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Thank God John McCain lost the election. Citizen activists are now energized to defeat Obama’s Marxist radicalism – with no help from McCain’s anemic pragmatism.

Eight months into the Obama presidency the Republican opposition is suddenly thriving because of the patriotic reawakening provoked by Obama’s Marxist agenda. But this Republican revival will be short-lived if party leaders ignore the real message of the tea party protesters and 9/12 marchers.

We are witnessing a grass-roots rediscovery of our constitutional traditions and a principled resistance to the expansion of entitlement spending. This resurrection of principled conservatism could never have happened if John McCain had won the 2008 election and enshrined his anemic “hands across the aisle” opportunism as the Republican Party’s new orthodoxy. The last thing the country needs is another Republican administration dedicated to the “no entitlement left behind” Kool-Aid that Karl Rove and his clones sold to Bush and party leaders.

Obama’s radicalism has generated a genuine, mushrooming, rational fear for the future of our constitutional republic. The grass-roots revolt is not about which political party gets to preside over the death knell of liberty. It is about halting this slide into tyranny. The Republican Party can decide to help lead this revolt, or it can get out of the way and stop obstructing it.

In my home state of Colorado in the last month, Sen. McCain attempted to dictate the Republican nominee for the 2010 U.S. Senate race. He made calls into the state to persuade a favorite of the party establishment to take on conservative Ken Buck, who had already launched a strong campaign. Apparently, McCain and national party leaders want a nominee who is not so conservative on the illegal-immigration issue. This kind of “play it safe” thinking is a replay of past mistakes, and it is not a formula for leading a successful citizens’ revolt against Washington hubris.

The citizen activism that brought over 1 million ordinary Americans to the Capitol Mall a week after Labor Day is only in part a reaction to Obama’s radicalism. It is also more than that – it is more than “just say no” to Obama’s health-care plans. It is also a rediscovery and reaffirmation of the conservative principles that were abandoned or belittled by Republican Party elites in the Bush era.

Go “green” and let the world know what really needs recycling in 2010 with the magnetic bumper sticker: “Recycle Congress”

Too many Republican Party officials seem to not yet understand that the purpose of these rallies is to save our country, not elect some candidate. In fact, there is often a large element of “pox on both your houses” in these protests. Republican candidates who think they can run on traditional themes in 2010 without addressing these new challenges will have a rude awakening.

Yes, compromise is a necessary part of lawmaking in any democracy, but so-called bipartisanship has for too long been a one-way ticket to more social engineering and bigger budget deficits. How about a bipartisan commitment to reducing the national debt and getting the federal government out of the school classroom?

We do not see a new Ronald Reagan on the horizon, and it may be a mistake to expect one. But one thing is certain: A new Reagan is more likely to emerge from the principled battles with Obama’s radicalism at the state and local level than from the back rooms of the Capitol Hill Club. Have we forgotten that Ronald Reagan’s first political battles were not in Sacramento but in the Hollywood struggles of the 1950s to unmask communist screenwriters?

On the other hand, conservatives must understand that populism has its limits, and “throw the bums out” is not a sufficient program for the reconstruction of constitutional government in America. Our constitutional system requires leaders, representatives who will take the problem of government seriously, who follow the Rule of Law, defend the Constitution and strive to secure our homeland against invasion.

Time is short for the Republican Party to begin producing such leaders. Somehow, I doubt those leaders will emerge from the focus groups run by Karl Rove or telephone calls from John McCain. But they might be found among the tens of thousands of citizens who came to town hall forums in August or among the million who came to Capitol Mall on Sept. 12.

Our current citizens’ rebellion is real, it is deep, it is principled, and it is potent. Republican leaders did not create it, but they can respond to it and help lead it. What they cannot do is patronize it.

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