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

Powell: GOP 'polarization' backfired in election

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. California Gold

    I tend to agree with General Powell. The tactics employed during the GOP campaigns are divisive and alienating. There is nothing wrong with being conservative. But GOP's brand of conservatism is an "appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts". It has resulted in conservatives equaling radicals. The Bush "if you aren't with me you are against me." Too narrow and easy to reject.

    December 11, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  2. Stu-Florida

    I like that Colin Powell shoots from the hip. He did, however, forget one point. IF the GOP really wants to get on the stick, they have to leave Palin in Alaska. There's no getting around that.

    December 11, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  3. StacyGA

    It is about time someone spoke up about this topic. It seems that most want to ignore the fact that the GOP is nothing but a party of old White people and religious whackos, who are slowly dying out. I am not sure they can change that now. Those have been the kind of people they appealed to for so long, they will not know how to try and reach out to others.

    December 11, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  4. Vegas Barbie for Obama

    Thank you, General Powell!! And Amen and Amen again to each and every thing you said!

    December 11, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  5. The Bu

    I think Secretary Powell is 100% correct as is former Lt. Governor Michael Steele when they say that the Republican Party has to become a more inclusive party. Unfortunately, that will frighten some of their hard-liners. Some don't want to look outside of their own worlds that they've created.

    December 11, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  6. Phoenix

    Powell..(Standing Ovation at my home). Yes, this is what is wrong with the Republican party. By forcing uneducated white folks (ie Palin, Limbaugh) down the throats of the voters, the Republican party will become a thing of the past, and start to look like the old Democratic Party which enforced Segregation.

    December 11, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  7. Dennise Ade

    The Voice of reason of The Last Man standing! The Voice of wisdom. A Word is enought for a wise. What a GREAT Man!!

    December 11, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  8. Jackie in Dallas

    "Appealing to our lesser instincts..." I like that, Mr. Powell. It is rather what Sarah Palin did at her hate rallies too, and when she said the "pro-American" areas of the country.

    While in general, I agree with what you are saying, I think you are limiting it too much. Republicans need to redefine what conservativism means to the 21st century. Right now, they are using definitions created in the early part of the 20th century that weren't even valid past the middle part of the 20th century, much less into the 21st! Size of government isn't the issue so much as how that government operates. I'm pretty much a moderate liberal in many respects, but I'm a fiscal conservative, in that I want my government to limit its spending, have proper controls over its spending, and would like to see a balanced budget (probably not in my lifetime). What I DON'T want is the government in my bedroom, or telling me who I can and cannot marry, or legislating my morality.

    If the Republicans want to reclaim a place in American politics, they need to change more than just their divisive tactics, they need to change their dependence on the so-called religious right. Religion should play no part in government other than encouraging the participants in that goverment to be the best people that they can be.

    December 11, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  9. N. S. Huntsville, Al

    Powell I'm not Republican but, you sure are the best thing going for the Republican party, you would have easily been the President had you ran. You are telling just like it needs to be told. The Republican party has this anti minority view and in turn they are becoming the outcast of society. There is too many different ethnic groups in the USA and, I love what you say Powell and more than that , I love the way you said it.!!!


    December 11, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  10. paul (staunch Moderate)

    Powell is a very smart man – If he had run for President he would have been elected without a doubt. If the GOP leaders have an iota of sense among them they will listen very carefully to what he is telling them. Especially when it comes to "shouting at the world and at the country" and to following, hanging on every word that comes out of the mouths of hate-mongers and bigots such as Rush Limbaugh.

    December 11, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  11. Independent

    Bush bashing in 3... 2... 1...

    December 11, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  12. HouseDiva

    Powel knows that the republican party has been reduced to angry white men, stepford wives, religious nutcases, white supremist, gun toting war mongers, elitist fatcats, and uneducated rednecks.....basically the shame of America.

    December 11, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  13. Cindy

    Good for you, Mr. Powell!!! I'm a Republican but voted for Obama. I'm tired of the the US thinking it is the all time world police and pushing our beliefs on other countries. As I heard the other day...why can't we be a nation of nations?

    December 11, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  14. george

    GOP Arrogance and self-righteousness die hard. As Dylan sang, "the times they are a changin'." Those that don't change will be changed.

    December 11, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  15. Peter (CA)

    Deosn't matter Gen. Powell. You were their hero not that long ago but they want to have nothing to do with you now because you are a "traitor".
    Problem is they DO continue to listen to vicious idiots like Rush.

    December 11, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  16. luke

    Powell is quickly turning into one of those, "useful idiots" that all good dictators need.

    December 11, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  17. Mike

    Unfortunately for them, 'Polarization' is the GOP's only viable tactic. To enforce a socially conservative agenda on the rest of the public is to, by definition, deny certain minority groups basic civil rights. This is not a platform that can be successfully upheld on the basis of its rational merits. Hence, shouting or demagoguery is all that's left.

    December 11, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  18. proudliberal-independent

    they ran a failed campaign on failed policies, using divisiveness and hatred. that is unamerican and unpatriotic.

    December 11, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  19. Mike T. Vaughn

    The Truth is Told But as usual old habits are hard to break and I don't really believe the Repubs are listening, look at them now with the Automotive Bailout. Keep deflecting the CEO and loosing sight of the greater loss, and by the Way, how many CEOs on Wallstreet Flew in on their Jets for the loan????????? Or do we not regard what they do?????

    December 11, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  20. Matt

    Who else but Colin Powell can say it loud and clear to the GOP that the time for divide and rule is gone. The country is changing and people like Rush Limbaugh and Shane "loud mouth" H do not understand or get it.

    December 11, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  21. Ken

    A true conservative speaks. But the neo-morons will not listen to Mr. Powell; they will continue to cheer their rightwing demi-gods like Rush, and continue their fear- and hate-mongering. It is all their warped little minds can grasp.

    True conservatives have seen their party hijacked by the rightwing, and one thing is for certain: rightwing is NOT conservative. But those few of you that are thoughtfully and rightfully worried about your party must pay the piper now, for you were complicit in the hijacking when you thought the rightwing wackos, religious right, and neo-cons were helping your party win elections.....and shame on you for that.

    December 11, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  22. TJClark

    Colin Powell:

    Says the republican party has to reach out to the minorities because they will be the majority in 20 years. Mr. Powell is a typical elitiest black success. No the Republican party does not have to change to please minorities. What has to happen is that most minorities get tired of Mr. Powell and the rest of the democraps trying to keep them down on the farm. When minorities get tired of living in crime infested ghettos and want a better life they will see that the Republican way is better. What does Mr. Powell offer them? Welfare and government programs that help no one. Yes Mr. Powell, boot straps is the way to success I am only sorry that you did not make it on your own and had to have an affirmative action push to get where you are. Hard work never hurt anyone and it always helps everyone. Give only to the truly needy. Opportunity is the only thing America owes anyone, what you do with it is your story. Mr. Cosby was not successful on Television because he was black or got some affirmative action help. He was talented and entertaining. Oprah is not successful because she is black but because she works hard. Set the example of hard work. The harder you work the luckier you get. I am disapointed with Mr. Powell and his brand of left wing socialism. When he admitted he voted for Obama because he was black it was a bad day for America. What happened to voting for him because he was the best? Content of character not color of skin.

    T. J. Clark
    also former military

    December 11, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  23. Joe in StL

    Too little, too late.

    Thanks for the war, buddy.

    December 11, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  24. ANGIE

    Colin Powell is absolutley right The Gop have to stop trying to Divide this country and try to make it seem if you dont support their Idealogy your Anti -American or unpatriotic they have a lot of remolding to do,I wish obama would put Colin Powell in his Cabinet!

    December 11, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  25. Mark in Arizona

    Gotta love Powell. Tells it like it is. Not afraid to be comedian Rush Limbaugh's target. Good man. Doing a great job of redeeming himself for the lies he spread at the UN about WMD. Moral man. Good for the GOP.

    December 11, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
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