Log In

Reset Password

Cicero on politics: ‘Soon now cycle will begin to turn’

America is poised in 2024 to stain the history of the democratic republic our ancestors made considerable sacrifices to create.

Both of our august political parties are promoting the candidacy of a single populist tyrant who has the autocratic and criminal credentials to compete with the worst dictators of ancient Greece and Rome. Donal Trump wants Trump on the ballot, and Joe Biden wants Trump on the ballot because he believes he can beat a soon-to-be-convicted felon in November.

Both are more interested in personal power than in constitutional sanity and are willing to risk all of America’s vaunted freedoms to get it.

Athens and Rome both fell into the same deep pit more than once when their people were too busy entertaining themselves with sports and theater to attend to the histories of their own lands.

Other great democracies like ancient Israel and Anglo-Saxon England suffered from the same lapses in memory as well.

In democratic Greece, the people suffered unconscionably under the harsh dictatorship of Pisistratus. In democratic Rome, the people suffered from the despotisms of Tarquin and Sulla. They learned from the first, but unfortunately not from the second.

In Israel, the people of Moses embraced Abimelech, then later Saul, and finally Manasseh, each of them usurpers and killers. In England, the proud Anglo-Saxons stumbled badly in the time of Edward II, who was impeached, and King John, whose horrible reign inspired the Magna Charta.

Cicero, the great defender of the 500-year-old Roman democracy, saw it slipping away from the people into the hands of a tyrant emperor in his own day and used the example of Rome’s early tyrants to frame his warning to future democracies.

He wrote: “Soon now the cycle will begin to turn. You should become familiar from the start with its natural movement and circuit; for it is the crowning achievement of political wisdom to divine the course of public affairs, with all its twists and turns. Then, when you know what direction things are taking, you can hold them back or else be ready to meet them.” (The Republic, Book Two)

Is America ready to hold itself back from falling into the pit of despotism? Is America ready to meet our electoral challenge in 2024? Are we willing to make obvious and clearly needed legal interpretations or reforms to prevent the possibility of a felon, fraudster and sexual predator from occupying the White House?

Are we willing to prevent the recurrence of the Trump phenomenon again in the America of 2040 or 2060 by returning civics and history instruction to our schools and colleges today?

We must have clear laws prohibiting criminals from running for office and serving in offices of public trust in America. There are enough law-abiding folks to fill out our ballot sheets in a nation of 335 million citizens, without allowing those who hate the law to lead the rest of us down the dark path to mayhem and monarchy.

At any rate, what unrepentant criminal felon can be trusted to “preserve, protect and defend” the laws of the land?

Robert Kimball Shinkoskey is the author of books and editorials on democracy, religion and the American presidency, and lives in Woods Cross, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City.