December 11th, 2008
07:01 PM ET
11 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. Pablo

    Colin Powell is not a republican. He has no business presuming to speak for us and counsel on what will help the party. He's a liberal democrate in his heart no matter what he says with his mouth. This "wisdom" he spoke shows his ignorance of the republican party and the American people. Shame on him.

    December 11, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  2. Tom Hibbard

    Apparently Colin Powell doesn't believe in freedom of speech or the right of millions of Americans to listen to Rush Limbaugh if they so choose.

    Frankly, I'd rather spend the morning listening to Rush than an hour with Colin Powell. Rush makes more sense.

    December 11, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  3. C. Anne, New Hampshire

    The Republican party that is operating now does not resemble the Republican party that some seem to be quoting. Taking responsibility for oneself, remaining governmentally and fiscally conservative, and encouraging individualism: c'mon, folks! Anyone critically looking at the last eight years won't find anything like that going on in the Republican party of 2008. Turning a surplus into the largest deficit ever, wiretapping, killing or displacing millions in a war based on false information, and putting unqualified cronies into plum government positions highlights the problems faced by the group now operating under the GOP banner.
    I've spent most of the past ten years working in non-profits serving a variety of social causes. And of all the people I've met volunteering for agencies helping advance the condition of those most needy, the environment, or medical services, less than ten of those people identified themselves as Republicans. All the rest were Democrats and the so-called selfish and elite liberals, working in the trenches and doing what needed to be done to change it into something better. The only thing the GOP has demonstrated to me is their love of making money at the expense of someone else; the desire to control someone else's behavior; and that if one believes in their God, than they will be successful and considered a "real person."
    Not a party I'm interested in.

    December 11, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  4. James

    Unreal, that someone actually said being Republican means taking responsibility concidering none of you will even admit voting for Bush, we have a nation in which not one person i find voted for the that is real responsibility aye? yeah wake up. The Democrats are so on point with all this, you people are losing your minds. Powell is now hated because he expressed his opinion, something in which everyone is thinking lately, which is....what the hell are these morons thinking...of course the morons wont get it so they go wild as seen. What a circus show.

    December 11, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  5. Ron G

    Colin Powell is a typical blackman is todays society and politics. He was all white toothed grins and and giggles when Bush gave him the plum job of Secretary of State. When he failed at the job, as could have been predicted, and Bush fired him...he sticks his tail between his legs and runs to the other side. Doo Dah, Doo Dah!

    December 11, 2008 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  6. EgyptianSphincter

    We ain't never gonna git no dang change until we quit votin fer the crook that promises the most money. The only change we git twixt either party is pocket change. Let's start writin t' our reps and tell them they need to cut back on their pay or we just might lay em off. No mo limos neether, a regular cab Ford Ranger with 4 cylinder and manule stick and AM radio is good enuff. If they want ahrcondishnun they can rol down the weendo. Both the demoncrats and repugnicans got a corn cob stuck up theyer hershy highway.

    December 11, 2008 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  7. Thomas

    Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reily should all be waterboarded until they agree to retire. If they refuse, then we send them to Guantanamo Bay for a nice vacations in cages next to terrorists. Terrorists and conservative talk show hosts both enourage hate, fear, and division as public talking points.

    If we do send Rush, Sean, and Bill to Guantanamo then someone has to get naked human pyramid pictures of them. Now that is fair and balance... and gross!

    December 11, 2008 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  8. whatever


    This board is full of lefties trying to tell the Republicans and Conservatives what to do or how they need to change. The fact is the Republicans are losing now BECAUSE they are acting like Democrats. SPEND SPEND SPEND killed the Republicans in 06 and 08. Start embracing the CONSERVATIVE ideas and they will be back. Powell is a RINO. We need to purge the RINOS from the party.

    Let's see any issue that the Dems have a better idea on???

    Energy? don't ever drill libs hate it.
    Immigration? Hey lib want them to let them all in.
    Education? Libs want our kids in awful state run schools
    Health Care? Libs want to turn it into the DMV of medicine

    As for Palin she is the ONLY reason McCain did as well as he did PERIOD. Unfortunately Stu-Florida she is a force and will be president one day. She took on corruption unlike Obama.

    Look at the mess we're in now. Freddy and Fanny were run by Democrats for Democrats. Frank and Dodd should be in jail along with Rangle.

    I'll sit here and enjoy the soap opera from Chicago. Let's see how many end up under the Obama bus. I can here it now He's not the man I knew… LOL

    December 11, 2008 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  9. Mike

    Powell can stop listening to Rush if he wants, it's his choice, but to suggest that "we" should stop reeks of the communism he seems to have adopted.

    December 11, 2008 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  10. Byron

    Here is the problem with Colin Powell, John McCain and all of the other Democrats in the Republican party. We don't care what color, religion which sex or nationality. The only thing that should be catered to is the pursuit of excellence to the degree that anyone wants. If they don't achieve their goal and they quit trying then so be it. The problem in most minority groups want standards to be reduced so everyone feels better. The problem is that the more you lower them the worse it gets over time. Those of you who believe that you cant make you are right because you convinced yourself of that. The sad thing is you tell your children they cant make it either and they will probably believe you also. How sad!

    December 11, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  11. Larry Gardner

    Powell is a sellout for the Democrats

    December 11, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Powell has alwaYS BEEN A REPUBLICAN IN NAME ONLY. He is in the shadows and does not represent conservative America

    December 11, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  13. The Prussian

    It is sad to see the Republican Party, the party that liberated the slaves in the civil war, the party that gave us Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Regan, be reduced like this. As this election has shown, with enough minorities you make up the majority. I believe that in order for the Republican Party to heal, they must first sit down and take a good hard look at their beliefs. I personally, want Colin Powell as the new leader of the Republican Party, if you don't agree with me, read his biography.

    December 11, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  14. Mark

    Yeah Powell...You have a lot of room to talk. You and Bush led us to war. I'm also a Republican, but was dead set against the war from the get go. We had Hussein contained. But you and Bush cost 4,000 American lives. This was not our war!

    December 11, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  15. Roy

    LOL! I love it!

    Ever since Colin Powell endorsed Obama, the Republicans have been using the same old line: "Colin Powell was never a TRUE Republican"; whereas before he was one of their token minorities used in argument to disprove that the party's agenda amounted to division almost to the level of segregation. Economic segregation wasn't going to be enough for McCain-Palin to win, so they bought a hyphen and added "socio" to no avail. If there are any Republicans with a good pair, Powell won't be alone in the coming days of media storm. It's time to pay the piper Republicans; continue this dialogue and re-define your comfort zone, instead of trying to always find ways to rally around your self-centered agenda. The subliminals have become ineffective, even at the very non-subtle divisive tone that was employed by McCain-Palin. Powell's one of your obvious leaders to lead this debate and I applaud him for having the courage to take on this fight. Tomorrow's gonna be an interesting day in the media. LOL!

    December 11, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  16. NICK

    Who is he kidding? He has never won an election and honestly was a poor to mediocre Sec of State. What he did prove is that being a middle of the road kind of guy is a losing strategy. He turned on the people that supported him, when no one else would. So as far I as I am concerned, he is the last person that I would listen to in these difficult political times...

    December 11, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  17. Shush

    Dearest Dem's,

    I just spent a few minutes reading through the commentary below this article. It's so interesting to read the liberal pleas for "intelligent, cerebral, discourse" and shortly thereafter, make statements about the "ignorant south" and "retarded" Rush ditto-heads. The humor of it all is that you likely have never listened to a Rush Limbaugh show or lived in the South. You have perhaps heard 10 second clips taken out of context on CNN and MSNBC; or swallowed wholly the anti-Southern stereotypes of uneducated hicks and hillbillies that has been spoon fed to you by your lop sided media outlets.

    I was once like you, even as a conservative, I thought Rush must be some demagogue fool appealing to base and neanderthal like instincts. But as an "academic exercise" I gave the show a chance, and then another. After a while I realized how out of context my textbooks, professors, and media had taken the show. Is Rush controversial at times, yes intentionally. And why? Well quite frequently it is to make a joke, or to accentuate the foolishness of an argument advanced by liberals through use of their very own line of thought but using a different set of characters.

    Conservatives may have lost this election but don't be so fooled as to think the GOP is dying. You should also remember only a few years ago it was Democrats who were in the same position as Republicans are currently. And quite frankly the only reason the GOP did so poorly this election year was because George W. didn't act much like a fiscal conservative, and John McCain didn't exactly reflect those conservative values either. The GOP was more excited about Sarah Palin than John McCain (a figure who the liberal media fears, hence their concerted effort to destroy her before she gets the opportunity to do some real damage.)

    And finally, as to your civil discourse, please remember how silly (and hypocritical) you appear when call George W. Bush school yard names like "buffoon" and "idiot." After all, it was that "idiot" that defeated your party two election cycles in a row. More practically however, it makes you appear utterly ignorant when the best you can muster is "idiot."

    December 11, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  18. CPT_jdb

    If Rush is so irrelevant, why so many comments? Me thinks you leftists/anarchists/democrats/radicals protest too much.

    December 11, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  19. David Grams

    What a giant!

    Colin Powell was definitely "too good" to remain in this administration. He is truly a man of rare integrity and lofty ethics.

    His comment on Rush Limbaugh is more than the truth. If this country were even to "lean" in Mr. Limbaugh's direction, we'd become a "Balkanized" collection of bitter zealots, descending into the chaos of name-calling and unwillingess to see any good in the "wrong party"...

    I'm neither a Dem nor GOP fan; indeed, I appreciate men and women of character in both parties. But what is so un-American and frightening is the demogoguery championed by some radio "hosts" in the name of "conservatism."

    Powell has exposed this corruption...may his voice be just the opening solo of a national choir!

    December 11, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  20. Phil

    A year from now when the USA is on it's knees and the country realizes the huge mistake they made in trying to solve our problems with socialism, Rush's conservative ideas will become attractive to a majority and the pendulum will start to swing the other way!

    December 11, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  21. Dom Evets

    I wondered why there are so many loony left posts. Then I noticed this is on the CNN site.

    December 11, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  22. uncle sam

    Powell is a RINO, who cares what he thinks!

    December 11, 2008 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  23. al bert

    Are you losers still crying about Obama and Bill Ayers? What about McCain's ties to convicted domestic terrorist and right wing radio darling G Gordon Liddy? You don't want to talk about that do you?

    December 11, 2008 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  24. sneemdream

    Turn off the radio .....if the truth offends thee.

    December 11, 2008 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  25. rob

    Powell is correct, but the rePUBICan party has been like this for YEARS. Why the hell did he wait so long to attest to it?

    December 11, 2008 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
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