, brought up in debauchery with his own sister, [and] even murdered his own brother-in-law, a kindly old fellow and good Roman businessman who cared nothing for politics.... Catiline afterward was a friend of actors -- can you imagine? -- and gladiators.
About courting the elite:
You must diligently cultivate relationships with these men of privilege. Both you and your friends should work to convince them that you have always been a traditionalist. Never let them think you are a populist.
About developing the common touch:
You have excellent manners and are always courteous, but you can be rather stiff at times.... Keep the doors of your house open, of course, but also open your face and expression, for these are the windows to the soul. If you look closed and distracted when people talk with you, it won't matter that your front gates are never locked.
About cultivating the youth vote:
It will also help your campaign tremendously to have the enthusiasm and energy of young people on your side to canvass voters, gain supporters, spread news, and make you look good.
And, best of all, on why you should make outrageous promises:
If you break a promise, the outcome is uncertain and the number of people affected is small. Most of those who ask for your help will never actually need it. Thus it is better to have a few people in the Forum disappointed when you let them down than have a mob outside your home when you refuse to promise them what you want.
It was probably easier to win, Carville writes, back when your opponent was "a murderer, child molester, and 'friend of actors'" -- but, in almost every other respect, this advice is just as germane today as it was back then. It's incredible that politics works, despite everything. There's much, much more at Foreign Affairs, although the article is for subscribers only. (Subscribe -- it's worth it!)
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