From 2000 to 2008, I was politically homeless. As a conservative, I would’ve liked to have been a part of the Republican Party, but there was simply no conservatism in the GOP at that time.

It was the Republican Party of Bush and Cheney. It was the party of war, torture, and executive orders. It was anti-Constitution and anti-civil liberties. Sadly, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan were nowhere to be found. No Child Left Behind and Medicare Plan D were front and center. The traditional conservatism of the Founding Fathers, Robert Taft, and Russell Kirk didn’t exist beyond my bookshelf. And the world police and nation-building policies of Woodrow Wilson and the New Deal socialism of Franklin Roosevelt had become “conservative.” For constitutionalists and limited-government advocates, it sucked. Bad.

Now that the big government-loving Barack Obama leads the new party of war, torture, and executive orders — the Democrats — and has even one-upped Bush with an even more anti-Constitutional and anti-civil liberties agenda, it has become a time of reflection for conservatives. It has also become a time to reject what they considered “conservative” just a few short years ago.

Last week, Thomas Massie won the Republican nomination in Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District, and he did it with a 16-point lead. For most of the right-wing media, this wasn’t a huge deal. Democrats are bad and Republicans are good, therefore this win must be good. Partisanship remained intact.

But for those who care about what the Republican Party actually stands for, this was a revolutionary victory. Massie is a fiscal hawk who wants to balance the budget today, not decades from now. He wants to audit and potentially abolish the Federal Reserve. He wants to get rid of the Department of Education and other federal departments. A strict constitutionalist, Massie supports not only the Second and 10th Amendments, but the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, hence his opposition to the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act’s indefinite detainment provisions. He believes in a strong national defense, which means using our military only for America’s actual defense and only when it’s absolutely necessary. In other words, no policing the world or nation building. Massie was the Tea Party’s candidate and the establishment’s headache. He was endorsed by my employer Congressman Ron Paul and is a protégé of Sen. Rand Paul, with whom I co-authored a book.

Massie stands against everything that was considered “conservative” when Bush’s GOP defined that term, and he’s been dismissed as a conservative Tea Party “extremist” by liberals and Republican hacks alike. Massie’s primary opponent, establishment candidate Alecia Webb-Edgington, tried to attack him on precisely these grounds. She proclaimed that she was not a “libertarian” like Massie, but a real “Republican.” And she was right. Unlike Massie, Webb-Edgington would’ve likely spent as much money as Bush, ripped the Constitution to shreds, and abused our military by sending them across the globe for no discernible reason. In the end, her version of the Republican Party was rejected. That Massie’s district is heavily Republican bodes well for him in the general election.

All conservatives want to change the policies that are harming America, but actually achieving this will first require transforming the GOP. This is what makes a Republican like Massie so exemplary. Sure, lots of Republicans say they want to cut spending and return to the Constitution, and some of them are even serious about it. But until such Republicans directly address the contradiction of having one foot stuck in Bush’s GOP, while simultaneously trying to be a limited-government party, their politics will never match their rhetoric. You can’t be a constitutionalist and then ignore the Fourth Amendment. This is not logical. You can’t claim you want to balance the budget by eliminating our $1.5 trillion deficit and then plan to spend $1.2 trillion annually overseas. This is not mathematical. You can’t be for limited government and then grant the government limitless power to enforce things you happen to like. This is not conservative.

To the degree that the Republican Party remains the Party of Bush (see John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Mitt Romney) it will remain nothing more than the GOP version of the Democratic Party it pretends to abhor. But to the degree that Republicans reject their recent big-government past, as Kentucky voters did last week, there will finally be an opposition party. There will finally be a conservative party. And taking America back first begins with Republicans taking a hard look at what they should be.

Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul’s The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz on 1250 WTMA.