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. jojo

    So it is bad to have a former rock dj as a party spokesman but not a community organizer as president?

    December 11, 2008 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  2. rb

    I'm amazed. Here's someone who could have had a positive influence on the party he still considers his own and perhaps changed some of things he finds wrong. But, instead, he chooses to be an arm chair quarterback. How easy it is to point out what's wrong and then do nothing. Why? Perhaps he's not the man everyone thinks he is.

    December 11, 2008 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  3. R J Parker

    I think it's pretty obvious from the comments the kind of audience CNN caters to.

    December 11, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  4. Obama 2012

    I wish all of you that dislike Colon Powell's comments understand that he has a brain and is fully capable of using it. His thoughts and decisions are just as good as the next person's. He is not a puppet. And, he is educated and has good sense.

    You have not right to say that he is a liberal and they he is a loser just because he is not saying what you want him to say.

    I admired him when he was working for Bush and did not agree with some of his issues about the war. And, I still admire him.

    People....learn some understanding and get a life. Thanks!

    December 11, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  5. Walla Walla Summer

    I am with you Mrs. P.

    December 11, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  6. gili4

    Well, Powell has finally come home to roost on the perch of his blackness. Since he's gotten everything he can from his Republicans, and they can't hurt him, he's just now revealing his true inner self. He has lost all credibility with anyone not liberal or Communist, so let those who believe in Conservatism shun him and his ilk from here on out. He is very similar to O.J. Simpson isn't he?

    December 11, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  7. Credit Card Republicans

    Sherman should have been allowed to finish the job in the South and we wouldnt have this problem today.

    December 11, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  8. ricky

    Powell is a racist! Note is identification with groups, raising one group against another.

    December 11, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  9. John Dothan

    Look Powell is hardly a conservative. He is just like the rest of the libs, what can I get for free. If he had been any kind of "general" he would have finished the first Iraq war so we would not have had to go back. Such a limp wrist is not someone I am going to follow. Rush is right, face it. You don't agree then obviously you are not a conservative so just join the rest of the free loaders on the left.

    December 11, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  10. Pat in IL

    I completely agree with Colin Powell. the Republican party needs to
    stand for something other than what they hate. Rush Limbaugh is nothing more than an uneducated fool, and I have never understood why anybody would waste time listening to him. some of his rants are so hate-filled that I worry that he incites internal terrorist activities.

    December 11, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  11. Lisa

    Excuse me John I am white and I voted for Obama because he was the best person to lead us out this mess. Obama is my President and I agree with Sec. Powell – The Republican party only takes in White Man,because the woman have left that party.

    December 11, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  12. Jeff

    It's about time someone in the Grand Old Party has the guts to say what needs to said. I have become so tired of watching the GOP turn into a stupid, myopic and silly bunch of whiners. Tiresome and boring.

    December 11, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  13. Jim

    I am amazed at Powels take on this. It shows how "out of touch" he is with conservatives. What he is suggesting is exactly the campain that McCain ran. Don't say anything that "offends" anyone, stay in the middle of the road. Abandon conservative principles.
    He didn't recognize that all races can be American without a hyphen. All of us want the same things, good schools, jobs and the American dream. It is the same for all of us. McCain is not, nor has ever been a conservative. If he had been, he would have won.
    There is a major differance between being a conservative and a republican. Powell has also never been a conservative. He chose to support a true liberal instead of a "liberal lite" which was McCain.
    Powell just doesn't get it

    December 11, 2008 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  14. John

    They don't give ginormous contracts to people who are unpopular. Rush will continue to be listened to because so many believe in what he is saying. Since Ret. General Colon Powell has crossed lines, I don't think the GOP is going to be listening to him anymore. He has no more pull with the Republicans and the Democrats have already used him for what they needed – to get Obama elected.

    So I guess this is Powell's swan song. So long Gen Powell, you were going to be remembered for your service, but now you'll be remembered for your actions as a political traitor. I hope you can find a new place in the Democratic Party.

    December 11, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  15. Fool Fighters

    Wow, Rachel Hull says of Limbaugh; "Even when he speaks the truth it brings discord. Debate and discussion is healthy, but discord causes strife for everyone. We are TIRED of it! "
    You would prefer untruth over discord? Really? You would seriously prefer not to feel "strife" rather than know the truth.
    Are you seriously tired of hearing the truth about the crooks in government of all parties? What has happened to the people of this country. The only way for the GOP to gain ground is begin pandering to minority groups? Oh jeez. Lets have a day without a white heterosexual male next year and see what happens. Oops, I mentioned a race other than a "minority" race, that probably makes me a racist in your mind.
    I see Dem People. Oops, I made a derogatory remark about dems, I must be an uneducated hate monger.
    I guess I'll just head back to the shooting range.
    Seriously, best of luck to all of you.

    December 11, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  16. Sunny

    Rush Limbaugh should be taken off the air? Listen to yourselves! You are against the right to free speech for ALL not just for your viewpoint. Funny thing, those who actually listen to Rush Limbaugh for a few weeks find they were all wrong about him. They experience a complete change of view. Hate-mongering? If you think that, you have never listened to his program. He does not represent the Republican Party - he teaches conservatism - big difference! I challenge you to listen to him for 6 weeks with an open mind. I dare you!

    December 11, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  17. Jack Meoff

    Colin Powell:
    "I'm the Dude, that supported the Dude, because he IS a Dude!"

    December 11, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  18. Rocky12000

    I used to think Mr. Powell was such a terrific guy. . . . but now I realize he is just like so many of the others. I had no idea what a racist he is. . . how disapointing. Just another Obama puppet. . . tsk. tsk.

    December 11, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  19. jiri

    It's not just Rush. It's the whole wing of the Republican Party that has hijacked responsible discourse and the debate of ideas in favor of petty, overly emotional, shock-talk, and wedge issues.

    If the Republicans want to be competitive again, they'll need IDEAS. Rush, Palin, et al, are not the sort of folk who sit up late nights working out the details of policy proposals or trying to understand the complex needs of the country.

    Face it, governing the US is hard. It's going to take excellent thinking and lots of hard work in the 21st century.

    December 11, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  20. JBoy

    Was it Powell's instincts that got us into Iraq? Was it his instincts that then turned him on Bush as though he didn't have anything to do with talking the U.S. , our allies and the UN into going into Iraqu with false information? Is it his instincts that now make him want to hide in the Obama camp purely because of skin color? Our country is "Bigger" than those instincts Mr. Powell. Republicans with intelligence, morals and values don't need your instincts Mr. Powell. Americans need truth, not the lies that your new camp continuously tries to hide as it uses the liberal media well to do just that. And to think,.... these comments come from a General that claims to fight for freedoms. What a difference blindness of racism on Mr. Powell makes.

    December 11, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  21. Rush

    I don't Colin gets the humor and satire.

    December 11, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  22. Matt in NJ

    My God, most of the people commenting here know nothing of the situation. Firstly, the gov. is not Obama's friend as is being insinuated. Being from the same state does not mean they are friends. They are coworkers. It would be impossible for a senator to try to run his country and represent his state in congress without working with his Governor.

    Secondly, Powell is not a democrat. He does not believe in most of the democrat ideals. If you watched the interview where he endorsed Obama he spent most of the time critiquing the direction of his party and ended up choosing Obama because he had little faith in a McCain Administration.

    I also read comments saying Powell is a patsy for whichever party asks him to help and that he is betraying the republican party. So should he decide not to represent his party in a Democrat administration and instead let a democrat take his positions? Seriously, is it a crime to help out the country when you are asked. You people are just bitter. Go cling to some guns or something

    December 11, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  23. Rahm Uraba

    Colin Powel has shown his true colors to the American people, and its NOT pretty.
    He abandoned all his principles and supported the opposing party's candidate not because of qualifications but because he was BLACK
    lets call a spade a spade
    This mas is simply IRRELEVANT

    December 11, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  24. Rich

    obviously powell doesn't understand conservatism anymore. neither to the sean hannity's of the world either. CONSERVATISM is an individual liberties, and limited government ideology. CONSERVATIVES understand that the more government there is the LESS freedom and liberties people have. conservatism at its core does not believe the race, or ethnic backgrounds are relevant to freedom. all men are created equal. this bullsh!t that is going on today is NOT conservatism. its a bastardization of the ideology that has developed over the last 20 years. it has NOTHING to do with limbaugh, or hannity, or any other that mr. powell has problems with. IF we ever get back to conservatism it will benefit us all, but at the rate our politics are degenerating that will never happen.

    December 11, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  25. AbleGoodman

    One look at the posts to this article, and it's easy to see why America needs a second Civil War to polarize and eliminate steal-and-redistribute socialism.
    This isn't about so-called "liberals", "moderates", and "conservatives". This is about a fascist neo-feudalistic international monetary and tax structure that was put into place by a bunch of elitist control freaks without any public input, discussion or voting.
    All you so-called "liberal", "moderate" and "conservative posters who think you know enough to justify your demonizing others, watch Canadian artist Paul Grignon's BRILLIANT animated movie, "Money As Debt" at
    Both Powell and Limbaugh know about this problem but won't talk about it because it's allegedly "too esoteric". That make them both lower than whale leftovers on the bottom of the ocean in my book!
    To you clueless ad hominem "lefties": when the crunch comes, do as you please, but I'm going to be on the side with guns!

    December 11, 2008 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
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