Cicero’s Advice To The Candidates

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 10 2012 @ 7:39am

Phillip Freeman recently translated How to Win an Election, Cicero's advice to his brother Marcus, who ran for consul in 64 BC, the highest office in the Roman republic. Carol Herman highlights how little has changed:

[Quintus Tullius Cicero's] advice is blunt and to the point. A few of the choicer observations, highlighted by Mr. Freeman in his introduction are: "Make sure you have the backing of your family and friends." "Surround yourself with the right people." "Call in all favors." "Build a wide base of support." "Promise everything to everybody." "Communication skills are key." "Don’t leave town." "Know the weaknesses of your opponents — and exploit them." "Flatter voters shamelessly." "Give people hope.”

Scott McLemee thinks the advice – essentially "schmooze, smear, and make lots of promises" you won't keep – should be obvious to anyone in politics:

Somebody who doesn’t already have an instinctive understanding of the points it makes won’t last long enough to become candidate for city council, much less president. No, its appeal is for the electorate, as a reminder of what we’re up against. Politicians may come and go, and campaigns ebb and flow — but election-year cynicism is forever.

Update from a reader:

The headline of this article is arguably misleading, as the letter was written by Quintus Tullius Cicero, while "Cicero" by itself tends to refer to Marcus Tullius Cicero, who is by far the better known of the brothers.