Nevertheless Watts sees the failure of the Republic as essentially a loss of legitimacy of its representative institutions. As Watts says:
There’s a pivotal period in Rome, around the middle part of the 2nd century BC, in which there’s an economic revolution that displaces a lot of people who had belonged to a hereditary aristocracy and moves them off the top economic rungs of the state.
At the same time, it’s creating economic conditions that prompt people in the middle to basically become very frustrated that their economic prospects are not increasing either. And what ends up happening is the people who win from this economic revolution try to preserve their gains through just about any means they can, and that includes gross political obstructionism, the rigging of elections, and a total unwillingness to compromise.
While the rise of economic inequality and the stagnation of working class incomes are clearly central to our present institutional crisis, it has important other dimensions that do not resemble the Roman case. Carlos Lozada in WaPo reviews some books by lapsed conservatives and a couple of them put it well.
Charles J. Sykes: "For me 2016 was a brutal, disorienting, disillusioning slog. There came a moment when I realized that conservatives had created an alternative reality bubble and that I had perhaps helped shape it . . . Did we — did I — contribute to this prairie fire of bigotry and xenophobia that seemed to grip so many on the Right? . . . For years, we ignored the birthers, the racists, the truthers, and other conspiracy theorists. We treated them like your obnoxious uncle at Thanksgiving . . . whose quirks could be indulged or at least ignored."
Max Boot: "Upon closer examination, it’s obvious that the whole history of modern conservatism is permeated with racism, extremism, conspiracy-mongering, ignorance, isolationism, and know-nothingism."
The essential problem of conservative politics is that the true goal of conservatism is to protect the privilege of the wealthy. In order to win elections, conservatives need to get people to vote against their own interest. And that is what the racism, conspiracy mongering and ignorance are all about. They take the place of Caesar's army, in other words. And so they must be defeated, or we will lose our republic.