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. Kyle in Seattle

    Why on earth should "Republicans" listen to Powell after he endorsed Barack Obama? If that is Powell's idea of being less "polar", then I say, good riddance!

    Fareed Zakaria also needs to come up with another subject. This is the 3rd or 4th segment or commentary I have read with this same theme: trying to advise Republicans to become less conservative in order to win. History proves that this is BAD advice, no matter what pundits say about changing demographics (which have been predicted as long as I can remember, but never materialized).

    When Republicans nominate conservatives, they win. Otherwise, they generally lose. Reagan was a true conservative and a winner. George H.W. Bush was not, and he lost re-election. Bob Dole was very moderate, and he lost. George W. Bush ran as a conservative twice, but became unpopular with out-of-control spending and expanding government. We know what happened to McCain.

    I don't care what Powell or other pundits like Zakaria say. History speaks for itself: most Americans favor independence and smaller government. When Republican nominees campaign on these principles, they do well every time. When they don't, their base simply doesn't show up at the polls.

    December 11, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  2. It is Better to Give than to Receive

    Many of us Conservative-Republicans are from diverse backgrounds, but we are not recognized because we believe in personal responsibility & reliance on God, and not reliance on Government. I disagree that Rush Limbaugh is the problem. At least he believes in equal opportunity and principle. Compromise is not principle. Personal Responsibility is demonstrated by exhibiting character, integrity; by giving of our time, wisdom and money, and not expecting the government to do it on our behalf !!

    December 11, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  3. Nobama Fan

    Well, his comments just show that Mr. Powell has never listened to Mr. Limbaugh. If he did, he would be aware that this show is informative, enlightening and hilarious. Those who say that Mr. Limbaugh shouts at the world obvoisly have not listened to the show and maybe Mr. Powell should start talking to those who actually listen to the show and not just those who feel they are above the rest of us Americans.

    By the way, all you Obama voters will soon come to regret your vote. If you don't then you are not mentally stable. Marxism and Socialism are not the American Way.

    December 11, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  4. MITmike

    Colin Powell has never been a republican. He has no understanding of republican principles. He doesn't operate by principles. He is the politician. Could never be a statesmen. He doesn't have a clue what anyone thinks. He is the perfect example of affirmative action gone wrong- mediocrity.

    December 11, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  5. General Jack Ripper


    The GOP ran Juan Shamnesty McSame – the most liberal, pro-amnesty Republican they had....and they lost because millions of conservative voters stayed home.

    In 2012, if the GOP runs a traditional Conservative, they'll win in a landslide – as conservatives ALWAYS do.

    But, if they run another mushy-middle/left Republican like McSame, they'll be wiped out, again.

    December 11, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  6. Terri

    LOL...Republicans showing their true colors tday, eh? What, did Rush send you?

    December 11, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  7. NoSpinHere

    Well if within 20 years or less the minority(by Powell's recollection is African Americans,Hispanics& Asians will out number the majority(I suppose he conciders us causans that) then THEY won't be the minority any more but WE will . So does that entitle us to all the wha wha wha ,and freebies that the minoritys do now? Does that mean that if a crime is commited by another race to a causan will it be concered a hate crime? Which I think that is all a bunch of hooy. I think if we all just act like discent human beings and follow the 10 comandments then this world would be so much better off. And yes I belive in GOD!!!! If anyone else doesn't like it then there are lots of other countries that you are welcome to go to. This one was founded on that principal.

    December 11, 2008 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  8. obamaton4687081

    When will the left formulate a logic-based counterargument to the principled Leader of the Opposition? As he was, is now and ever shall be. 1992 redux, Chicago style.

    December 11, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  9. bob

    The Republican party is fighting back after decades of liberal attack. After listening to the Decocratic party and their bedfellows, minorities, gay right groups and other alternative lifestyle and communistic and socialistic political affiliations the Republican Party understands that to protect our country and the beliefs of our founding fathers documented in the Constitution of the United States we must fight for what we believe........ Let's just water down what our ancesters fought for, what we were raised to believe and understand. Our skins not tough enough for the truth today. We are soft skinned. Our brains only believe what the media tells us lest we forget God gave us a brain to make our own choices. Hollywood is god. Politicians tell the truth...... The earth is flat...... Powell and Rush are only humans and don't control anything.....

    December 11, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  10. Steven

    Hey Colin, How did that Iraq War you lead us into turn out for ya??

    What a moron!

    One reason why I voted for McCain

    December 11, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  11. General Jack Ripper

    Conservatives always win – see Reagan's 49 state landslide.

    Center-left Rockefeller-Republicans like Bush and McCain, either barely win, or lose.

    The GOP needs to get back to its Goldwater/Reagan/Palin roots and it will win. RINOs and imposters like Powell and McSame are the problem with the current GOP, not the solution.

    December 11, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Rush is over. Colin Powell is right on that point.
    Glenn Beck is who conservatives need to listen to.

    December 11, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  13. Connie's a hider

    If I were you Ms Connie, I'd run far far away without any food or water and simply run until I fall off the face of the Earth. There's no reason you or anyone like you should exist. And call me a hating liberal all you want, I will admit....

    I HATE people like you. This is ridiculous that in the 21st century, here we are, still allowing heathens like you to roam the Earth. Crawl in a 4 day old leftovers maggoty garbage disposal and blend in with the rest of the cretins that encrust themselves in stagnant water and rusty pipes...

    .........and take Rush with you.........

    December 11, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  14. Jim Shively

    When Colin Powell endorsed Obama I tried to send him an email. I searched and searched without success. I then sent a snail-mail to his publisher to be forwarded to him whenever they had an oportunity. I've not heard one word from this "washed-up has been." It is time the media turns him off as many of the readers of the news are doing.
    Powell was a chump in Nam and at the Mai Lia trials and is showing his true self now.

    December 11, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  15. Scott

    STFU Powell, you showed your true colors in this past election. You may call yourself a Republican but you are no Conservative.

    December 11, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  16. carmine

    What do you mean "lesser instincts?" Since when is smaller government, lower taxes, personal responsibility, free enterprise, strong national defense, and freedom, a lesser instinct? That is what strong republican and democrat leaders used to believe and that's what America is or was mostly about. I'm not an old white guy or a religious wacko. If someone would have those beliefs in his or her "hearts and minds" I would support them, whether democrat or republican.

    December 11, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  17. Mike, MD

    I agree 100%. As a Republican, I'm glad Obama won because his victory defeated the racial, hateful wing of the Party. Palin is pathetic and not a role model. And if we continue to let a loser like Rush dictate and guide the Republican party, I will continue to vote for a Democrat.
    Rush is a divorced loser who can't hold on to a women or control his pill popping habit.

    December 11, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  18. Fred Johnston

    He's right, time for the Republican party to
    wake up, become the Party of Thomas Jefferson again, they need to kick the
    Hillbilly Moronic religious right to the curb
    and regain the intellectual high ground.

    December 11, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  19. Rick Ayala

    To quote President Bush: "if you aren't with me you are against me"
    seems to have sounded narrow and easy to reject according to Colling Powell. Powell, for some reason always gave the impression
    that he lacked committment when he spoke as Secretary of State
    It seems that he felt a strong disagreement about Mr Bush's
    policies and also Mr Cheney's. WHY DID HE STAY ON. At that
    time he was showing his true colors of a "turn coat". He should have
    resigned and moved on.
    He also should ha ve given up the GOP.
    He showed his lack of loyalty to his Party and the President, and voted
    for someone of his color (Barrack Obama). As a suppossedly ex-
    miltary man, his flip over showed extremely poor character. I am glad
    I never had to serve under him.

    December 11, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  20. Dave

    They should call Colin Powell "Judas", Listen to Rush not this turn coat who is a Racist and voted for Obama just because he is black !!!

    December 11, 2008 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  21. left-coast retiree

    Wheew... what a bunch of meaningless words...
    What we have here is Rem democrats, a single mindset
    to feed off the American working folks, be that blue or
    white collar. We are so far from the original American
    system of government that my ancestors are undoubtedly
    turning in their graves in Pennsylvania, New Jersey,
    Minnesota, Montana, and Idaho. Ya they were here
    before 1700, and helped establish this country.

    December 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  22. Bill, Orlando, FL

    Either Powell doesn't get it or he doesn't want to get it. The reason the GOP lost was because McCain WASN'T a Conservative, not that he was too conservative. What Powell, not surprisingly, is suggesting is for Conservatives to give up their principles and PANDER to minorities. I absolutely agree that the GOP MUST do a better job of bringing more minorities into the Party but that can and should be dome by sticking to the exact principles that Rush Limbaugh stands for. There IS a battle for the heart and soul of the GOP and it is people like Powell who represent the type of Rebublicrats who LOSE elections. This country is STILL to the right of center and the GOP needs to aggressively recruit Black and Hispanic Conservatives to attract a higher percentage of that vote. Even as bad of a candidate as McCain was, he still would have won if it weren't for all the stupid people who actually came out and voted this year (for Obama) who couldn't even answer simple questions about our government or even Obama's policies.

    December 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  23. Reagan '08

    General Powell, you sir.... are an idiot.

    Its RINO's like you that need to be purged from the party; and take Arnold, Lindsey Grahamnesty and (dare I say it) his surrogate father McCain with you.

    "Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." -Ronald Wilson Reagan

    December 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  24. john

    Hey, "Gift of the Maji" The problem with the republican party is that it's become the party of the Neanderthals & Troglodites. They couldn't adapt to a changing world and look what happened to them!!! G.W. Bush told as many lies as he had to to dupe incredibly NAIEVE people like you to support his ADVENTURE in Iraq which has cost us $700 Billion and counting. and countless lives. He DOUBLED the national debt to $10 TRILLION in just 5 short years!! Many republicans are closet homosexuals like Sen. Larry Craig and Mark Foley. MANY republicans are on their third wives like Newt Gingrich, Bob Barr, Rudy Giuliani, Ruch Limbaugh etc. Limbaugh is a drug addict addicted to Hillbilly Heroin and goes to the Dominican Republic the have sex with prostitutes. Republicans claim they hate government but the just LOVE to appoint their cronies and then FLEECE the goverment and the taxpayers. The DEMOCRATS have their issues but the republicans are at least 1o times worse!!!

    December 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  25. blogzilla1

    I am tired of Liberal Republicans saying we nee to be more open to others. Guess what. We are. We had pro choice and pro life presidential candidates. Oh yea, we had a woman running for VP. African American Sec of State, Afriacan American leader og GOPAC. and possibly a RNC Chairman who could be blac

    Guess what Lib. The Democratic party needs to be open. Not one pro-life candidate. Close minded, goose stepping radicals

    December 11, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
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