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. IrishAmerican

    Powell voted for obama the liberal. Powell is no republican. Rush is at best a liberal conservative. Palin was the only reason that McCain even came close. Course I'm not sure that the democrats didn't cheat at least 5,000,000 votes.

    December 11, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  2. jane powell

    Who cares what Powell thinks, he could have run for President but refused. He needs to retire and go away. He's inconsequential

    December 11, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  3. Patti O'Riley

    Powell is free to turn off his radio at any time. At least Rush is honest about his political views, unlike most of the rest of the liberal media, including CNN. What people like Powell dislike is the power of Rush's reasoning and commentary.

    Liberals in the media - an admitted 90% and the rest lying about it - skew the news to the left 24/7/365, and then hide behind a shield of self proclaimed neutrality. The 0 McCain race should have put that issue to bed for even the most retarded of Liberals. Rush, on the other hand, will tell you 100 times a day that he is Conservative and has nothing to hide.

    Like all liberals, Powell cannot tolerate dissenting arguments. The level of leftist hate for Rush correlates directly with the power of his reasoning, political intellect, and argument in defense of Conservatism. Rush effectively and powerfully communicates his Conservative positions and because the left has no reasoned or rational response, they resort to demagoguery and name calling.

    Notice that Liberals never never never never ever discuss or debate the issues raised by Rush, nor do they ever debate his reasoning. They don’t because they can’t, and that is what frustrates them the most. No, all leftists do is attack the man at a personal level.

    The tried and true debate strategy is that when you have lost the argument; try to affect the credibility of your opponent by attacking him personally. The goal here is to lessen the power of your opponent's words in the mind of those listening. But as we are seeing, even that strategy has failed for the leftist; ergo the leftist’s reintroduction of the censorship doctrine.

    December 11, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  4. Colin Poweloscomy

    Colin Oscopy get a life. If you and your bully pulpit would use your fame for the good of self reliance, maybe the rest of the infected public could heal.
    What an anal, self indulged, arrogant, typical Jamaican. I was married and spent three years with a typical, self anointed Caribbean loser with lots of college to prove her ignorance.
    Go to Haiti Colin, where people really need help.

    December 11, 2008 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  5. Elaine Adams

    Colin Powell is not a Republican!!!! He is an opportunist who is on the side of who can do the most for him. Who is he to tell me I shouldn't listen to Rush - he believes as I do.

    The only reason Colin Powell is commenting about Rush is because Rush pointed out, during the last election when Powell threw his support to Obama because he was black and because he is an opportunist.

    Colin Powell, and the other "so-called" Republicans who acted like deomocats, are the ones who caused us to lose.

    December 11, 2008 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  6. Rush Limbaugh

    Thank you all for giving me so much material! I'm going to have one hell of a great show, tommorrow!

    December 11, 2008 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  7. Chris@PDX

    You can't be against EVERYONE that isn't exactly like you and expect to win elections.

    With freedom must come tolerance. Thomas Jefferson

    December 11, 2008 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  8. BluTri10

    Colin Powell has, is, and will always be a liberal. Why has he never voted for a white liberal before?

    If his support for Obama is not racist - I do not know what is...

    December 11, 2008 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  9. John

    Most of you CNN viewers.....Keep drinking that Kool-aid

    December 11, 2008 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  10. Jopa

    Right, becasue turncoat Colin Powell tells republicans not to listen to Rush it is going to happen...Pffffft...whatever. I am sure that Rush is losing sleep over this.....NOT !!! Especially when you consider that a large chunk of his audience is liberals. LOLOLOLOL!!!!!

    December 11, 2008 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  11. Czechbikr

    The General is making the full transition to the Progressive side as he now wants to tell us what we can listen to. In a perfect world, we will all think the same also. Here comes Skynet where the machines are perfect and seek to exterminate the opposition humans because of their imperfect thought habits.

    December 11, 2008 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  12. JX12

    Obama won because 20% of conservatives voted for Obama to teach McCain a lesson for "reaching across the aisle." Many more just stayed home for the same reason. Turn that 20% around, and McCain would be taking the oath of office in January. The only reason McCain didn't lose more votes is BECAUSE he picked Sarah Palin – and scientific polls have proven this out. She enhanced his ticket, and that is inarguable.

    Republicans didn't lose this election because they went too conservative. Far from it. They lost because they tried to pander to liberals and moderates, and the alienated the conservative base in the process (without whom they will NEVER win). When they finally started coming around in the latter months of the election cycle, it was too late. McCain voting for that infernal bailout didn't help, either.

    Mark my words, unless the Republican Party returns to the conservative values it professed to hold in 1980 and again in 1994, then it will go the way of the Whigs. This year was NOT one of those years. Anyone who claims otherwise is either blind to the truth (indicative of most of the posts here tonight), or angling for favor in Washington (that would be Colin Powell).

    Wake up.

    December 11, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  13. Left Jab

    As a registered republican for the past 7 presidential elections I have to agree with the esteememed Mr. Powell. Let not the conservatives stoop to the level of the libs. Rise above and educate the people who do not understad that conservatism mean less gov't interference in their lives. As a Christian I am also appalled that the right has been hijacked by the moral majority. It is not up to Chjristians to preach to the others that they will burn in hell for not having the same beliefs...educate, pray and lead by being a humble Christ-like example.

    December 11, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  14. Mr. Rhodes

    Powell is right about one thing – – the Republican Party can't be just a party of white folks. Too many whites are secular socialists and can't be relied upon to vote the Right way. The GOP must work to bring more Hispanic and Asian voters into the party. Hispanics are natural social conservatives based on issues such as abortion (pro-life) and traditional marriage. Many Asian-Americans are natural Republicans based on their pro-small business outlook.

    That being said, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Powell has never been much of a Republican and is certainly no conservative. He's a liberal – – on affirmative action and gun control just to name two issues I've heard him take positions on. He voted for Obama primarily because of race – – plain and simple. John McCain is no arch-conservative and had he run against Hillary or Edwards, instead of Obama, I'm sure Powell and many like him would n't have voted for the Democrat.

    GOP don't fall for the B.S. about having to move to the left to win. Abide by your principles – – which W. didn't always do – – and the real Americans will come home.

    December 11, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  15. Aaron

    Hmm... McCain did all of the above to attract everyone "BIG TENT REPUBLICANISM" and it didn't work.

    For the people that do not listen to Rush but ridicule him as if you did... try listening to him for let's say a week and then see how you feel. It's called Freedom of speech people!

    December 11, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  16. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    Gen Powell is right. The GOP has for quite awhile talking to the base of religious zealots and uber right wing fanatics who want only to dictate their twisted views on everyone else.

    Too bad for them, America is a whole lot bigger than that. People like Palin are just what the BASE love; someone whose very narrow view of what they think America should be. If the GOP wants to win any big election, they need to embrace all American voters, not just this Base.

    And the GOP needs to look to the mailstream voter, not just to the right or left. And try not to dictate to anyone, just listen!

    December 11, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  17. Stephen

    Since when is Colin Powell the spokesperson for the republicans. For sure he is not a conservative. He only has the nerve to criticize, not the nerve to run for anything. Put up or shut up! The republicans will win again when they return to conservatism and stop being democrat-lite. And to liberals out there...enjoy the ride...four years is all you are going to get unless Obama gets involved in a sex scandal. Then we'll keep you all around for the entertainment.

    December 11, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  18. tom

    Colin Powell, irrelevant. A nice looking, mushy, centrist politician. PC serviceman. General,I know.

    Rush, a Man, no parsing, no gobbledy gook, just says what he feels.Fun. Entertaining. Right.

    December 11, 2008 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  19. Andrew

    It's hard to tell if Mr. Powell is doing his best to sound like a RINO or a blue-blood, country-club Republican. Either way, it's just plain lazy political expediency. It's easy to read polls and spew what people think they want to hear. It takes hard work to create a political movement. Clearly, Mr. Powell and most other current so-called Republicans are not up to the task. It's time to purge the party of lazy, wandering generalities, and replace them with real leaders. Unfortunately, Mr. Powell did not join the Republican Party to be a leader.

    December 11, 2008 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  20. jpayton

    If the democratic candidate was a white Calif. liberal who had a Obama like thin resume, Powell would be standing by his buddy McCain telling us he would be the man for the job.

    This has to do more with identity. How many mainstream african americans came out for McCain... How many Viet Nam vets came out for Obama, how many Mormans wouldn't vote for Romney. We need to be a bit more honest, and so does Powell.

    Powell suddenly had an epithany...he could have used one prior to him unloading the PR WMD piece he did.

    He appears to be now doing some contrition, by blaming his party. It would have been nice if he put his two cents in from 2003-2007. Just another fair weather politician.

    December 11, 2008 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  21. JA

    I love reading the responses on these stories. Powel is 100% wrong. Republicans started to gravitate toward appeasement after the loss of Tom Delay. Pandering to all groups and forgetting the core principles of Reagan conservatism. I think the lesson is that a luke warm republican party is a losing proposition. We need some strong principled leaders like Sarah Palin to regenerate the party. We were born a Christian nation where opportunities abound for anyone willing to work hard and take personal responsibility for their success or failure.

    December 11, 2008 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  22. Whochebama

    Me thinks in 4 years....maybe less......the GOP will be the heroes. The Dems are quickly going down in flames in a BIG way!!!! Nancy Pelosi will be history in no time at all and we all know Barney Frank will hopefully be serving time for the mess he's created. Oh, yes, poor Prez-elect Obama is up to his eye-balls in a huge mess involving his Governor and his advisors.....what a shame!

    December 11, 2008 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  23. Whatever

    Wow... the libs are out in force on this story (including Powell)! Clearly a majority of the people posting don't listen to Rush Limbaugh regularly or they would realize what he actually supports. The same people preaching about inclusion are spewing their own hate about people with religious or conservative beliefs. You complain about a lack of diversity, yet all you do is put people in categories (black, gay, white, religious, etc....) and all in the interest of quotas and "fairness"; not wanting to fail or succeed on your own merit. I can't wait to see the direction of the country and the "what happened" comments when B.O. struggles – Socialism just doesn't work. Not sure what it will take for you people to realize that "everybody gets a trophy" leads to lack of effort, complacency, and mediocrity – but it will probably occur about the same time you figure out that Barney Frank & Chris Dodd should be facing inquiries rather than leading them. Stop getting your information from Katie Couric, Keith Olbermann, and Ghris Matthews and think for yourselves.

    December 11, 2008 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  24. Rich

    I didn't know that the Gov of Illinois was a Republican!

    December 11, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  25. Cathy S

    Oh Powell what a disappointment you are. Do you even listen to Rush? All he espouses is personal responsibility (something the dems don't believe in) and LIMITED government. He is not a hater, he is not a racist, he is not mean. He just thinks that liberals SUCK and are destroying the country and that the Federal government is putting its nose where it doesn't getting in religions business by trying to force churches to marry gays. Marriage is a religious institution and there is seperation of church and state so the government has no right to legislate that churches must be forced to marry anyone...civil unions are their only business. Powell has always been a lib who took advantage of opportunities offered to him by bad old republicans.

    December 11, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
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