When Roman senators faced difficulty with Julius Caesar, who had expanded Rome’s territories and crushed enemies at home, thereby becoming perpetual dictator of the Roman Republic, many senators conspired to restore republican rule by assassinating Caesar. Statesman and orator Marcus Tullus Cicero condemned the conspiracy as unnecessary: since Julius Caesar might not return from his next military campaign in the Middle East, the Senate needed only to wait and let him die abroad. In addition, Cicero noted the conspirators were politically naive: only after killing Caesar did they realize the Roman public did not support them.
Of course, some conspirators imagined themselves as defending freedom and republican ideals; in reality, though, they sought to preserve a political system benefiting themselves and their power-laden, aristocratic families. In our own time the so-called establishment and the “Never Trump” movement seek to defend the true Republican Party ideals, but the average GOP voter sees them as Roman citizens saw their senators—elites looking out for themselves and a select few.
In ancient Rome, Julius Caesar implemented reforms aiding the lower classes, recognizing that economic benefits mattered more to the masses than nostalgia for Rome’s republican past. After his assassination, the public perceived the Senate’s conspirators not as liberators, but as destroyers. They soon accepted a new emperor, forever turning their backs on republicanism. A misguided and ignorant attempt to stop authoritarian rule actually accelerated its arrival.