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The key to understanding the implosion of US conservatism 

The Trump years exposed the split between ideological and instrumental Republicans. We are now witnessing the consequences   

By Karthik Ramanna  

Image: GrandeDuc / Alamy Stock Photo

On the face of it, US senators such as Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse should be leading the Republican Party through this moment of reckoning. They have impeccable conservative pedigree and have taken a principled stance against Donald Trump’s opportunism. Instead, Romney has been marginalised, and Sasse is facing censure in his home state of Nebraska. 

Why are elite Republicans—those who burnish longstanding establishment credentials—finding it so difficult to keep control of their party? Because they tend to be ideological conservatives, while the Republican rank-and-file tend to be instrumental conservatives. It is this dichotomy that explains, in large measure,…

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