Roman election gaffes
In the wake of Bigot-gate, you will be expecting me to come out with some old Roman versions of politicians putting their feet in it.
My favourite, I mentioned a few months ago (re the Nicholas Winterton gaffe). It's the one about Scipio Nasica who was standing for the Aedileship in the very late third or early second century BC, and canvassing eagerly and shaking the hands of potential voters. He shook the hand of a peasant farmer, which was very horny. "What" said the toff, "do you walk on these".
It was taken as an insult to the honest Roman peasant and he lost the election.
That one comes from Valerius Maximus' book of Memorable Deeds and Sayings -- a collection of Republican anecdotes (compiled in the first century AD, perhaps to be a handy compendium for orators looking for an appropriate story).
It comes from his section "On electoral defeats" (Book VII, 5).
And there are others.
They are not quite as good I am afraid. Though I do like the one about Quintus Fabius Maximus who was giving a feast to the people -- both in honour of his uncle AND as part of his campaign (bribery of this sort being OK, even de rigeur, in Rome). It was all done in aggressively simple style, "Punic couches with goatskins on them, and pottery plates not silver". It was a miscalculation. The generosity rebounded and he lost. For although everyone approved of private frugality, they didn't think it appropriate for a public banquet and "took revenge by their votes".
Most of the other defeats that Valerius Maximus trots out are terribly unjust defeats delivered by an ignorant electorate. Most sick-making of all is the account of Marcus Porcius Cato losing his election to the praetorship as the Republic tottered to its close. He was beaten by a man who Valerius Maximus thought a much inferior candidate, the thug Vatinius...(there were presumably other views). "It was not so much that the Praetorship was denied to Cato, but Cato to the Praetorship". (Pass the bucket.)
I wonder if anyone knows any better gaffes.