December 11th, 2008
07:01 PM ET
6 years ago

Powell: GOP 'polarization' backfired in election

Powell says the GOP tried to use 'polarization for political advantage.'
Powell says the GOP tried to use 'polarization for political advantage.'

(CNN) - The Republican party must stop "shouting at the world" and start listening to minority groups if it is to win elections in the 21st century, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday.

In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria for Sunday's "GPS" program, President Bush's former secretary of state said his party's attempt "to use polarization for political advantage" backfired last month.

"I think the party has to take a hard look at itself," Powell said in the interview, which was taped Wednesday. "There is nothing wrong with being conservative. There is nothing wrong with having socially conservative views - I don't object to that. But if the party wants to have a future in this country, it has to face some realities. In another 20 years, the majority in this country will be the minority."

Powell, who crossed party lines and endorsed President-elect Barack Obama just weeks before the election, said the GOP must see what is in the "hearts and minds" of African-American, Hispanic and Asian voters "and not just try to influence them by... the principles and dogma."

"I think the party has to stop shouting at the world and at the country,"Powell said. "I think that the party has to take a hard look at itself, and I've talked to a number of leaders in recent weeks and they understand that." Powell, who says he still considers himself a Republican, said his party should also stop listening to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

"Can we continue to listen to Rush Limbaugh?" Powell asked. "Is this really the kind of party that we want to be when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts?"

Zakaria's full interview with Powell will air Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on CNN.


Filed under: Colin Powell
soundoff (1,390 Responses)
  1. Charles from Atlanta

    Family value, personal responsibility, and morale standard are not Republican-only principles. Democrates share these too. Both parties have good and bad persons. The only difference is do you believe government is "of the people, by the people, for the people." If you believe that, then you're Democrates. Regarding economy principles, well... according to 2008 Nobel Price winner in Economics, professor Krugman said, "Republican party becomes a party of stupid." Think about that..

    December 11, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  2. Big Ed

    By the way...Rush isn't man enough to take on Colin Powell. Limbaugh is just a punk in cheap clothing!

    December 11, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  3. labman57

    This country had been slowly evolving into that which we have sacrificed countless lives opposing–a militant nation with an agenda driven by religious extremists who promote freedom of thought only so long as it does not conflict with their own ideas. Sound familiar? We had become the enemy.

    Ever since the 1960's, the GOP consistently has been, and will always be, the party of exclusion, the party that attempts to diminish those who look different than themselves, pray to a different deity, or follow a different lifestyle. They are the party that uses fear and hatred as a weapon to intimidate any who do not share their points of view. The GOP offers 20th century solutions to 21st century problems.

    It is time for a fresh perspective, a new philosophy of America's place in the world. It can no longer be us versus them at all costs; the world is far too small for such a narrow-minded point of view.

    It is time to embrace those who are different than ourselves and accept them for who they are–it would be the "christian" thing to do. President-elect Obama is the perfect person to lead our nation in this cause and once again transform our nation into a positive, democratic beacon for the rest of the world.

    December 11, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  4. Arlistn

    I think that Polell leaving the Repubs and joining the Messiah and the Democrat party is the greatest thing that has happened for conservatives,

    December 11, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  5. fast eddy

    Try reading the Constitution and then tell me who is correct ..liberals or conservatives..The Constitution as it was written is the bible of Conservatism. Show me where any of the liberal socialism is even mentioned in the Constitution....
    What most amazes me is this idea that we need to get as far away from principles that made this country so great...the ones in the Constitution !..... Liberals are traitors !

    December 11, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  6. scola91660

    Obama's tax the greed rich tactics weren't divisive? Give me a break. I could see it, and, guess what, I'm not even rich.

    December 11, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  7. Bill Watson

    Has anyone researched Colin Powell's past endorsements to see if you can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed? Let us know what you come up with.

    December 11, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  8. J Stuart

    Colin Powell is a typical affirmative action hire. He kept his mouth shut to get his positions that others were more qualified to have, and now he comes out with his racial arrogance. Whites need to think about whether we should let this country become a minority run operation next time around.

    December 11, 2008 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  9. G in BR

    John at 9:02pm

    I think that Mr. Powell looked at what was being offered as his choices for the commander in chief of the US and decided to vote for someone that operates with decency, respect and most importantly intelligence. The Republican Party, his party, only offered self-righteous buffoonery. Any intelligent person would not stoop low enough to vote for the bottom of the barrel just because they happen to be in their party. That would be an ignorant lemming. Also, intelligent people are able to look at the big picture and not something as superficial as voting for someone just because that person is the same color as they are. You have never done that, have you? So John, what do you consider yourself; intelligent, or a lemming?

    December 11, 2008 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  10. mimi

    All in all, I would still rather be a republican than a Nanny state liberal democcrat.

    December 11, 2008 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  11. Nan

    Yeah this is why Bobbi Jindal and the Vietnamese individual who replaced Jefferson in Louisiana are Republicans. They saw into the hearts and minds of minorities and realized that this is still the greatest country in the world and that conservative principles treat everyone fairly. Gen. Powell wants a balkanized America, where minorities have to be treated differently in order to be treated fairly. What do you expect from a product of affirmative action. Treat me special because I am special, the rest of you be dammed. As for me I will listen to Rush until the day I die.

    December 11, 2008 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  12. MrPragmatic

    To Gift of the Maji –

    First of all, Magi is spelled M-A-G-I. There's no J in it.

    But beyond that, who is writing your copy? You evidently are a Rush fan because, like Rush, you are masterful at taking facts out of context, all the while overlooking the same facts in your own party. For example, when you criticized the likes of Kerry and Kennedy for marrying into or inheriting their wealth, you seem to have left out Johnny McCain. See what I mean?

    Next, Barack Obama is not the messiah and the Democrats have never referred to him as such. That's the right wing hanging monikers on the president-elect.

    Next time you want to get on your soapbox and talk about personal responsibility, please make sure these people are in your audience: Scooter Libby, Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, Larry Craig, Alberto Gonzalez, Paul Wolfowitz, Bernard Kerik, Lester Crawford, George Deutsch, Steven Griles, Mark Foley, Randall Tobias, Rick Renzi, Duke Cunningham, Dusty Foggo. Do you see where this is going?

    Anyway, I think you see my point.

    December 11, 2008 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  13. Kevin Mont

    I am a proud republican and conservative, however these two nit wits Limbaugh and Hannity are costing us elections. Hannity especially is dumber than a bag of bricks and Limbaugh's parodies give the left material to designate us ' mean spirited". It is time for them to leave the stage.

    December 11, 2008 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  14. scola91660

    Gift of the Maji:

    Your post is just plain dumb.

    December 11, 2008 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  15. Brrrrrrrrr

    It's sad that General Powell is trying to erase his role in the Iraq war by supporting Obama and chastising his party for the wrong reasons. He is the type of Republican that is ruining the party. His vindication spree is making him look like a fool. Just change parties already.

    December 11, 2008 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  16. bill clay

    powell is nothing more than a turn-coat who's jockeying for a job – an ingrate really, who has forgotten which party made his career possible

    December 11, 2008 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  17. Wake Up America

    Bush's fault was putting his trust in the likes of Powell and McClellan'
    Loyalty and the granting of an opportunity are something these two do not and will never understand, Their selfishness is testimonial to their lack of character.
    Thank goodness for the likes of Rush Limbaugh who has the knowledge and courage to expose those who do a disservice to our country. To attempt silencing Limbaugh is to attempt to silence the TRUTH.

    December 11, 2008 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  18. scola91660

    P. Allen:

    Your post is just plain dumb, too.

    December 11, 2008 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  19. Neil H.

    Powell is more of a politician than he ever was a soldier. His great "success" in the 1991 Gulf War was entirely the result of General Schwarzkopf's brilliant leadership and command; Powell himself has limited combat experience, but has held a lot of desk jobs in the Army and his promotions all the way up to general seem to have been more the result of political skills than anything else. In Vietnam he got the Purple Heart for stepping on a punji stake. When he was a brigadier general at Fort Carson he was given a poor evaluation by his commanding general, who said Powell had poor leadership skills and should not be promoted further.

    As a politician he has always been sensitive to which way the political winds are blowing, and is adept at tailoring his opinions to suit. He isn't a real Republican in the sense of being conservative, he's a RINO. He has always favored preferential treatment for African Americans, the kind of policies which undoubtedly helped his own career enormously. He supports Obama largely because of this desire to see his own race advance, and because he knows Obama as president will nominate liberal activist Supreme Court justices if given the chance, rather than justices who will interpret the Constitution strictly and honestly. Obama himself has said as much, and has said the Supreme Court "didn't go far enough" in civil rights and should have done more to redistribute the wealth.

    I don't know why anyone would care what Powell's opinions are on any subject, since his opinions are and have always been entirely self-serving.

    December 11, 2008 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  20. Bill Watson

    Rush Limbaugh and conservatives have a broad appeal to Americans because Americans are conservative. Not many people follow Colin Powell any more, he is a has-been.

    When he endorsed Obama just due to race, that just made him even more irrelevant.

    December 11, 2008 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  21. Our Future

    If you all want to know whats wrong with both parties, just read some of these posts. Instead of discussing our opinions pertaining to what Powell said, we are using our voice to bash each others political stance. We are worse than congress with all the bickering.

    I would like to remind us all that whether we are democrats or republicans we all have something in common, we are all human beings. I hear complaints all the time about elected officials not listening to the people they represent. How can we expect them to hear us, when we are too busy screaming so loud at each other. I am not by any means saying we should not express our views with each other. I am just asking that we as part of the human race, and as citizens of the USA, engage in healthy debate and listen to each other with respect and dignity. That is the way to change things. There is more strength in numbers as opposed to one person ranting. After 9/11 we came together to protect the country we love and the people we cared about. We can unite again and restore our country to what it should be. Only this time we should unite permanently.

    December 11, 2008 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  22. Joyce Presler

    I am a very conservative, Bible believing, evangelical Christian – but on this point I have to agree with Colin Powell. The Republican party is so white it can't grow! If any ethnic group should be embraced by the Reps it is the hispanics. But go to many white, conservative gatherings with your hispanic friends and or relatives and see how they are treated – especially if they have an accent -even though their values are solid and biblically based – and they sacrifice more of their your people in our armed forces than any other ethnic group. I am also white – but I am able to see the person in front of me – not just their color. I think there are others like me who were appalled when they watched Republican party rallys and had to look really hard for a "minority" face.

    December 11, 2008 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  23. Jim Crowley

    It is amazing. I have yet to find a Rush Basher who is a critical thinker. A name caller, certainly. Why can't you look at an issue and talk it through? It's not a much fun as calling someone stupid, a fool, a redneck or whatever. It makes you feel so good. Unfortunately it also shows your inabilty to think, martial facts to bolster your position and then really listen to the other viewpoint.

    Maybe, just maybe, it would be best to learn to think critically and remember the law of unintended consequences. Nothing in politics operates in a vacuum. That includes General Powell who may just be looking for a new job in a new administration. I guess we'll just have to watch.

    December 11, 2008 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  24. Misty

    Powell and all the democrats are just afraid of Limbaugh... Please

    December 11, 2008 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  25. Chris

    The republican party did try Powells moderate approach (John McCain and W) and look what it got us... more dem's. The uninformed figured if they were going to vote for a weak politician why not vote democrat. Hey, in that case Powell should run.

    December 11, 2008 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
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