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How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book has received some good publicity recently, and because it sounded very interesting I ordered a copy for myself. I have enjoyed reading it very much and it has proven to be interesting and informative for several reasons.

First, it provides a fresh translation of the letter written in 64 BC to Marcus Tullius Cicero, then 42 years old, from his younger brother Quintus. This has previously been translated and published - for example, it was included in volume 462 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cicero: Letters to Quintus and Brutus. Letter Fragments. Letter to Octavian. Invectives. Handbook of Electioneering; D. Letters) where the title was stated as "The Handbook of Electioneering".

I don't posses any other translations of this particular work, but I can say that this translation by Freeman is enjoyable to read and puts the work into our current (American) English in a way that works very well (and when I compare it to the Loab translation mentioned previously, using Amazon's "Look Inside" feature, I strongly prefer Freeman's translation to the Loab interpretation). It reads like a contemporary letter from one brother to another, and avoids the kind of awkwardness that frequently results in translated works when the translator sometimes tries to make a more literal substitution of the grammar or usage of 2000 years ago. Freeman provides a glossary at the end of the book which further explains some of the terms that he has translated into a suitable modern equivalent.

Second, this edition includes an interesting introduction by Freeman, placing the letter into its context and outlining the circumstances of the time in which the letter was written. He explains that Cicero was at a significant disadvantage in attempting to run for high political office (Consul of Rome, said to be the highest office in the Roman Republic), because he was not of noble birth and therefore would likely be looked down upon in comparison to his rivals for the post. He was successful in his campaign largely because his opponents were recognized to be unsavory, and so some of the nobility of the time decided to support Cicero. And presumably he was also successful because of the advice given him by Quintus, which is reproduced in this book. The historical context is fascinating, a small snapshot into the goings-on of Rome in 64 BC.

Thirdly, and to the meat of the subject of the book, it provides guidelines for someone running for elective office that are remarkably applicable to our current world, leading to the obvious conclusion that "the more things change, the more they stay the same". Some of the recommendations are more-or-less obvious ("make sure you have the backing of your family and friends"; "surround yourself with the right people"; "build a wide base of support"), and some are likewise very familiar albeit cynical ("promise everything to everybody"; "know the weaknesses of your opponents - and exploit them"; "flatter voters shamelessly"). The book jacket gives top billing to a blurb attributed to Karl Rove, one of our modern day masters of such political machinations, if that happens to float your boat.

Fourthly, dare I suggest that readers of this book could actually be influenced to look further into the works of Cicero, who (according to the folks at Loeb) is one of the ancient Romans that is most well known to us today? And this might not be such a bad thing, if you do chose to investigate for yourself some of Cicero's other writings. The Loeb folks publish no less than 30 volumes of writings by Cicero by my count (see for example Cicero: De re Publica (On the Republic) , De Legibus (On the Laws)), and there are many other editions of his works published - by Oxford (i.e. The Republic and The Laws among others) and in other good editions. One of my other recent purchases (A Loeb Classical Library Reader) includes an excerpt from Cicero's writing "On Duties", the first sentence of which I will reproduce here:

"Well then, for a man to take something from his neighbour and to profit from his neighbour's loss is more contrary to Nature than is death or poverty or pain or anything else that can affect either our person or our property"

Surely such advice is just as valid today as it ever was!

In other words, this guy - Marcus Tullius Cicero - he might actually have things to say that we can learn from, even 2000 years later! Imagine that! (There are good reasons why the "classics" are called that, and why they remain in print and available still today. Shakespeare, anyone?).

Finally, for the thoughtful reader, this book may provoke some reflection on how our society (or dare I use the term "civilization"?), for all of the advancements that we have made in the past 2000 years, is still one where human relationships and interactions are fundamental. That is surely worth some contemplation.

So this guy, Philip Freeman, he has done a clever thing here, by taking an ancient Roman letter and presenting it in a way that will attract our attention and appeal to us in 2012. And in so doing maybe he is planting the seeds of an interest in classical writings that could flower in a few unsuspecting readers and have who-knows-what consequences? Bravo!

This is a modestly sized book, both physically (the size and jacket design are obviously chosen to look similar to the Loeb editions, although slightly larger), and in length (about 125 pages including introductory notes). I personally very much like the size of the book. It is very comfortable to hold and read and the printing is of high quality (with acid-free paper for longevity), published by the Princeton Press. It is an easy read, and very worthwhile in my opinion for all of the reasons given above.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
'How to Win an Election' was written in 64 B.C. by Cicero's brother. The intent was to advise Cicero on how conduct his campaign for Consul (highest elective office of the Roman Republic) of Rome. The advice given is amazingly consistent with the conduct of campaigns today, and even 'endorsed' by today's experts, Sen. Gary Hart (D) and Karl Rove (R).

The advice given includes promise everything to everybody, widen one's support base (eg. do favors for various groups), remind voters about your opponent's scandals (displaces attention from their positive aspects), constantly surround yourself with rabid supporters, and call in your chits from all those you've helped in the past. In addition, flatter the audience (includes recalling names and faces), give people hope, constantly campaign (don't take any days off and leave town). As for possibly over-promising and under-delivering, the advice was that fewer people would be upset by failure to deliver than offended by not making any promise to help in the first place.

Additional background: Voting was by secret ballot and in person, only. (No absentee ballots.) Before running for Consul, a candidate first had to be elected as a quaestor (supervised financial affairs), then as praetor (magistrate).

Seems there just isn't much in today's public affairs that wasn't done 2,000+ years ago!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I heard about this book on the PBS broadcast of the Bill Moyers show. I often wondered why candidates use such vile strategies to try and defeat their opponents. Nothing is safe. This book helped me to understand where it originated and why. I still don't like the way campaigns are run, but I now understand it. The old adage "nice guys never win"....I still ask, why not? I wish there were two ways to rate this. I rate it 5-stars because I did enjoy the book and I learned a great deal... Wish I could also rate it 1/2 star because the information and the way it is used often destroy people and families.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The Kindle edition is corrected with smooth links from the English text to the Latin text and back. Full disclosure: I represent the Publisher and am not commenting on the content. This is to reassure Kindle customers that the book displays properly on your device.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Honesty in politics is like chastity in prostitution; it may sound great in terms of moral conduct, but nobody's ever tried it because they know it's not what people want.

People go about their daily lives because they live one day at a time; they love politics for the same reason they love lotteries, both give them eternal hope of someday winning a truly tremendous jackpot. As Alexander Pope so neatly wrote, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast; man never is, but always to be blest."

"There are three things that will guarantee votes in an election," Cicero's younger brother advised Marcus, "favours, hope, and personal attachment."

Hope is the essence of every great society. People work hard to benefit their interests and create a better future for themselves and their children. Politicians who best promise hope for that better tomorrow will draw unlimited loyalty, support and effort from their followers even when they warn of the rigours they must sacrifice today to succeed tomorrow.

It is why Quintus Tullius Cicero emphasizes to Marcus that he must give voters hope of a better Rome. Even the most cynical need to believe in someone or something; it's after the election that politicians can cleverly explain why "the big rock candy mountain" is really nothing but a pile of gravel -- which voters themselves must shovel.

The minor weakness of this book is the lack of comment on how to "lose" an election; as happened to Sen. John McCain in 2008, when he carried the millstones of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin around his neck. It is worth noting Barack Obama did not "win" the 2008 election as much as Bush "lost" it for McCain -- who is a decent, honourable and capable public servant (usually).

But this book is not a post mortem analysis; it's a "How to" for successful campaigns, not a 'How did we ..." dirge for obituaries. It applies to every winning campaign. Before an election, everything is bright and hopeful and possible; likewise, before the lottery numbers are drawn, the dreams of riches are boundless and the promises of generosity include everyone.

It's why campaigns and lotteries are always such exhilarating exercises in optimism and trust. Quintus sums it up with eloquence, wisdom and a common sense that has not changed in thousands of years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 11, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This excellent little book is a "how to" for getting elected to local office. Yes, it was written 2,000 years ago and the office was Counsul of Rome in 64 BC, but the lessons are the same as one would use to describe successful campaigning today. (I say local, because travel time and distance meant that only citizens of the City of Rome voted and of course females, slaves and others classes were excluded. It really was a "press-the-flesh" campaign that needed to reach a manageable number of people for success).

The lessons are the same then and now because the subject is "how to get humans to vote for you", which translates into "how to work with human nature" This book is about how to make a connection, curry favor, get others to help you and how to avoid making people not want to support you.

Written by one brother to another who is questing election to Rome's highest office in the Republic period, the slim guide lays out its advice in a series of fifty or so numbered maxims. These are short paragraphs that speak to things to do and things not to do if you want to be a successful candidate. Each maxim contains a couple of sentences of explanation/rationale which makes this a superb guide because it not only advises, but convinces the reader of the credibility of the advice. Thus, we get instructions about making friends; about soliciting the opinions of those whose support you covet; about learning about your opponent's weaknesses and past and using that information to knock the opponent before undecided voters; that it is better to make promises and leave voters with hope and later disappoint them than to tell them "no" and disappoint them prior to an election; that being hopeful and building the hopes of voters is a winning strategy. These truisms are very cynical, but the reader needs to keep in mind the sole objective of the book is to instruct on the waging of successful political campaigns and not on statesmanship.

This is a quick read (an hour, hour-and-a-half or so) with the original Latin on one page and the translation on the facing page. The translator also provides a glossary and brief historical context that bridges the specifics of Rome 20 centuries ago for the modern reader. Any contemporary observer of politics will recognize the lessons and "how to's" contained in this ancient tract and how true they are for the most part in contemporary politics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Marcus Tullius Cicero (the Victorians called him "Tully") was best known to generations of Latin students as the essayist and orator most to be emulated, but he was also a very successful courtroom lawyer and politician -- at least until Mark Antony got into power after Caesar's assassination and had Marcus and his brother, Quintus, executed on trumped-up charges. Quintus was the practical one and acted as campaign manager when Marcus stood for the consulship in 64 BC, writing his brother letters filled with instructions and advice. Both the Cicero brothers were intelligent and highly educated but they lacked the noble birth that would have eased access to the highest levels of society, so Marcus had to appeal to the masses -- and Quintus understood just how to do that. "You must diligently cultivate relationships with . . . 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." That wouldn't be out of place in a smoke-filled room today. Quintus also noted that "running for office can be divided into two kinds of activity: securing the support of your friends and winning over the general public." Which applies equally to today's primary contest and general election system in the U.S. This is not a lengthy read, only a little over eighty pages, with the original Latin and a new, rather colloquial English rendition on facing pages. If you're a student of the language, it's a great text for study. If you're interested in political science and sociology, you'll find out just how little things have changed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
It's sad to know that with our modern knowledge and communications and capabilities we haven't progressed in our criteria for successful elections. What we learn from history is that we don't change.
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on April 5, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Not only because it's a half hour read. This book is great because it seems almost impossible that after more than 2,000 years, the text is still actual and current. Not only did Cicero (the author's brother) won the election he was after, he became one of the most famous political figures in ancient Rome.

The book, which is really a letter of 58 points that Quintus writes to his brother before his electoral campaign, is written in such a pragmatic and direct way, that the only way to describe it today would be "politically incorrect". Irony.
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on March 26, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Philip Freeman has done an excellent job translating the Latin to English so anyone with an eighth grade education can read and understand this pocket size book. The reader will find him/herself recognizing political maneuvers by modern day politicians. You will also want to read the companion book "How to Run a Country" by Marcus Tullius Cicero and translated by Philip Freeman.
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