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. lmc in Seattle

    Colin Powell is absolutely right! The leadership of the Republican Party has mutated into a divisive, hateful group. They like to tout Christian values, but then turn around and lie. I don't believe that all Republicans are like that, but their leadership is probably ruining their party. We've just been through 8 years of tearing down our country thanks to the tactics of the GOP.

    December 11, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  2. Logical

    TJClark .. where did Gen Powell say he was voting for Obama because he was black???

    You right-wingers are so funny ...

    December 11, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. dan

    I'm a Republican, and I have a lot of respect for Colin Powell. I'd still like to see him run for national office at some point.

    December 11, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  4. Kim, Dallas, TX

    Colin Powell is a man of integrity and respect. Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter are all Republicans that incite anger and hatred towards others. This is the reason why so many people are sick of politics. I really believe that Sarah Palin ruined any Republican chance of winning with the speeches and hate language that was espoused at her rallies. She is very bad for our country; and so is Limbaugh. They are out of tune with the majority of Americans.

    December 11, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. KJ

    To imply that Powell said he voted for Obama solely because he was black is disingenuous. I remember him talking a lot about his ideas, temperament, and charisma. I am also curious as to where Powell has suggested that he supports the government ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and an equal distribution of wealth to all members of our society.

    December 11, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  6. Larry

    General Powell is one of the great patriots of our time,I do,and have agreed with him on just about every point I've heard him make,I do think that the Republicans can make great gains with minorities if we adopt the same game plan that have been so successful for the Democrats,which is telling everyone exactly what they want to hear,and offering to give people things for free.After the election and they are in office,do the party's own agenda,and cast blame on others if things do not go well.In other words be great politicians.

    December 11, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  7. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    I have said before and will say it again, when I saw the DNC in Denver and Obama's acceptence speech in Chicago when Biden and his family walked out on stage, I saw what America REALLY looks like today, however when I saw the RNC in St. Paul, I saw what America looked like back in the 40's and 50's when we only had black and white tv and all the minorities were either servants or comic fare. As an African-American I admit I HAVE voted Republican before in the past but it was due to who I thought was the best candidate. But now the Republicans along with the religious right, neo cons and Limbaugh wanna be's seem to have little to no interest of being diverse or have any inclusion. And don't give me that about minorites only want handouts....that's not true. They want jobs, the American dream, willing to work for what they have and belive it or not there are many that are ashamed and don't accept welfare.

    There is a group called "Hip -hop Republicans" that are African American and did NOT vote for nor support Obama. (yes it's true not every Black person who voted voted for Obama) I would like to ask them to give me a good reason and show me why I should vote Republican and unlike quite a few on the far right, I have an open mind and I'll listen.

    December 11, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  8. Al

    Powell is correct. I've said the same thing for over a decade. I've watched GOP friends and family members become downright paranoid because of what the GOP preaches. GOP themes for the past several elections have been, divisive, filled with hateful innuendo, and downright disgusting. “There is always something to fear,” has been the GOP mantra. They preached division over unity. In truth, there is nothing to fear. I believe we should be celebrate our differences, and put them to work for our society and country. By working towards a consensus view, working together, and using the best of everyone’s diverse views and ideas, we become even stronger. Strength created by consensus, out of diversity, has been the strength behind our nation since its inception. Thirteen diverse colonies came to together to form one cohesive nation and we defeated the British (the world’s super power). This is a secret the GOP seems to have forgotten, a secret that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Sarah Palin have never known or understood. Only as a nation united, can we succeed in the future. The last time we choose division over unity, we ended up with the civil war. I hope the GOP will remember that lesson before the next election.

    December 11, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  9. Tired of Illinois Politics

    Anyone want to buy an election?!!! What ever it takes, how ever fall in line....because the dems said so...

    December 11, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  10. big papa

    Release those inner demons, the South ain't gon' rise again. confederates are going to be extinct in a few years.

    Powell is right on the mark...

    December 11, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  11. bertha doucet

    Colin powell seems to be full of anger, he do not look happy,this is just an observation!!!!! Houston Tex.

    December 11, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  12. Craig

    I lost respect for Mr. Powell when he endorsed Obama! His endorsement was strictly based on race! Did Mr. Powell endorse any other similarly situated democratic candidates that were white, I don't think so! The reason the Republicans lost was because McCain was a weak conservative candidate and the economy tanked at the most unopportune time! The conservatives need to take back the party and embrace all who agree with conservative principles and traditional values!

    December 11, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  13. Debby

    Well now that Obama is in Powell comes out of his hole and speaks out. Where was he all the other years.

    December 11, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  14. BKrause

    Powell's come to Jesus is illuminating and a beacon for others to follow, as well. Nothing good can come from the disaffection and alienation promoted by folks with ill-tempered and pathological minds like Limbaugh, O'Reilly and others who rage at the light.

    December 11, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  15. Vence wilmington CA

    Just one question for General powell.
    Why did you took so long to denounce this crime Mr. Powell?
    It seems to me that only when the end is near is when you accept your sins. You had eight years to denounce this hate to the wolrd. You were one of the very few that could have done that much more before. Instead you lied to the world on the name of what you are denouncing today. Shame on you General! Shame on you!! Many people have died here because of hate against minorities.The same for Iraq. Read the news General. Hispanics and African americans have been the last targets again, from people that support the party you once help and now denounce.

    December 11, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  16. Nicole

    There's nothing wrong with conservatism. Some of Obama's policies (ie, scrutinizing the budget line-by-line, military presence in afghanistan) can be considered conservative approaches. The GOP needs to weed out the shrinking all-exclusive neo-con group, which is already the minority, and the party will be fine. All this "right is always right, liberals are evil" crap has to stop and I think guys like Powell and Pawlenty realize that the GOP can be "conservative and modern" at the same time.

    December 11, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  17. truth hurts

    Bless you Colin Powell, you could not have stated the truth any more clear than that, we the voters want honesty, interigty, and facts, facts, facts, not yelling and screaming racisum,and hate, and arrogance.

    December 11, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  18. Dimslie

    Who cares what a Democrat thinks about Republicans? Powell has a racial chip on his shoulder. He never understood that he was a token and actually thinks people take him seriously.

    December 11, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  19. inm

    Yes, it is all Sarah Palin's fault. It is her fault that we have 10 trillion dollar debt. It is her fault that we are in the war in Iraq. It is her fault for the financial crisis. It is also her fault for all the crime being committed in the major cities in this country. It is her fault for the high drop out rate, all the unwanted pregnancies, and global warming. Yes, it's all Sarah's fault. By the way, what politial party appointed Powell from LTC to four star general. Who appointed the general the first African American National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and first African American Secretary of State. Hint: its not the democrats.

    December 11, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  20. Jane

    Colin Poqwell needs to leave the Republican party. He was never Republican anyway. It just suited him and he could get the jpobs he wanted. How said. Tell him to get out the party does not need him.

    December 11, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  21. steve r. from Wash st.

    Great suggestion MR. POWELL, It is sad that this party is closed minded and not willing to except positive change that this Country needs. Come aboard GOP and lets climb out of this together.

    December 11, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  22. kevin in Texas

    I have been a Republican all of my life, but I completely agree with Mr. Powell. I live in a conservative State, but I was one of the millions of Texan's who cast their ballots for Democrats this year. This State became a lot more purple because of people like me and my wife.
    I am tired of Bush running my Party. Until he is gone and the Republican party learns how to be a modern Party, I will continue to cast my votes for Democrats. The only problem is, we Republicans lack a clear direction, we are two maybe even 3 parties in one and we don't have a clear leader. I am afraid the Republican party has changed and lost its way.
    Kevin in Texas

    December 11, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  23. Rumpelstiltskin

    Funny thing here. Powell is a Republican calling it like it is but the hard-core right wingers off course try to pretend he isn't one of them. Typical politics of division GOP style. Failed policies and now the country is in shambles. 2 stupid wars and world economy going down fast.

    December 11, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  24. floridian

    I disagree with former SecState Powell - the Republican party does not have to join the minority; the current people in the minority have to understand what the Republican party wants to do for them - stand on your own, take responsibility for yourself and your family; work hard and take advantage of the opportunities this great country offers; stop looking for excuses for your failure and blaming others; set goals and work towards them - and then vote for those politicians who offer you the best opportunity to grow, move forward, and succeed and who hold common beliefs with you as you do find success. That is what Pres. Bush tried to do for each of us and that is how I will remember his efforts.

    December 11, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  25. aware

    If you aren't with me you are against me sounds like PEBO! 🙁

    December 11, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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