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. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    Good for you Colin Powell.

    The problem is that prophets and wise men are usually derided and ignored by those who need their advice most.

    ... and old habits are hard to break.

    BTW, why stop with Rush? What about Ann Koulter?

    December 11, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  2. Prof T in IL

    To TJClark:

    With all due respect, what are you talking about? Mr. Powell was a successful military commander and as I recall from my 13 years of military service, affirmative action was not a military program. And for the record, he did not endorse Obama because he was black, nor did many of the Americans who voted for Obama.

    Your revisionist history is entertaining but a complete distortion. The only time Republicans ever cared about minorities was right after the Civil War when it was the party of Lincoln. As far as economic success is concerned for minorities, I agree that hard work is the key, but I don't think the Republicans have a corner on that. Recent history shows us that the trickle-down approach does not work and surely does not work for minorities any better than throwing money at them through social programs. To call Mr. Powell a socialist is silly and ignorant.

    The key to success is education and life-long learning and this nation is far behind in making that available to all of it's citizens.

    December 11, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  3. Illinois Tom

    Switch parties then. I am not ashamed of being conservative. Conservatives don't need any talk show hosts to tell them what to believe. Nor do they need liberals like Powell to tell them who to listen to. The issue for the Republican party is whether to return to the ideals of Goldwater and Reagan, or succumb to being a second big government tax and spend party like the Democrats. We are at a crossroads and I pray we return to being the party in defense of Constitution, rather than an apologist for corporatism.

    December 11, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  4. Lisa Vilen

    Thank you, Powell. I could not have said it better myself. Even though Democrats have been saying this for months, of course most Republicans are not going to listen to us. THE REPUBLICANS NEED TO HEAR THIS FROM MEMBERS OF THEIR OWN PARTY!

    December 11, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  5. Jon

    I have one word for Mr. Powell: TURNCOAT

    December 11, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  6. Isaac Grove

    Why can't Liberal Republicans, Lincoln Republicans, Nixonian, Rockefeller, andTRUE Republicans come back? Neo-Cons are exactly what they are. CONS. They may be nice personally, but like the local drivers here in Tampa, their attitude changes behind the wheel.
    We can't let the US become a Christianic-Style Islamic State! Civil rights for minorities, lower taxes for the less fortunate, bring more jobs, improve Amtrak, stop feeding the airlines, and lets become true Americans. Republicans need to go back to LINCOLN's Principals. Not Reagans. Lincoln founded the party, so lets keep it that way. George Bush is a RINO, McCain is a RINO, Reagan was a RINO! The trinity of the GOP death. Liberal Republicanism is just like the south and the Clintons... they always come back!

    December 11, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  7. Polarize this....

    Powell supported the war in Iraq and consequently has no standing....

    December 11, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  8. Juan Grain

    He is right on!

    December 11, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  9. Denise Bolin

    General Powell you are RIGHT ON. The self-righteous attitude of the conservatives is a turn-off to many people, It makes them think they are hypocrites and above everyone else. What I didn't like was the way that Sarah Palin incited such hatred and divisiveness at a time when we need so badly to unite.

    December 11, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  10. TexasAnnie *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

    Gen. Powell had the guts to stand up and say what other Republican big-whigs don't have the political courage to say. If the GOP wants to regain it's strength in the U.S., then they need to quit letting the ultra right zealots speak, unchallenged, as if they represent the entire party. I USED to be a die-hard Republican. I've walked streets & knocked on thousands of doors, made phone calls til my voice was gone, and stuffed enough envelopes to sink a ship– all for the GOP of the PAST. The GOP today couldn't get me inside their doors with a rope & hook. They won't get my support or my money again until they step back and quit letting the likes of Rush Limbaugh & Fox News ("fair & balanced news" my foot!) & the radical segment of the NRA speak for them.
    My poor old Daddy probably turned over in his grave this past Nov. 4th when I voted.... but I've got daughters & granddaughters that deserve better than what the GOP is espousing these days. No way could I vote for McCain and that senseless nimrod Palin.
    Wake up Republican Party!!!

    December 11, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  11. Proud to be American

    Now will they Repugs listen to Powell .... that is the question. I am glad he said what he said even if he is speaking the obvious....

    December 11, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  12. aware

    Anger and hypocrisy seem to be a gaining ground! Could it be a human heart problem? What a joy killer! 🙁

    December 11, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  13. Patrick

    He never listed specifics. I agree with his generalities but what SPECIFICALLY does he mean?

    December 11, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  14. MJHS1967

    Colin Powell recognized the “7” things that God hates -

    There are six things which the LORD hates,
    Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
    Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    And hands that shed innocent blood,
    A heart that devises wicked plans,
    Feet that run rapidly to evil,
    A false witness who utters lies,
    And one who spreads strife among brothers.

    Proverbs 6:16-19

    December 11, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  15. Susan

    Colin Powell got it dead on. The GOP can stay stuck in oblivion as far as I'm concerned until they can come back as a nicer, more inclusive party that doesn't continue to cling to antiquated ideals. But I'm not holding my breath on this long as you Republicans think someone like Sarah Palin is the "future of the party" (excuse me while I throw up a little...) you will be left out in the political cold – and rightly so.

    December 11, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  16. Amber

    Dittoheads –

    Someone dares say ONE thing against your FALSE GOD Rush Limbaugh and you all fall to pieces at the foot of his raised golden altar. Disgusting. And I haven't heard one single comment from one right winger defending the "divide and conquer" party that didn't invoke race. Simply pathetic.

    Face up to the facts, neo-cons: Your despicable ideology is DEAD. The effects of it are with us today, but we're working on that too. Get rid of your hateful ways, and there will be plenty of room for you in the land of reason where the rest of the country resides. You know, the 'real America'.

    December 11, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  17. Perusing-Through


    Nobody is perfect. It is easy to screw up and not live up to ones good principles. But the Republican Party continues to display blatant cases of hypocrisy.

    Case #1: Republican supporters railed hard against Britney Spears' teenage sister Lynn Spears when she turned up pregnant and unmarried. The Spears' mother was also attacked for her daughter's pregnancy by the Republican Christian-Evangelical supporters. But these same Christian-Evangelicals who tore into the Spears, cuddled Sarah Palin's unmarried teenage daughter Bristol Palin when the same thing happened to her.

    December 11, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  18. Gunny G

    Dear Colin Powell,

    Who knew you were a closet commie?

    December 11, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  19. DarkKnight3565

    Powell says there is nothing wrong with conservatism but he goes on to attack Limbaugh, which is nothing more than an attack on conservatism.

    I agree with most of what Rush says but even when I disagree with him I know Rush is a man of principle. Powell, as evident by his endorsement of Obama/Biden, is anything but. There is no better representative of Powell's views on national security or foreign affairs than McCain. There is no one who has as little in common in these matters than Obama or Biden. Yet look who Powell endorsed.

    I do agree that Republicans need more support from minorities, but Republicans should gain this support by continuing to articulate core conservatism to minorities (just as they must do to all Americans). They should not hope to attract minorities by abandoning their ideals, especially at a time when the country needs those ideals more than ever.

    December 11, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  20. Brian

    Still waiting for ANYONE to show one instance of Sarah Palin showing any hate whatsoever.

    Just 1 instance...

    Pointing out someone's factual and VERIFIABLE record is not hate.... I guess, except to those who are ashamed by it.

    December 11, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  21. Lolita

    LOOK bottom line if the GOP doesn't change in some way in the next four years then the 2012 election will have the same outcome. If America voting for Obama wasn't a clear message to the GOP then our history should be. It time for a CHANGE. I strongly believe that the republicans are just upset that the democrats thought of the plan first and it work so well for their part!

    December 11, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  22. patrick

    House Diva (at 6:17pm) is a shining example of all that is wrong with politics today.

    She reminds me of my university days and all the self-proclaimed progressive and tolerant types. Anyone who disagrees with them is a redneck, stepford wife, religious nut etc.

    This sort of mentality was on display when Palin joined McCain's team. Writers called her a christian stepford wife, a republican blow up doll, one female divinity professor claimed that Palin's chief hypocrisy was claiming to be a woman. Where were all the feminists crying sexism? They didn't mind all the nastiness because Palin does not follow the feminist faith – namely supporting aboriton on demand right up until the day of birth (ie partial birth abortion).

    Had these nasty comments been directed at a pro abortion politician all hell would have broke loose.

    December 11, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  23. Conan

    Powell is a RINO, not a conservative. Cross the aisle and stay there you senile old fool.

    December 11, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  24. Glen,

    I suppose General Powell must find an acceptable reason as to why he endorsed The One, I doubt if anyone except Obama News Network actually cares.

    December 11, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  25. Charles

    Well, I just lost all respect that I had for Gen. Powell. Looks like he has gone over to the dark side. I'd have never thought it of him. What a shame!

    December 11, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
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