Ted Cruz adopted Cicero’s First Oration against Catiline today on the Senate floor, replacing the conspirator Catiline’s name with President Obama’s to protest the latter’s plans to give effective legal status to millions of illegal immigrants:
However, Cruz’s decision seems like a troubling sign of panic from Republicans, likely to draw some backlash: I’m sure the senator knows Cicero, and knows that there are important differences between the president’s still-dangerous plans and the Catilinarian conspiracy.
First, Catiline had a substantial amount of popular support, from army veterans and indebted ordinary Romans (he did share with President Obama the support of some crucial plutocrats). Second, President Obama, having been democratically elected as executive, is trying to usurp the prerogatives of the legislature; Catiline and his conspirators were failed legislators themselves who were trying to overthrow the government in violent rebellion.
Lastly, while Cicero nobly held the republic together for a couple decades following the defeat of the Catilinarians, the Roman senate and system of government actually was on the verge of breakdown and in need of extraordinary measures by wise statesmen. They weren’t just having an extra-long debate about what constitutes a good new immigration policy. As I recall.