December 11th, 2008
07:01 PM ET
5 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. Dick

    Powell has been a disappointment for years, including his time as Secretary of State.

    If he thinks "Polarization" was the big issue AND that the Republicans were the primary sponsors of "Polarization" he show less intelligence than he is given credit for having, or he is blind.

    It is especially weak to resort to attacking Limbaugh, who makes no policy and has no political position. That is the mark of a small person.

    December 11, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    It's too bad that schools don't teach what our founders believed – that rights require responsibilities – self government, if you will. People who won't rule themselves will eventually be ruled by tyrants, as history makes clear.

    Too bad Colin believes that our citizens have become so wanton
    in their behavior they are beyond repair, and must be indulged if one wants power badly enough.

    So sad that people have been and are being encouraged to be so covetous of others. Lives will soon be over, and they never will experience the blessings of blooming where they are planted. One thing is sure: this life is short, but Eternity is forever.

    December 11, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  3. Louisiana Lou

    By the way Libs, Didnot Sen Obama say he was personally against Gay marriage?

    December 11, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  4. Pedro

    I had a lot of respect for the General. I think that Obama Koolaid he drank has clouded up his judgement.

    December 11, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  5. Dan

    The fact that Republicans DIDN'T listen to Rush was the problem in the last several elections. It's time we stopped trying act like the other side in order score points and win elections. Rush is right. Conservatism wins every time it's tried! Wimps like McCain who go out of their way to be liked by the enemy are not what we need.

    December 11, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  6. mr c

    Hey diva got punked , And colin powell is a traitor to his own party , we should stop listening to him......

    December 12, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  7. MHO

    Its really sad.......The only way this egomaniac can make the news is to trash Limbaugh....

    December 12, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  8. Rich

    Mr Powell was a General, He barked orders and made others jump, yes he defended our country for FREE to enjoy our 1st amendment rights. What is he saying now to SHUT UP...I think not sir. Keep the mic's loud and clear Mr.Rush, Mr.Hannity and Mr Beck

    December 12, 2008 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  9. Tom

    I think Powell's comments are a throw away. He's a moderate liberal, why should conservatives be taking any advice from him? Is Powell interested in reducing the government influence on the individual, or reducing the amount of an individual's income they waste? Is Powell interested in confronting the despots of the world, or is he more interested in having tea and biscuits with them?

    I accept him as a reasonable liberal, but I don't accept as anyone who has any idea on what conservatives need to be. Of course he is commenting about Republicans not conservatives, but what Powell is reccomneding the GOP do is the very same strategy that the GOP took as it lost the congressional majority and then lost the president's office. Me-too republicanism just doesn't win elections Colin Powell, you have enough of a knowledge of history, that you know this. Palin is what's right with the GOP, Powell, McCain, and their ilk are what's wrong with the GOP.

    December 12, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  10. Dee Dee

    So in otherwords, It is okay for the LIEBERALS to speak ..but they want to hush the Conservatives... That is exactly what Powell is saying... There is that thing called Freedom of speech...If you dont want to listen to Rush, dont listen..If you do, that is your choice. I dont think Colin Powell has the right or the power to say nobody should be listening to him.

    It;s just another way of Libs censorship. The Majority in this country right at this moment happens to be Illegal Mexicans, Blacks, Hispanics, Somolians, Vietnamese, Muslims..Let's HOPE that in a few years..they are the Minority again!

    December 12, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  11. G.Washington

    Reading the comments left by all the liberals just proves how much of a failure the educational system is in America. As John Hewwood once said "There are none so blind as those who will not see". Powell is a liar for ever claiming to be a conservative. He wants to censor Limbaugh now. If he does not like listening to him, turn off the radio, but don't tell me what I can or cannot listen to you idiot. Government is inherently inefficient with all the layers of bureaucracy. Big government is akin to socialism. Socialism has never worked anywhere in the world and will not work in this country. I am a conservative because I believe in a less obtrusive, smaller government.

    December 12, 2008 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  12. Anonymous

    We need more Rush, Bill and Sean. These racists and misogynists will drive all but the wackos and relig right from the party. Nothing wrong with that.

    December 12, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  13. emily smith

    Thanks to the General for standing up for truth and honor when he saw the real thing !

    December 12, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  14. Rcan

    It's too bad that schools don't teach what our founders believed – that rights require responsibilities – self government, if you will. People who won't rule themselves will eventually be ruled by tyrants, as history makes clear.

    Too bad Colin believes that our citizens have become so wanton
    in their behavior they are beyond repair, and must be indulged if one wants power badly enough.

    So sad that people (particularly children) have been and are being encouraged by many of their role models to be covetous of others. Lives will soon be over, and they never will experience the blessings of blooming where they are planted. One thing is sure: this life is short, but Eternity is forever.

    December 12, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  15. LSCOMO

    Lately Rush sounds whiny. His program used to be interesting. Now it sounds a little desperate. I tink the country is bone weary of divisive rhetoric discussions that don't devolve into name calling sessions but rather start out that way.

    Rush had his day but I think his trip is about out of road.

    December 12, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  16. James Pinneo

    As a voter who votes not for the party but for the canidate. I would like to ride the libertarian train. but we at War.
    It is sad that some American can not see that the nation that has been the true progressive country. Which has in two world wars lead the world from the brink of total disaster. Showing many totalitarian states to the good side of the of Universe. Country's such asGermany-Japan ect.
    This last President 43 was ready to walk and talk peace until we were hit with the worst attack on America in Peace time. Now a war time Comander in Chief. He has kept the States safe. With a wedge! Irag drawing islamic killers away from the rest of the world. Then dealing with the worst natural disaster Katrina. in American History.The second comming a year later. Then as Congress through Fanny and Fredy gave homes out to those who could not keep up with the payments.. This started the Crisis on the economy.Only time will tell if the act worked..

    December 12, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  17. Voice of Reason

    Here is the plain, SIMPLE truth. The 2008 Election HAD a candidate this year who was exactly as Colin Powell describes – his name was John McCain. He lost miserably. Every time a middle of the road Republican runs, he loses. Conservatism wins when its presented as it should be. Moderate Republicans LOSE. Plain and simple. Anytime a Democrat wants this kind of Republican he wants them simply because they know they'll be defeated. Wanna know why the media was so afraid of Palin. Because they knew she'd do exactly what she did – inspire and fire up the Conservative base. If it had been a Romney/Palin or Hckabee/Romney, Romney/Huckabee, Huckabee/Palin ticket we woukld not have a President Elect Obama. And when was the last time you EVER heard anyone suggest a Democrat lean kore Right to win votes? hmmm....

    December 12, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  18. David

    Jumping, that was stupid. Whenever we are acting like moderates, we lose. that goes for liberals too.

    December 12, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  19. Jay in Alabama "Gods Country"

    Both parties have such great ideas and truly great people that are committed to America. And then there are the rest who lie and try to divide us. Both parties will continue to have scandal, but if we remember we are Americans first, then we will always succeed.

    December 12, 2008 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  20. No Rinos

    Powell says more of what lost the election is the ideal Rx for the Republicrats! I really wish RINOs (Republicrats in name only) would be honest & move over the side of the aisle they like, & let the Republicrat party actually become a viable alternative to the Demoncrats.

    Instead, all the Republicrats like Powell can say is they'd take us to heck in a handbasket a LITTLE slower than the Demoncrats.

    Elections have consequences. I'm not sure this nation will survive the consequences of this one.

    Ultimately, we get the leadership we deserve. As a morally-corrupt & depraved society, we're getting 'leaders' commensurate with that.

    December 12, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  21. Arizonan for Obama/Biden

    Wow all the paid Republican Rush Limbaugh American Hating conservatives are out in full force. Colin Powell is a great man and has accepted his responsibilities just wondering where the rest of the GOP is on self responsibility?

    December 12, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  22. Ken

    Boy!!! The Limbaugh, Hannety, Ingraham, and Coulter supporters have certainly shown their true Christian kindness and respect for others tonight!! Palin, Rush, and Hannety worked to bring out the base – and that is what they got – the very basest of humanity with all of its hatred and nastiness. And America has rejected you.

    December 12, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  23. Pedro

    I love it when the budding socialists bash Rush Limbaugh. They look on themselves as apostles fighting the right fight. Wait until they get a real good dose of CHANGE. I wonder if they will remember what Rush has been telling us to watch out for when their freedoms are gone.

    December 12, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  24. Richard

    Mr. Powell hasn't been right since the first Iraq war when he counselled the first Bush to halt operations because of media concerens. Since then his score has been perfect zero. So of course we are suppose to listen to him. The reason the GOP failed to win the election is that those running things jettisoned the conservatives. Bush I and II are not conservatives. Those around them are not conservatives. Despite what the left thnks. For the most part the last eight years the GOP was acting more democrat than the democratic party. Then they ran Bob Dole II John McCain. The only fresh inspiration was to put Palin on the ticket. Think there was a reason why she was more liked than the "maverick" presidential candidate? She seemed to be the only one interested in winning. But old Colin he knows best. Keep listening to him and there will be a third party. Because there won't be any GOP left. Just a shell.

    December 12, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  25. Jay Walter

    I don't want a party that panders to the gripes of whiny minorities. I want a party that knows, believes, and practices truth come hell or high temperatures. I want a party that LEADS, that can articulate a coherent, cohesive, realistic, hopeful and persuasive message which will change the hearts, minds, and attitudes of people who have utterly lost sight of what America was created from and for. CP, take your touchy feely namby pamby multicultural politics and start a tea party somewhere.

    We will never have one America until we lose the concept of minorities.

    Most of the posters here confuse values and integrity with hate and divisiveness, a sad commentary on our media, schools, parenting, and politics.

    December 12, 2008 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
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