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. Tyler

    The words dispensed by former Secretary of state are quite sad. First of all the claim that the Republican party needs to pander to minorities is not just offensive but ridiculous. A party should stand for values and shouldn't change them to get votes. Changing your values to get votes is spineless and shows just exactly what that party stands for, nothing. Second the republican party hasn't listened to rush since 2000. The republicans presidential nominee was pro-bailout, pro-illegals, pro-big government, believed in global warming, and was as moderate as they come. Does that sound like Rush Limbaugh to you????

    December 11, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Powell is not a conservative and he is not a Republican by any stretch of the word and he has no business speaking on behalf of republicans or trying to redirect the party away from conservitism by masqurading as a Republican. Any informed, inquisitive listerner who watched his interview on tv when he put his support behind Obama could see his comments and logic were striaght out of the Democatic play book. Either he abandoned all intellectual integrity or he drastically altered is philosopical approach to politics and life. The battle has been and still is about culture and values. A conservative bases their politics on principles. Powell has abandoned principle for expediancy and moral relativism and because of that I have lost all respect for him as a man, a member of our military, and as a political figure.

    December 11, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  3. Haliospal

    Good grief.

    December 11, 2008 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  4. caywen

    Here's how it is: The majority of the Republican base are good people who deserve as much respect as their Democratic counterparts. But enough of the Republican base are complete whackjobs either religiously, ideologically, or through intolerance and bigotry. Enough to make the Republican leaders cowtow to them every election season.

    The Republican Party needs more Powells and fewer Palins. And fewer Joe the Plumbers, Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, Bill O'Reillys, and all their wannabes. The Republican Party was a party of smart, pragmatic, decent, and dedicated people. Now it's a complete disaster.

    December 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  5. daniel slayton

    This man claims to be a Republican but supports a Democrat for president. Like all liberals he is heavy on non specific criticism. Please Mr. Powell, speak for yourself. Mr. limbaugh does appeal to my, I repeat, my better instincts. You, sir, snivel & snipe.

    December 11, 2008 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  6. lf

    Tell him Gen. Powell: The Republican Party needs an "update" upon itself. The GOP needs to march in formation, seek new goals, and fly right into this part of this century. Things, times, and people change–so
    the Party needs to fine tune itself to the needs of now and the future.

    December 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  7. Bob Hunter

    Conservatism, in my mind, stands for individual freedoms and responsibilities, small government, lower taxes, a strong national security. What it does not stand for is accomodating variations of any of these issues depending on one's race.

    What Powell seems to suggest to me sounds more like pandering. I would prefer a party with candidates that sticks with core principles, over one that tells blatant lies (e.g., 95% of Americans will get a tax cut) and speaks in platitudes (hope and change) without every truly defining what that means. Unfortunatey, the Republicans are not that party at the moment, which is why they lost. They didn't lose because they ran as Liberals-light. In fact, the GOP presidential candidate is Liberal-light and that obviously didn't make a difference.

    It seems that while the idea of individual freedoms is greatly accepted, fewer and fewer people take their individual responsibilities serious. The government is turning into a nanny state, where "Obama will fill my car with gas and pay my mortgage." It would be funny if it weren't illustrative of many people's mindset.

    December 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  8. PurityKontrol

    This article is a pile of pure garbage. Gen Powell is however entitled to his opinion no matter how wrong it may be.

    The GOP lost because the Rockefeller Republicans tried to game the system running the Democrat Lite, McCain.

    It blew up in their face. CONSERVATIVE Republican Candidates running against a Liberal Democrats won in 90% of those cases. Most Republican losses in conservative areas were to more conservative democrats. That may be an oxymoron to some, but conservative democrats do still get elected out here in flyover country.

    "The difference between intelligence and stupidity is that intelligence has its limits.”
    Albert Einstein

    December 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  9. Obama jacked my 401k

    The obama doctrine is if you cant beat them join them. I prefer the Bush doctrine.I really cant see how you can debate success.But you are all brainwashed.Weak-minded liberal facists.Your day of reckoning is coming.

    December 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  10. Tom

    REPUBLICRATS...It's a race to see who can spend the most money for their version of utopia. 535 elected republicrat brokers for sale to the highest bidder to wash your unlimited tax dollars down the drain. There is no shame in Washington and these morons wills be long gone when we pay the ultimate price for their fiscal behavior. They spend all of their time, like POWELL, the politician who used to wear a uniform, pointing their crooked little fingers at each other to blame, when all they really have to do is look in the mirror. I'd like to throw the whole lot out, but they own my wallet and have used it to buy guns to point at me in case I refuse to pay. It's probably too far gone, but we need a viable 3rd, 4th, or 5th party to even have a chance.

    December 11, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  11. Dave

    Hey... you liberals listen to who you want and I will listen to those that I like (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin). I will respect your decision to follow the hateful and lying liberal networks while I will continue to listen to those that are informative, truthful, and logical mainstream voices located on the AM dial. You see, the dirty little secret is that those that you liberals consider "right-wing extremists" are actually down-the-middle commentators who are just as likely to criticize a republican as a democrat. Don't believe me? Listen to them for a couple weeks and you will see that I am correct. During the election they were very critical of John McCain. They have also opposed President Bush when they disagreed with his policies. That is called integrity. When is the last time you heard a liberal news network criticize a democrat? I doesn't happen because of their obvious bias. They protect the left because they are the left, to the detriment of the country.

    December 11, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  12. Jim in Atlanta

    Colin Powell supported Obama because he is black, plain and simple. If you don't think so please go ahead and name one white liberal democrat Powell has ever supported in the past. Powell is an opportunist more than a Republican or Democrat. If he is such a man of principle and honor as people claim, then why didn't he speak out or resign as secretary instead of carrying Bush's water??

    December 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  13. gl, Pittsburgh

    Yea, it did back firer. Republicans have to change there ways and stop be such a divier like that crazy Sara Palin. Blacks and other races are tried of being treated differently becasue they are not white.

    In 20 years the old far far right wing will be history becasue they will all be dead.

    December 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  14. Kay

    Give me Rush anyday! Get rid of the RINO'S and give me a true Conservative who will stand by his or her principles, one who believes we are still a Republic and our Constitution is not a living document. We need to take back our Country which is the Greatest Place in this whole world to live. I am proud to be an American.

    December 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  15. Joseph Cerquitella

    There he goes again...

    Please there is no one, certinaly no politician who correctly and logically defines conservatism on the air waves likr Rush.

    Rush is the consumate entertainer. How jealous these folks are. He has the perfect mix of humor and insight.

    They just can't take it.

    And finally....Gen. Powell is NOT a Republican, as my Mom would say " actions speak louder than words".


    December 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  16. dennis

    Powell came out in support of the most liberal Senator in the US Senate. What makes him think that he represents any sort of conservative sentiment? Face it, he caved and voted for race over principle.

    December 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  17. James

    Colin Powell is a joke and always has been. Rush Limbaugh simply reflects the views of the majority of conservatives..

    December 11, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  18. scola91660

    I've lost all respect for Powell.

    December 11, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  19. Big Ed

    Colin Powell – now there is a man I respect. He may have made a mistake when he was with the Bush Administration, however he was being a good soldier. I agree with what he said, even though I find it hard to vote Republican and find it even harder to listen to that ultra-right-wing nut-job Rush Limbaugh. Thw world would be a much better place if Rush Limbaugh, Ann Colter and the rest of their kind would just...fade...away...

    December 11, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  20. Eric

    I believe it is because of people like Colin Powell that the Republicans lost our sense of direction and the election. Rush stands up for strong conservative way s of thinking. The liberals move in any direction the wind is blowing. Conservatives believe in core values of strong defense, individual liberty, low taxes, less government and less regulation. We cannot pander to everyone's demands and whining. Government is not the answer. Powell says we need to listen to minority groups. What we need to do is to provide opportunities for the members of these groups to help themselves. Immigrants from years ago built this country and will continue to transform it. We don't need government to provide handouts to them in order to get their vote. That is what democrats always do. Mega dittos Rush from Indiana.

    December 11, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  21. gringovejo

    As a Republican of more than 60 years, a disabled vet, businessman and who has been on the 'Hill", worked on several Republican Presidential campaigns, I truly believe that the GOP has turned into a
    haven for radicalism. In 1964, the John Birch Society effectively took over the GOP and caused one of the biggest anti-Republican landslides in our history. I thought that might stop the excessive swing to the right. They just regrouped. In came the Dixiecrats, the Nazis, the Fascists, America's own Taliban( the religious right), and a very high percentage of the 34% of just plain stupid people that a decades long study says that we have amongst us. The bulk of these people have little interest in doing what is right and necessary for the Nation. Instead they pursue their individual agendas, which usually means keeping themselves in office, with the help of , often, the wrong people. Most would benefit greatly, if they were to seek the
    services of a 'neuro-proctologist' for a, obviously needed, cerebral extraction. I am sure that a group discount could be had. Until the
    GOP stops the Nazi and 'Brownshirter' tactics; returns to it's origins, and learns how to work for and represent the entire Nation, this old
    Republican will probably be supporting and voting for your opponents.

    December 11, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  22. scola91660

    I've lost all respect for Powell. If he doesn't want to listen to Limbaugh, or anyone else in the media for that matter, he can change the station. Simple enough?

    December 11, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  23. Lisa

    General Powell is an amazing leader and an inpiration to all. For those right wing zealots who have criticized his comments-take a good look at your rhetoric–nasty, self-righteous, mean spirited and non inclusive.

    December 11, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  24. Denbee

    Do we need another Democratic Party?

    December 11, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  25. Rush JR.

    At least Rush didn't betray his party unlike Powell.
    I rather listen to someone who doesn't betray their own party.

    December 11, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
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