In 64 BC, the great Roman lawyer and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero ran for consul, the highest office in the republic. Marcus was 42 years old, brilliant, and successful. But he was not a member of the nobility, and that would ordinarily have eliminated him from consideration. The other candidates that year were so unappetizing, however, that he had a chance of winning -- at least, thought his younger brother, Quintus, if Marcus could run a good campaign. At this time in Rome, any adult male citizen could cast a ballot, but voting was done in a complicated system of groups. The Commentariolum Petitionis, or "Little Handbook on Electioneering," purports to be a memo written by Quintus to Marcus telling him how to proceed.
To my brother Marcus,
Although you already have all the skills a man can possess through natural ability, experience, and hard work, because of the affection we have for one another I would like to share with you what I have been thinking about night and day concerning your upcoming campaign. . . .
It is crucial that you take stock of the many advantages you possess. . . . Few outsiders have the number and variety of supporters that you do. All those holding public contracts are on your side, as well as most of the business community. The Italian towns also support you. Don't forget about all the people you have successfully defended in court, clients from a wide variety of social backgrounds. And, of course, remember the special interest groups that back you. Finally, make good use of the young people who admire you and want to learn from you, in addition to all the faithful friends who are daily at your side.
Work to maintain the goodwill of these groups by giving them helpful advice and asking them for their counsel in return. Now is the time to call in all favors. Don't miss an opportunity to remind everyone in your debt that they should repay you with their support. For those who owe you nothing, let them know that their timely help will put you in their debt. And, of course, one thing that can greatly help an outsider is the backing of the nobility, particularly those who have served as consuls previously. It is essential that these men whose company you wish to join should think you worthy of them.
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. Tell them if you seem to be siding with the common people on any issue it is because you need to win the favor of Pompey [a popular general], so that he can use his great influence on your behalf or at least not against you. . . .
KEEP HOPE ALIVE
I want to talk about the details of how you should run your campaign. . . . To speak bluntly, since you are seeking the most important position in Rome and since you have so many potential enemies, you can't afford to make any mistakes. . . .
There are three things that will guarantee votes in an election: favors, hope, and personal attachment. You must work to give these incentives to the right people. You can win uncommitted voters to your side by doing them even small favors. So much more so all those you have greatly helped, who must be made to understand that if they don't support you now they will lose all public respect. But do go to them in person and let them know that if they back you in this election you will be in their debt.
As for those who you have inspired with hope -- a zealous and devoted group -- you must make them to believe that you will always be there to help them. Let them know that you are grateful for their loyalty and that you are keenly aware of and appreciate what each of them is doing for you.
The third class of supporters are those who show goodwill because of a personal attachment they believe they have made with you. Encourage this by adapting your message to fit the particular circumstances of each and showing abundant goodwill to them in return. Show them that the more they work for your election the closer your bond to them will be. For each of these three groups of supporters, decide how they can help you in your campaign and give attention to each accordingly, reckoning as well how much you can demand from them.
There are certain key men in every neighborhood and town who exercise power. . . . Be sure to distinguish these men from those who seem important but have no real power and in fact are often unpopular in their group. Recognizing the difference between the useful and useless men in any organization will save you from investing your time and resources with people who will be of little help to you. . . .
You should pay special attention to . . . businessmen and moderately wealthy citizens. Get to know the leading members of these groups, which shouldn't be difficult as they are not great in number. . . . 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. . . .
KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE, BUT YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER
You must have a wide variety of people around you on a daily basis. Voters will judge you on what sort of crowd you draw both in quality and numbers. The three types of followers are those who greet you at home, those who escort you down to the Forum, and those who accompany you wherever you go.
Since I have been writing so much on the subject of friendship, I think now is the time to sound a note of caution. Politics is full of deceit, treachery, and betrayal. . . . Your good nature has in the past led some men to feign friendship while they were in fact jealous of you, so remember the wise words of [the playwright] Epicharmus: "Don't trust people too easily."
Once you have figured out who your true friends are, give some thought to your enemies as well. There are three kinds of people who will stand against you: those you have harmed, those who dislike you for no good reason, and those who are close friends of your opponents. For those you have harmed by standing up for a friend against them, be gracious and apologetic, reminding them you were only defending someone you had strong ties to and that you would do the same for them if they were your friend. For those who don't like you without good cause, try to win them over by being kind to them or doing them a favor or by showing concern for them. As for the last group who are friends of your rivals, you can use the same techniques, proving your benevolence even to those who are your enemies. . . .
PROMISE THEM ANYTHING
Impressing the voters at large . . . is done by knowing who people are, being personable and generous, promoting yourself, being available, and never giving up. . . . Nothing impresses an average voter more than having a candidate remember him, so work every day to recall names and faces. Now, my brother, you have many wonderful qualities, but those you lack you must acquire and it must appear as if you were born with them. You have excellent manners and are always courteous, but you can be rather stiff at times. You desperately need to learn the art of flattery -- a disgraceful thing in normal life but essential when you are running for office. If you use flattery to corrupt a man there is no excuse for it, but if you apply ingratiation as a way to make political friends, it is acceptable. For a candidate must be a chameleon, adapting to each person he meets, changing his expression and speech as necessary.
Finally, as regards the Roman masses, be sure to put on a good show. Dignified, yes, but full of the color and spectacle that appeals so much to crowds. It also wouldn't hurt to remind them of what scoundrels your opponents are and to smear these men at every opportunity with the crimes, sexual scandals, and corruption they have brought on themselves.
The most important part of your campaign is to bring hope to people and a feeling of goodwill toward you. On the other hand, you should not make specific pledges either to the Senate or the people. Stick to vague generalities. Tell the Senate you will maintain its traditional power and privileges. Let the business community and wealthy citizens know that you are for stability and peace. Assure the common people that you have always been on their side, both in your speeches and in your defense of their interests in court. . . .
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