Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Cicero's Advice for Election-Losers

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Cicero's Advice for Election-Losers

Article excerpt

The great Robert Harris has defended the pollsters who got the elections so wrong by quoting Cicero on the electorate's fickleness. Cicero certainly acknowledged the problem when he was defending one Gnaeus Plancius in 54 bc, but made a rather different point.

Plancius had been accused of rigging his election to the position of aedile (a sort of joint mayor of Rome) by his rival for the post, Laterensis. But Cicero had a problem: Laterensis was a friend. Since Cicero could therefore not lay into him, he began by arguing that electoral rejection could happen to anyone in Rome: 'For in elections the people do not always demonstrate sound judgment. They are regularly influenced by self-interest and swayed by entreaties, and elect those by whom they have been most persistently courted. But even if they do demonstrate judgement, it is not as a result of any balanced wisdom, but usually impulse and a spirit of recklessness. For the common people are strangers to deliberation, reason, discrimination and attentiveness. …

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