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Some of Quintus’ advice is as follows:

Promise everything to everybody. Except in the most extreme cases, candidates should say whatever the particular crowd of the day wants to hear. Tell conservatives you have always supported traditional values. Tell progressives you have consistently been on their side. The current crop of Republican candidates, especially Mitt Romney, knows this lesson well. In states such as Iowa and South Carolina, you must tailor your message to social conservatives. In New Hampshire and Florida, emphasize fiscal responsibility. But what do you do after the election and voters expect you to follow through on your promises? Quintus has an answer for that too — explain to all sides that circumstances beyond your control have intervened.

Build a wide base of support. Quintus Cicero urges his brother as an outsider in the political game to win over the various special-interest groups, local organizations and rural populations ignored by other candidates. He also stresses the importance of harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of young people, as Ron Paul has done effectively in the primaries.

Don’t leave town. In the days of the Cicero brothers, this meant sticking close to Rome, the center of all political activity. For modern politicians, it means being on the ground pressing the flesh wherever the key voters are at the moment. There is no such thing as a day off for a serious candidate. Quintus would have told Newt Gingrich to take his wife on a cruise to the Greek isles after the election.

Know the weaknesses of your opponents — and exploit them. Quintus says every candidate should do an honest inventory of both the vulnerabilities and strengths of their rivals. Today, political consultants call it opposition research. Winning candidates do their best to distract voters from any positive aspects their opponents possess by emphasizing the negatives (Quintus would have loved television ads). Rumors of corruption are prime fodder. Sexual scandals are even better. Remember Herman Cain?

Give people hope. No one has applied this advice better than President Obama in the last election. As bitter as political contests are, even the most cynical voters want to believe in someone. Quintus says that if you give people a sense that you can make their world better, they will become your most devoted followers — at least until after the election, when you will inevitably let them down. But by then it won’t matter because you will have already won.

And who won the election of 64 BC? Marcus Cicero by a landslide.

    -Friends, Romans, voters (Philip Freeman, JAN. 26, 2012, LA Times)
“If you break a promise,” Quintus Cicero explains, “the outcome is uncertain and the number of people affected is small. But if you refuse to make a promise, the result is certain and produces anger in a large number of voters.” Besides, once elected, time is on the candidate’s side: “Events are always happening that you didn’t expect or not happening that you did expect. Broken promises are often lost in a cloud of changing circumstances so that anger against you will be minimal.” Perhaps after two thousand years of electioneering we can agree that it is not a matter of our politicians being cynical or hypocritical but that the demands we place on them require certain behaviors that are contrary to democratic idealism. Reading this letter of advice from Cicero's younger brother on the occasion of his running for the consulship will certainly disabuse one of the notion that our times have produced a uniquely morally ambivalent set of candidates. Translator Philip Freeman's essay above, adapted from his Introduction, gives a nice flavor of the modern tone he gives this ancient text.

It may not have actually been written by Quintus Tullius Cicero and the rendering may not be literal--both of which Mr. Freeman concedes--but it is a delight to read. It is fresh, funny and familiar. Most of all, it allows the reader to see that for all the differences between the Roman Republic and the American, there are some ways in which electorates never change. Ultimately, we get the politics we want. Supply meets demand.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

Quintus Cicero Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Quintus Tullius Cicero
    -ENTRY: Quintus Cicero (Oxford Reference)
    -ENTRY: Cicero, Quintus Tullius (
    -ESSAY: Quintus Tullius Cicero: A monograph on his life and work (Mamoojee, A. H., 1977, uOttawa)
    -ESSAY: On Quintus Tullius Cicero’s Commentariolum petitionis (Tamás Nótári, March 2010, Acta Juridica Hungarica)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Mary Beard, NY Review of Books)
    -VIDEO REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (reading for Wisdom)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (The Week)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Brian Bethune, Macleans)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Steven Levington, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Peter Stothard,, Wall Street Journal)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Carol Herman, Washington Times)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Ashish Mehta, Governance Now)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (James Carville, Foreign Affairs)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (John McDonald)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Dr Gwynaeth McIntyre, Newsroom)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Scott Mclemee, Inside Higher Ed)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election by Cicero, translated by Philip Freeman (Dave Weigel, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election by Cicero, translated by Philip Freeman (Peter Monaghan, The Chronicle Review)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Alexander Adams)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Garry Wills, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (The Week)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Brett Evasns, Inside Story)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (Eamonn Fitzgerald)
    -REVIEW: of How to win an Election (John Von Heyking, C2C Journal)
    -REVIEW: of How to Win an Election (I Chadwick, The Municipal Machiavelli)

Book-related and General Links: