December 11th, 2008
07:01 PM ET
12 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. Burlington

    Calif. Steamin', you've got to stop splitting hairs and arguing the true strand. If Rush Limbaugh has 20 million listeners in a nation of 300 million, he's a minority voice. Gov. Palin is popular with that same fraction of the GOP, but so what? It's a minority within a minority. Truth be told, the Right Wing of the Republican Party is a radical parasite killing its host. Close reading of its positions make very clear it's not even pro-Constitutional, and it's drifted well to the right of Ronald Reagan. Conservatives want to conserve what's best and valuable in America–something most people can get behind–but the Right Wing is peddling an America that never existed. If the GOP doesn't wake up and expell this parasite, non-Right Wingers will abandon it, and the GOP will become a fringe party. What happens then is anybody's guess.

    December 11, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  2. Carl

    With all due respect, you should listen to me for a change. I do not care if you are an African-Mexican-Swedish or Irish-American. We all live here and we are all capable of getting off our butts and getting to work for what we have and enjoy. Cut the crap and quit whining about your race. Nobody grew up with less than our family and if we made it, then anybody can. I am so tired of YOU! Retire already.

    December 11, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  3. patrik

    Rush Limbaugh? Hell, the more he and Hannity spew their venom and closet bigotry, they continue to lose elections.... Look at last three elections.....

    December 11, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  4. exactly

    Powell is exactly right. The last election proved that hope can beat the politics of hate, division, and fear. The republicans run every election by trying to paint the opponent as the anti-christ. They spent 8 years saying that about Bill Clinton. How did that work out? Oh yeah, he turned out to be pretty good...genius in comparison to Bush.

    December 11, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  5. der Wahrheit

    There is no need to lambast Limbaugh. His days are numbered! When this depression gets in full swing (a couple of years from now), and people realize how easily they have been duped into attacking their own real interestes, and when it finally becomes blindingly clear to even the most obtuse of the Limbaugh/Hannity/Ingram sycophants who the true villians are, the mobs will gather, and these hypocritical gasbags will flee their microphones!

    December 11, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  6. Are We That Stupid?

    To expand on previous comments – right wing conservatives are hypocrites of the highest order. That is why they will not get voted into office.

    Say the are for less govenment, yet largest government growth and deficits under Reagan and Bush 43. Say they are for keeping government out of the lives of individuals, yet support Patriot Act, spying on US citizens and want government to prevent women from having reproductive choice and homosexual marriage. Say they are for 1st amendment rights, yet think that America is a "Christian country" (where is god, let alone christ, mentioned in the Constitution? If the founders were so religious then the absence of Christian reference in Constitution is even more conspicuous and intentional). Say they are pro-life, yet are pro-war. Say they are free market, yet subsidize oil/farming/wall st/military industrial complex. Say that they are for less tax, yet shift huge tax burdens (with interest) to other generations through excessive borrowing. Say they are support the troops, yet don't fund VA or send enough troops or even serve (W, Cheney, Rummy). Say they know how to generate economic growth, yet have run the economy into the ground. Say they support eductation reform and excellence, yet think Intelligent Design (Creation) should be taught in schools. Say they are for accountability, yet say humans and industrialization have no effect on evironment in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence (but then they are not big on science – see evolution)....

    I could go on, but you get the point.

    I, personally, hope that the right wing nuts get control of the party and continue to put people like W and Palin up to represent them and let Hannity and Limbaugh speak for them. Then the Republican Party can have a permenance in American society, but not quite as Rove predicted...permanently gone. We have moved on.

    December 11, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  7. Zach

    There is so much wrong here, it's hard to know where to start.
    First, can anyone name a candidate less polarizing than John McCain? McCain was touted as the bipartisan, unity, maverick candidate. Indeed, he was attacked from day one by Rush. You can't blame Rush for McCain's failure.
    As for reaching out to minority candidates, isn't that what the Palin selection was? It was an attempt to be inclusive, to bring women into the conservative fold. It also failed.
    So, all the "strategies" put forward were tried in the last election and failed. However, when a white male religious conservative runs, the GOP wins as with Bush and Reagan.
    We've been hearing about the "dying out" of religion in America since Thomas Jefferson. The future is always secular. Funny how it never turns out that way.

    December 11, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  8. Curmudgeon10

    Listening to Colin Powell make recommendations for conservatives is like asking the Illinois governor to pen a textbook on ethics.

    At best, Powell is a country club Rockefeller Republican. At worst, he's just a closeted liberal.

    The Republican party needs to return to its conservative roots, and I'm confident that it will. Even if it makes only cosmetic changes, two or four years of cap and trade electric rates, nationalized (i.e., rationed) health care, and tax increases will bring sanity back to voters.

    December 11, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  9. JEB Zorg

    Colin Powell who? The only reason we went back to Baghdad in '03 is because this closet socialist appeasement monkey didn't finish the job in '91 when there WERE confirmed WMDs in Iraq. Powell quit and we're in the Sxxt! The only thing that liberal koolaid drinkers hate more than Limbaugh is the Truth.

    Obama in an Orange Jumpsuit in 2010!

    December 11, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  10. Thomas L. Hill

    General Colin Powell, let's face it sir you are anything but a conservative. You and the rest of the so-called, "neo-conservatives" are actaully faux conservatives. You have no idea of what conservatism is, perhaps rather than attacking conservatives you shgoiuld go ahead and admit you are a liberal. Or perhaps you should pick up a book about Edmund Burke and read it. The GOP is a big tent party, yet we will not compromise are beliefs nor our principles to be popular.

    December 11, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  11. Texasgene

    big papa, The South Was Right, and There was a book written to prove it.
    Lincoln ran the printing presses and printed all the money needed to pay for the war.
    Lincoln was Bi-Polar and from Illinois also,, big papa, right,

    December 11, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  12. RL

    General Powell, you became a democrat years ago, just admit it and move on with your life. You'll feel much better after you come clean you wacky lib.

    December 11, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  13. Batman

    Right. And the Dems and the left are the poster children for bipartisanship and tolerance. Let's see, "Bush is Hitler", "Bush is a murderer", "Cheney is evil", etc.

    The only party spewing hate (against every business they can't shake down like Walmart or "big oil" which they regulate to death like the domestic auto industry they want to bailout – oops, I mean the unions they want to bailout) is the Democrats.

    Rush and others tell the truth. But the left wouldn't know the truth if it bit them. If Al Gore and their messiah, Obama, told them 2+2=7 they'd proclaim it true, the debate over and anyone disagreeing a hatemonger.

    Go to hell you left wing morons.

    December 11, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  14. Mike

    I have lost all respect for Colin Powell. As a Republican white male who voted for Obama I believe I have a right to say that Colin Powell is the exact opposite of what Martin Luther King envisioned for America. Here we have a man who voted for the color of a man's skin and not the content of his character. Colin Powell is a modern day Benedict Arnold; a traitor to the Republican party to whom he owes his entire career. Just go away Gen. Powell. America no longer values your opinion.

    December 11, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  15. Nobama DAvid

    Move over Jimmy Carter, make room for the newest member of the irrelevant gang, General Powell. As an unmasked democrate, I find it ludicrous that he attacks Rush (who really knows how the liberals think) and is willing to share the truth with the public to the dismay of the driveby media which 'died' this year. I no longer trust the general media nor do I trust what comes out of the mouth of the GENERAL. He supported Obama because he is black, that is obvious and I wish he would stop insulting us by saying that the Chicago Machine member who got elected is qualified to be president. After all, with all the Barry's friends (Ayers, Wright, etc. and now the Gov), who is stupid enough to believe that he remained above the crud? (The media, I know, believes it).

    December 11, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  16. Vic of New York

    I've said for some time that the Republican Party has been in the mode of self-destruct . Newt Gingrich and his "new Republicans" sounded that bell for me. It was evident then, that as the GOP swung its arc to the rightmost end of extremist ideology, it was only a matter of time.

    George Bush represented the pinacle of that swing to the ludicrous. So long as Carl Rove could keep Bush under the cover of "the kings new clothes" Republicans maintained the thinnest hope.

    But eventually the weight of incompetence combined with disconnect from the American majority had to lead to a topple.

    This is my next prediction: much as it has taken the Democrats nearly two decades to shake off its left wing influence – you can bet the Repulicans have a long row to hoe before this is over.

    December 11, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  17. eaca

    Colin Powell mentions "lower and higher instincts".
    Remember Mr. Powell, animals act on their instincts, human beings should act on their intellects.

    December 11, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  18. Rodney

    Powell, like myself, wonders where the intellectual component of the Republican party has gone. It's turned into a party disproportionately comprised of individual who seem to abhore conventional wisdom, a party with simply no "letters" knowledge. Educated on CNN/Fox news, AM now FM radio. The best of the best on the modern right had 8 years in the White House and look what the best they can do has been.

    December 11, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  19. sniper609

    Powell drank too much of the Obama Kool-Aid, no disrespect to the Kool-Aid brand intended.

    December 11, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  20. republicans hate america

    well said Powell the era of christian redneck inbreeds is coming to a close and not a moment too soon.

    December 11, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  21. Tim

    To Ted in Canada-We REALLY VALUE your opinion on conservatism. You being from Canada and living off of the Govt teat for the last 40 years. Hey if you need a gal bladder operation from your great liberal FREE healthcare system....come on down, and we can operate on you before you DIE waiting in line for a year to get it done FREE in Canada. FOOL

    December 11, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  22. Patrick

    So true,

    Remember when McCain had a chance? The way he stood up to the "conservatives" in the debates on issues like torture. Then he picked Palin someone who took his refreshing perspective and sent it so far in the neo con direction he lost everything that he had going for him. Follow Powell and old McCain and the repubs might be able to get elected in 4 years if not....

    December 11, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  23. BBK

    Colin Powell is correct. But I think he under estimates that there are so many who like talk heads like Limbaugh that there may be little hope for the republican party to restore itself among rational members of society.

    December 11, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  24. Windu

    The truth hurts, doesn't it? Independent, moderate fiscal conservatives tolerated the stubborn social conservatives as a necessary component of gaining power. But once Bush and his ilk proved once and for all that the Republicans really aren't fiscally responsible, aren't for small government and that it's leadership doesn't live the family values they espouse either, it was over. There's nothing left but a bitter, shrill group of dinosaurs led by the likes of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson.

    December 11, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  25. Bruce Davidson

    Colin, stop sounding like an out of touch has been!

    December 11, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
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