Candidates compete to portray themselves as the country's best choice, while voters are concerned about the economy, fearful about matters in the Middle East, and angry toward inept elected officials.
The year was 64 BC.
And Marcus Tullius Cicero was running for Roman Consul---the highest political office in the Roman Empire.
His challenges and the advice he received from his brother mirror 2016 AD in America.
Yesterday, 4 more states voted in their primary elections, and today, highly paid pundits and political consultants are telling America "what it all means." And at least half of them are wrong.
Cicero was a political outsider from a small town near Rome, but he was a brilliant man and gifted speaker, with a burning desire to be elected to the highest office in the land.
I sometimes quote Cicero in this daily article.
For example, it was Cicero who defined the enemy within---Abraham Lincoln would loosely quote him years later.
"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”
However, it was his brother, Quintus, a man who helped Julius Caesar conquer Gaul, who wrote the "winning political strategy" for his brother Cicero.
Dr. Philip Freeman, professor of classics at Luther College, translated the all-but-forgotten handwritten message from Latin to English and published it in a booklet in 2012.
It is helpful to take a look back at 64 BC as we look ahead to November 2016 AD.
This is a summary of the so-called "winning political strategy" according to the brother/adviser:
1. Promise everything to everyone. Quintus says that the best way to win voters is to tell them what they want to hear: "Remember Cotta, that master of campaigning, who said he would promise anything, unless some clear obligation prevented him, but only lived up to those promises that benefited him." As Quintus says, people will be much angrier with a candidate who refuses to make promises than with one who, once elected, breaks them.
2. Call in all favors. If you have helped friends or associates in the past, let them know that it's payback time: "Make it clear to each one under obligation to you exactly what you expect from him. Remind them all that you have never asked anything of them before, but now is the time to make good on what they owe you." If someone isn't in your debt, remind him that if elected, you can reward him later, but only if he backs you now.
3. Know your opponent's weaknesses—and exploit them. Quintus practically invented opposition research: "Consider Antonius, who once had his property confiscated for debt…then after he was elected as praetor, he disgraced himself by going down to the market and buying a girl to be his sex slave." A winning candidate calmly assesses his opponent and then focuses relentlessly on his weaknesses, all the while trying to distract voters from his strengths.
4. Flatter voters shamelessly. Quintus warns his brother: "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." A candidate must make voters believe that he thinks they're important. Shake their hands, look them in the eye, listen to their problems.
5. Give people hope. Even the most cynical voter wants to believe in someone: "The most important part of your campaign is to bring hope to people and a feeling of goodwill toward you." Voters who are persuaded that you can make their world better will be your most devoted followers—at least until after the election, when you will inevitably let them down.
Marcus won the election with more votes than any other candidate, went on to save the Republic from a conspiracy, and was eventually given the honorary title, "Father of his County."
Unfortunately for him, he later became at odds with Mark Antony and was murdered in 43 BC.
As we thrust ourselves into the course of human events that will ultimately prove to be at least a watershed election and at most a historical fork in the road from which, if America errors, there could be no return, we must embrace a better way.
Originally written in Hebrew by someone much wiser than Cicero's brother, this winning strategy has been translated to English for each of us to understand and apply in 2016:
It's a message from God through Solomon on the ultimate winning strategy--
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5)
Trust. Don't Lean. Acknowledge Him. He will direct. Vote. Win. Leave the consequences to God.
Be Wise. Be Faithful. Be At Peace---God is in control.