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. Gary

    The GOP, the Rush LImbaugh types, the far right wing radical reactionaries are coming to the realization that they carry little relevance to the needs of the American people. As a consequence, their attacks will grow more bitter and vociferous.

    December 11, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  2. Wacky Obacky

    Powell is yesterday's news, and is simpy trying to curry favor by bashing Consrvatives. Hey, Colin, your moderate buddies LOST! Bush (another moderate) is also a loser! You should go sit in your rocker on the porch with that other washed up whiner, Jimmah Cahtah.

    December 11, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  3. Southbreeze56

    Powell was paid off to influince public opinuion towards Obama,its all about race and nothing more.wake up you ignorant americans,get the bucket off your heads and see reality.To tell you the truth,most of all blacks are more racist than whites ever where and dont tell me they dont want hand outs.Thats what they live for.Theres a few good politicans and the rest are DIRT like reid and polosy.Liberalism is a metal disorder and that was qouted by a metal health professor.

    December 11, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  4. Slats

    Powell is an excellent example of what Republicans don't need. He has been a chameleon all along. Changing colors with the political landscape. He does not have conservative instincts.

    December 11, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  5. Kevin St. charles, IL


    December 11, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  6. James Pinneo

    I served under Powell when was Nato commander Cold War. He had a reputation of CYA. In all posts there after I saw a need of his to cover his six sometimes at the cost of American needs. The man would not run for President. His wife has needs plus he worries over failing. this is his great fault.
    He did not put up enough fight to have Bush use enough force in Irag. Or to insure when we went in the State Department did not step in and take control of the other then fighting side of the liberation.of 50 million souls.

    December 11, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  7. Barry Holman

    Why shouldn't the Republicans shout at the world? The Dems have done it for over 40yrs. They call them every vile name you can think of. This coming from a guy who owes the Republicans everything. If it weren't for Reagan and Bush Colin would be some retired 2 star tending his garden.

    December 11, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  8. Scott

    I've always liked Colin Powell, but he's off the reservation on this. He can't consider himself a Republican since he endorsed Obama for president & oddly enough, he used to be a fan of Rush. Limbaugh's not the voice of the party....he's the voice of conservatives, along with Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck & others. Does Powell go after them? No.

    December 11, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  9. Dale

    Wow! After reading all the comments by the conservative right wing Republicans have made here I can understand why they lost the election. As an independent it is amusing to see how the Republicans have turned against their own for saying something that is the obvious truth. The attitude that 'you are either a conservative, right wing, Republican' or you are a extreme liberal is frightening! Listen real close to what you are saying. It sounds a lot like some other extreme religious zealots who believe...'you are either like us and believe what we believe or you are enemy and we will destroy you'. With thinking and attitudes like that it's no wonder the Republican party is fragmenting and coming apart from the inside out. You with your conservative values derived from your religious beliefs really need to "get back to basics", stop being hypocrites and practice what your preachers are suppose to be teaching you, starting with tolerance, accepting diversity, and respect for others and their opinions.

    December 11, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  10. As Right As Right Can Be

    The winning party in the United States will from now on be the party that promises everything something for nothing. It's sad to see a great country fall because of greed.

    December 11, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  11. The Old Guy

    I would like to apologize to the thousands of veterans who gave their lives or physical well being to try to preserve the American way of life for future generations. It seems our populace has evolved into hordes of "ill informed" who believe the country should be guided on how one "feels" versus methods that have been time tested and who fail to understand the importance of being responsible for ones own actions.

    December 11, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  12. Darla


    Wow..."white men built this country and minorities will ruin it" Yeah white men built this country by the hands of "black" slaves....You people are really showing your true color!!! I guess "white" is right and anything other is nothing!!! Having a black president sure has brought out the hate....

    December 11, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  13. Ken S

    Sorry Gen. Powell, but I'm afraid you're suffering from shell shock.

    December 11, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  14. CHRIS

    When was Colin Powell ever a conservative? African americans need to told the truth about wich party really supports them.

    December 11, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  15. dan

    The Republicans- the real ones- have let the rightwing nuts like theLimbaughs and the Coulters take over their party. Their obvious appeal to racists has not been denounced. Their extreme, shrill denunciation of liberals in every breath does not promote conservatism at all. It only emboldens the hateful to go to rallies and yell " Kill Him" when the candidate mentions her opponent's name. Those screamers don't actually promote conservative values as much as spew hate for liberals. What does Ann Coulter actually think about fiscal policy or budget deficits? What is Rush Limbaugh's position on anything other than hating liberals?The real Republicans have to kick these bigots and fascists out of their party and bring it back to sanity .

    December 11, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  16. political seer

    California Steamin,
    Here's a little food for thought.

    "Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservative."- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

    Enjoy your conservative outlook in life.

    December 11, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  17. missy5537

    Specifically what are conservatives supposed to give in to to the minorities he mentions? Are we to set aside our immigration laws, make abortion even MORE available, make welfare even more prevalent? What does he want?

    Sorry, I'd rather be in the losing party than to give in on these core principles. Sounds like Powell wants the GOP just to give up on any principles whatsoever.

    December 11, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  18. Dan

    Powell is nothing more than a non combat general who got his stars by licking up to whomever was in power. He was and will continue to remain a lightweight.

    December 11, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  19. Joanna

    Sarah Palin 2012! We'll have a backlash like we do every 4-8 years. We'll get sick of Obama and then vote for conservatives. Anyone that thinks Palin spews hate is just lying to themselves. The reason you hate Sarah is because she ran against Obama. It has nothing to do with politics, you just make stuff up in your mind to hate her. I can guarantee you, if sarah had the same record and beliefs in God but was a democrat, you would be building shrines to her right now. The party doesnt need to change and be "liberal', we tried that w/ McCain and you still bashed him. So, dont be a phony and say we need to change and be liberal because we offered a liberal person w/ a great track record and you didnt care, you still voted Democrat regardless of experience and record. Also, there are too many phony republicans in say you are a republican who voted Obama because of Palin? Thats a lie. You just want to make a point under a false flag. true republicans voted for McCain/Palin. DEMOCRATS and liberals voted for Obama.

    December 11, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  20. Gary

    When the Republicans took over Congress in 1994, the first thing they did was bring Rush Limbaugh to Washington D.C. to name him "honorary congressman". Republicans politicians have appeared on his radio show for years, calling him "the majority maker". Rush Limbaugh has been and continues to be the heart and sole of the modern Republican party, horrifying as that ugly truth may be.

    December 11, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  21. Robert Geistweit

    Comments by Powell ....... intellectually ....piffle ..... his mark in history..... more piffle

    December 11, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  22. nick

    What exactly does Mr. Powell mean when he says that the GOP must "see whats in the hearts and minds" of African Americans? Does he know whats in the "hearts and minds" of people of color"? I think he's just another Obama syncophant tying to score points. Either that or he's a pompous, arrogant jerk.

    December 11, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  23. Navy Veteran from Virginia

    Right on, Mr. Powell..

    Stop listening to the idiot duo, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, for crissakes! They are freakin' evil no-talent jerks.

    December 11, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  24. Ken

    Colin Powell does not speak for, or represent, the Republican Party. In fact, one has a difficult time distinguishing between "moderate" Republicans and Democrats. That is why so-called Republicans like Colin Powell can go both ways. At this point in time, there are no Republicans that I can think of that represent the conservative element of the Republican party anyway. What would have been the difference between Kerry and Bush as things have turned out anyway....not much. Colin Powell seems to represent a typical pandering politician, he doesn't stand on principles......just simply on where he can get a vote. At least Limbaugh stands on some basic principles.

    December 11, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  25. MajorMike

    Democrats were dead in the water in 1994, and would have stayed dead except feckless Republican leadership in Congress had Republicans acting like Democrats. Republicans bailed out on the two most important issues of our time, reforming bankrupt entitlement programs – Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid – and reforming the income tax. Now the Democrats will be taxing and spending with a free hand, and the people won't notice that they are being bribed with their own money.

    December 11, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
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