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. Big Cat

    I am a Republican too and I would have to agree with the General. Clearly the election supports that. And his analsys I think is right on. The conservitive message does not appeal to the minorities. But look at what a kick in the seat in the pants did for the Demacratic party. If the Repubs don't grow and learn from this, they need to settle in for the ride and get used to this. But I think the conservative party is already seeing this. The problem is good leadership that can translate this to a clear message through the party and to the voters. Time to re-tool or be left behind.

    December 11, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  2. Phil

    Yes, couldn't have said it better myself. The republican has excluded 3/4 of this country population. Idiots

    December 11, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  3. Daniel R. Peirce

    I used to like this guy... How long ago did Powell compromise his own beliefs? Were there a minority candidate who espoused my core beliefs, I'd vote for them. Likewise, I won't vote for a white male candidate who goes against everything I believe. Why? Because I'm not racist.

    December 11, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  4. John

    Rush is a bright light in the movement with over 20 million listeners he has more than Powell.

    December 11, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  5. Kid Midnight

    American Conservatism is batting .000 for the last 150 years. Since opposing the abolition of slavery, Conservatives have been on the wrong side of every important argument. They have opposed

    giving the vote to minorities and women
    equal rights for minorities and women
    the 8 hour day
    the 40 hour week
    the minimum wage
    EVERY increase in the minimum wage
    child health care programs
    social security
    disability compensation
    product inspections ("self enforcement works best in a free market")

    Conservatism must be abandoned. It is not a workable approach to the governance of our society.

    December 11, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  6. Bob

    I, like many commenting on this story, am a Republican. Gen. Powell is on point! The politics of division is over!! When terrorist look for Americans in foreign countries (remember Mumbai) they are not looking for White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Gay, Straight, Christian Americans. They are looking for Americans! Unless we stop subdividing ourselves we will collapse. He is also correct about Rush. Stop listening and start reading and understanding for ourselves!!! Don't use Rush as a source of "our voice." Bull! While he runs to the bank with his millions, we struggle to gain a unifying, non-divisive voice. "Hussein" is only one example. We use this name as though something's wrong with Muslims. Look inward before throwing stones. Remember Rome!!!

    December 11, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  7. Dave

    "The Republican party must stop "shouting at the world" and start listening to minority groups"
    Or we can each seperate and peacfully go on our own way. The country is big enough. Unless you have a problem with leaving us alone.

    December 11, 2008 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  8. David Richards

    Colin Powell is a very wise man. Sadly, far too many Republicans will consider him a traitor to their party and instead continue to follow that polarizing bigot Rush Limbaugh.

    December 11, 2008 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  9. Randy

    I think Secretary Powell is right about Rush! He is a huge hypocrite that gives all Republicans a bad name. The party will take years to revive, and thank God for that. George Bush screwed the party to the wall. Your principles are laughed at now, the American people finally realized that your trickle down guess is just that, a guess, and does not work at all.

    December 11, 2008 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  10. atomic

    Powell has ALWAYS been...and will ALWAYS be nothing more than an oppurtunist. Most people who have worked with him in the U.S. Army already know this

    December 11, 2008 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  11. bubbles

    Who cares what Colin Powell has to say about Rush Limbaugh or the republican party. He's a democrat, that became obvious when he backed Obama because he's black (well, half black anyway). Don't believe all these "experts" trying to "help" the republicans by telling them to run to the middle. That is what McCain did and he lost. Bush skirted the middle and barely won. Dole was a moderate and lost. Bush ver1 was a moderate and lost when not running as a third Reagan term. Reagan was an unabashed conservative and absolutely killed the dems twice.

    December 11, 2008 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  12. jake

    I think this is the smartest thing i heard a republican say in the past 3 years. if they were thinking this way im not just during the elections but during the last eight years in power im more then certain the political map would look VERY diffrent. My advice to all republicans is to have guys like powell and other inteligent center focused conservatives lead the party, and ditch the plumber and that atrocity from alaska

    December 11, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Colin Powell is right and wrong...the Republicans need to stop shouting and listening to their people. To just listen to minorities is isolating their majorities.

    December 11, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  14. The Bama Kid

    What we don't need is this Republicrat party we've had to put up with. We need to flush the GOP leadership and get some real screeming and yelling Conservatives back in Charge. Rinos deserve a 500 grain load not a leadership position in a political party.

    December 11, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  15. Cyn

    Come on, there is a time and a place for Rush and his kind. Please don't forget freedom of speech, Folks.

    December 11, 2008 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  16. david

    The right wing echo chamber can't stand it when anyone points out they are wrong. And the GOP has been really wrong and big time stupid for the last 8 years. Time to take your lumps and pay the piper wingnuts. Keep ignoring Powell please, you are getting closer to extinction. Thank God for real Americans like Powell.

    December 11, 2008 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  17. laljean

    At one time I felt that Colin Powell would be a great President. I championed him. But after the past few years and especially the past few months I know that he would have been the worst choice. And now he has the gall to tell us that we shouldn't listen to Rush Limbaugh! How dare he!!! It is so evident that Obama....and I will never call that charleton "President" so corrupt that his scandals couldn't even wait until he lied his way through the oath of office. We will need every conservative voice that we can find. It is so obvious that the main stream media will never tell the truth on Obama and his den of thieves that if we didn't have Rush et al we would be in terrible trouble. and your new best friend Obama get a big rock so that you can hide under it after the truth comes out about your dark and unlawful ways.

    December 11, 2008 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  18. RP

    Powell is a traitor to the conservative movement! Sorry Colin, you can't vote Nobama and call yourself conservative. And your criticism of Rush proves you never were conservative.


    December 11, 2008 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  19. Obama 08

    It's sad that the Neo-Cons are blaming the Dems for this mess. I say it's both parties' fault, but the majority of the blame goes to the Republicans. They will become a 3rd party group within the next 30 years if they still can't build a base in the minority groups.

    December 11, 2008 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  20. AK

    Powell knows which side of his bread is buttered. He was a hardcore Republican who lied about WMD so he gets to sleep in the house instead of the field.

    December 11, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  21. Bob in FL

    When did Colin Powell become a Republican? RINO maybe, but Republican, never. As Cm Joint Chiefs under Bush 41, it was his sage advice that caused Pres Bush to stop instead of finishing the first Gulf War. That which led directly to Bush 43 having to finish the job Mr. Powell chickened out on. Just like a Liberal. Mr. Powell is just a affirmative action version of Jima Carter. Why anyone ever listens to him or either of the Jesse Jackson's is a complete mystery to me.

    December 11, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  22. Bruce

    I used to respect Powell. No more.

    December 11, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  23. gp

    ha ha ha ha LOL!! I guess Collin Powell hit below the racisim and division belt. You conservatives are exploding now. Stating nonsense. He is right, you lost the election because you failed to appeal to minority groups. Bottom-line. I use to like McCain because he crossed party lines, he made several attempts to appeal to minority groups. However, since he decided that he wanted to win the election no matter what the cost by selecting a Right-Wing Natzi Sarah Palin to be his attack dog (ruff), I lost respect for him.

    So the GOP wants to win an election in the 21st century, you may want consider times have change. This is not the country that it use to be, values and beliefs have shifted and minority groups are growing.

    December 11, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  24. Dumb Enwerd

    Powell is the quintessential RINO. He backed the crook from Cook County for Gods sake!

    "Hey Colin, you don't like Rush have somebody turn the dial for you. Jerk!"

    December 11, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  25. Kyle

    The fact that Powell advocates substiuting political expediency for principles disqualifes him as someone worth listening to. He has squandered whatever goodwill he had left from the Gulf War. Now he's simply another Washington politician.

    December 11, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
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