At home, the Republic similarly experienced a long streak of social and political crises, which ended in several violent civil wars. At first, the Conflict of the Orders opposed the patricians, the closed oligarchic elite, to the far more numerous plebs, who finally achieved political equality in several steps during the 4th century BC. Later, the vast conquests of the Republic disrupted its society, as the immense influx of slaves they brought enriched the aristocracy, but ruined the peasantry and urban workers. In order to address this issue, several social reformers, known as the Populares, tried to pass agrarian laws, but the Gracchi brothers, Saturninus, and Clodius Pulcher were all murdered by their opponents, the Optimates, keepers of the traditional aristocratic order. Mass slavery also caused three Servile Wars; the last of them was led by Spartacus, a skillful gladiator who ravaged Italy and left Rome powerless until his defeat in 71 BC. In this context, the last decades of the Republic were marked by the rise of great generals, who exploited their military conquests and the factional situation in Rome to gain control of the political system. Marius (between 105 and 86 BC), then Sulla (between 82 and 78 BC) dominated in turn the Republic; both used extraordinary powers to purge their opponents.
The Bush family is quite possibly the ideal political dynasty for an angrily populist age. The one aristocratic trait the Bushes sometimes exhibit, a kind of all-purpose cluelessness, contrasts pleasingly with the Snopes-like single-mindedness of so many twenty-first-century politicians: the Clintons (with their air of arriviste entitlement), the Pauls (pere and fils burning alike with libertarian passions), Chris Christie (blustering self-aggrandizement). We got a fresh taste of the peculiar Bush antimagic last December, when Jeb Bush announced he will "actively explore the possibility" of running for president in 2016, gingerly picking up the torch his father and older brother each fumblingly cradled all the way to the Oval Office. Though bland and bromidic, Jeb's statement worried conservatives. Rush Limbaugh warned of a fresh assault by the GOP "donor class" on salt-of-the-earth, "hayseed, hick pro-lifers," while the policy analyst Henry Olsen cautioned in National Review that "a business-oriented Republican who seems to value bosses over workers" would antagonize the GOP base. They had a point. The Bushes do indeed have deep ancestral roots on Wall Street, which ceased to be a site of social conservatism sometime during the reign of the Baptist teetotaler John D. Rockefeller, "a money grubber plus a theologian," as H. L. Mencken once described him. But Bush-style conservatism isn't only about upholding the plutocracy. It's about money as a lubricator of "free enterprise" in the varied forms Bushes themselves have pursued through the generations: banking, oil, real estate, baseball team owning. As this history has enriched the family, it has also broadened its political reach. Among the current field of presidential aspirants only Jeb Bush has enduring ties to campaign pros in Texas and Florida--both electoral gold mines, both part of the giant Bush domain--and at the same time can count on family friends to organize a fund-raiser in Greenwich, Connecticut. 2b1af7f3a8