How to run a campaign

Commentariolum Petitionis
by Quintus Tullius

In 63 B.C. the renowned Roman orator Cicero was about to launch a campaign for a position as consul of Rome.  His brother Quintus Tullius sent him the following good advice in the letter printed below (excerpts from the Latin original - my translation):

"When seeking a public position you must work in two directions: one is to ensure the support of your friends, the other is public benevolence.  Support from your friends should be obtained through favors they owe you from previous dealings, and don’t forget to count among your “friends” everybody who ever visited you in your home.
   See to it that you make friends with and have support from people from all strata of society.

RE support
Make sure you show that you remember the names of your friends, flatter them, be persistent, friendly, and above all instill the belief that you can be trusted to handle the affairs of the state.

First, let every individual feel that you remember him…
Nothing seems to be more popular or appreciated.

Next, you must pretend that you possess God-given gifts that you don’t have.
Even if your innate character is stronger than your pretense, it seems as if pretending may actually change your nature in the course of a campaign.

Flattery is most appropriate, and the candidate must change his air and his statements in accordance with the opinions of the people he meets.

Generosity is very important.  Of course you can’t extend it to everybody, but if your friends are made aware of it and praise it, it may create sympathy among the people.  Don’t forget to throw parties to which you invite influential friends.

Last, but not least: see to it that your whole campaign is magnificent, glorious, with appeal to the people, and that is it stylish and dignified.  Slander your opponents as often as possible, reckon their crimes, their sexual depravity, or their attempts to bribe other candidates – all according to the character of the individual opponent."

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Doesn’t all of the above show that today’s politicians must have read this letter on campaigning?  Or that somebody who did, told them about it?  Will there ever be anything new under the sun?

March 2000
Erik Moldrup