In ancient Rome, a political pamphlet, purportedly penned by Cicero's little brother Quintus, made the rounds. In this booklet, little Cicero - or whoever wrote it, whether in the Republican or imperial period - supposedly gave his big bro advice on how to win an election, recommending he leave his conscience at the door to bring home the senatorial bacon. Here are three tips "How to Win an Election" provides that are still relevant to today's presidential candidates:
1. Call in every favor you have to get the votes you need: Quintus comments that, unlike most homines novi (new men, or politicians who aren't from aristocratic and politically prominent families), Cicero has a lot of supporters. It's so rare, Quintus says, to have publicani (state- contracted employees), people from small towns, almost all of the equestrian class, guilds, and others behind him. But Cicero must use this good favor and "retain these advantages by reminding these persons, by appealing to them," and get "those who are in your debt to show [sic] their gratitude" by voting him into office. He's got to send people to them and get their votes for certain.
2. Play up your opponents' moral failings: Cicero had a distinct advantage: although he wasn't noble, he didn't have the problematic pasts of many of his aristocratic colleagues. Quintus tells him that "there are men of the noblest families, who from defect of ability are not your equals." To bring down his other opponents, Cicero should emphasize all the bad things they've done: both Catiline and Antonius Hybrida had "both from their boyhood stained with blood and lust, both of ruined fortunes." Quintus advises him to bring up Hybrida's slave mistress and how he took money from innkeepers. For Catiline, Cicero should focus on Catiline's bloodthirstiness.
The Oath of Catiline by Joseph-Marie Vien/Wikimedia Commons.
3. Reach out to people from every class: Sure, you may have some good friends, but you can't just rely on them alone. Go out and canvass, talking to everyone you can. "You must secure friends of every class," says Quintus. That included pretty boys without substance who could bring good PR; judges of every stripe; and anyone who could bear any influence in the future on the complicated saga of Roman voting.
Feature image via Cesare Maccari/Wikimedia Commons.