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. beach biker

    Powell is an opportunist. He was a rhino when he could get more power and money and now he's aligning himself with the new party in power so he can further advance himself.
    The republicruds need to get back to basics – like constraining the fedgov with the Constitutional chains the founders put on it. The last thing they need to do is act like the demoncrites who want the fedgov involved in every aspect of our lives and who are quite adept at dividing and conquering. Unfortunately, the last thing they need to do is exactly what they have been doing for a very long time now.
    Also, how hypocritical of the leftists to claim that the republicruds aren't racially inclusive , yet Obama was elected because of his race. A bit of racism on the left' s part ? Obama sat in a "church" (NOT !!) listening to a bunch of racist / hate filled rantings by a lunatic and hung out with terrorists who had no qualms about killing innocent people. Very inclusive – of racists and terrorist, anyway and was it his mother or grandmother who he said was a "typical white woman"?!! He's a real uniter !!

    December 11, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  2. Bob

    Posted by P. Allen: "It seems my understanding of Conservatives was correct – you are
    terrible, grotesque, evil examples of the human race."

    Take a good look at this and other posts can you Democrats even START to believe you're any better than Republicans?? There are petty, stupid, mean-sprited people in EVERY about trying NOT to be one of them.

    Open your eyes, Dems...for every extremist, bile-spitting Republican there's a Dem doing the same thing...just read these posts objectively. Many of you won' won't be able to believe and/or accept that DEMOCRATS can be petty, mean, etc. Wake up.

    It's time we all started doing better and treating each other better, don't you think? And it starts with mutual respect and empathy.

    December 11, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  3. PattiB

    Powell is so wrong it's silly.

    Rush Limbaugh offers clarity and an honest dissection of the issues. He's entertaining and extremely well-spoken and intelligent.

    December 11, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  4. Greedy

    Powell is no more 'Republican' than Obama, nor has he been for some time. The Obama victory has emboldened Powell to the point that he's attacking 'his' own party. He is positioned/positioning himself for something in the Obama administration...or beyond.

    December 11, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  5. Alz

    I disagree with Powell. I have a slide deck that he put together some number of years ago about leadership and Obama falls way short.

    The ideas in the deck are conservative, not liberal.

    As far as I can see, Powell jumped the shark a few years ago.

    December 11, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  6. Hisako

    Right on target Gift of the Maji. Thanks.

    December 11, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  7. mike huenecke

    if you kool-aid drinking lemmings would open your eyes and ears and listen correctly to Rush on a DAILY basis, you would discover that BOTH parties tell you what they want you to know!!!! He's a REAGAN CONSERVERATIVE!!!!! look that up at You'll expand your IQ immensely!!! As long as someone else handles it or it's on a sports show or video game or internet blog, must be right huh? America has become a bunch of lemmings and followers. Rush is right, thank god for public screwls and kollege digrees?

    December 11, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  8. brownP

    Colin nailed it. He also should have said the GOP needs to stop listening to Sean Hannity as well. He and Rush are just alike.

    December 11, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  9. Adam

    Gift of the Maji – December 11th, 2008 9:02 pm ET

    Wow, nice to see a Repub. that isn't completely vitriolic and divisive.

    Oh, and by the way: it's "Gift of the Magi", Einstein.

    December 11, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  10. Link

    I have to say I agree with Mr. Powell. I respect his opinion. It is not the politics of the GOP I object to, though I do not agree with it. I respect debate and having opposing views – I even considered McCain in 2000.

    My problem is letting anti-immigrant rhetoric become hateful, using anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment as a political tool, relying on Rush Limbaugh who marginalizes women with terms like "femi-nazis", having GOP leadership who spent time at white only clubs, etc.

    It has become frightening. That is not the America I believe in. I can respect a desire for smaller government in certain times. But I cannot respect accepted bigoted rhetoric at rallies or from a radio DJ. The GOP must renounce this hateful atmosphere and speak to all Americans regardless of race, gender, religion, and yes, sexual orientation. Bigotry has turned me and my family off the party entirely.

    December 11, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  11. Cal

    Yeah he's an army of one alright, lol. McCain is a moderate, he is compromise and reach accross the aisle/can't we get along. News flash McCain lost, it doesn't work. Obama brought chicago style politics to the national level. Obama won and that's what works! Historical president to be, earliest scandal investigated even before inauguration. Maybe he'll make another historical first and have to pardon himself on the first day, lol. Man, doesn't Obama have enough respect for the position of president to atleast do illegal things after being inaugurated. Obama has to crap on it while hes not even in the position yet.

    December 11, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  12. Matt

    Powell is spot on. I am a long-time Republican activist and some would call me a "strategist". We Republicans have no "bully pulpit" to shout down from, and GOP doesn't stand for "God's Own Party". Republicans have to honor their legacies to Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan, but also recognize the changes in the world in which we live. America is broke folks. The foreign companies that dominate our auto market have plants in America now and employ Americans. They shipped their jobs overseas to America, and do not have their hands out for a bailout. The Democrats shouldn't be overly comfortable as a result of Powell's criticism however, as their party is embroiled in scandal, without Obama having even been sworn in....

    December 11, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  13. Chemosh

    I think Mr. Powell is on the mark. But what is funny is the attitude of conservatives on her. Rush is a druggie of the first order and had he not been so well connected he would be a felon. Or ,why was the paragon of family values taking erectile disfunction medication on vacation and he was single ..hmmmm? One thing the maker of the Republican majority (Lee Atwater) knew very well was that it was IMAGE not substance. Men like Powell that served in Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had given his life to service of his country is villified by folks who could not even show up for Guard duty or they never served at all but instead obtained waivers because they were rich enough. Even better by making a hero out of an actor who loved to wear cowboy hats. Nothing is funnier than seeing white anglos try to be the myth of the cowboy, based on a hollywood they villifiy, but use as historical truth. If the Republican party was like my last favorite Sen. from Arizona ..BARRY GOLDWATER I would so be a member. I voted for McCain before he went begging to the American Christian Taliban for their support. The complete sell out to them picking Gov. Palin was so vile. Sen. Goldwater knew in his time that the religious zealots would be fanatics that you could never satisfy. Fundamentalist can't even believe that Catholics or non-fundamentalist are going to heaven ..much less Jews, muslims, Mormons, etc.

    December 11, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  14. Bob C

    Hey Gen Powell.

    Why don't you go look for Sadam's Winebagos of death in Iraq. We remember you at the U.N. and how you lied to us. But that is ok, you will have a different opinion tomorrow. That is what is truly wrong with the Republican party. Quit worrying about what people think and have some courage, ethics to stand up for what is right. If you do that the majority of people, regardless of color will follow.


    December 11, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  15. Bob

    "Campbell is getting on my nerves with her constant critique of Obama"

    Yeah, you're right. We didn't see this at ALL over the last x years from Bill Schneider and the other liberal attack dogs masquerading as "journalists". What goes around comes around. Besides, I don't think she's being unfair...I haven't read anything by her yet that is unfair; she's simply asking questions and asking Obama to talk a bit more, which he is.

    What's your problem other than someone is asking the next President of the U.S. to be a litle accountable and talk a bit? Or is asking anything like this of Obama now officially off limits?? Is it starting ALREADY?

    December 11, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  16. tim

    Yes. This guy goes to the UN with nonsense drawings of
    fake WMD, helps start a war and now that he supports Obama
    I guess that is all okay. This is crazy man.

    December 11, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  17. Angel

    Republicans are so determined to see America collapse.

    December 11, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  18. irishsmile

    As an Independant voter, I would be very surprised if any thinking Republicans would be interested in the opinions of an individual who took Republican career-handouts for big money jobs yet, at the first opportunity, turned and bit the hand that had fed him by supporting the other party's candidate.

    December 11, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  19. Greg Bethune

    Colin Powell has almost lost ALL respect from true Conservatives in the United States, and he might as well get comfortable in his new bed and pull the wool of socialism up around his neck to keep himself warm. He will never amount to anything more than a bug on the windshield when Sarah Palin gets elected President in 2012. The Republican party has ALWAYS been the party of Blacks since Abraham Lincoln, and ANY black that would vote SocioCrat is a traitor to their own birthright, and has sold it like Esau for a mess of stew (demoDollars) and fleeting popularity! Good luck Colin, our one time brother, believe me, you are NO Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps you are the one we should never listen to anymore!!!!

    December 11, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  20. Anthone

    It's quite obvious General Powell rarely, if ever, listens to Rush Limbaugh. Rush has a brilliant mind and understands human nature. He also recognizes and emphasizes those principles that have made this country great.

    Millions of people have been and continue to be inspired by Rush. New listeners will be similarly inspired.

    Colin Powell is a continuing disappointment. Nobody really knows for what he stands. I wonder if even he knows.

    December 11, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  21. collin H

    By the way P. Allen, first you say that conservatives are vile, evil, wastes to the human race, then you ask them to be respectful. If you are teaching school you need to be fired. Do you think before you speak?

    December 11, 2008 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  22. Creed

    Lets not forget a few years back when it was the democratic party that everyone thought was on the verge of extinction. The pendulum just keeps swinging.

    December 11, 2008 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  23. John

    Let's see....
    Let me get this straight...
    "W" (or the Republican party) arguably ceded (or CON-ceded) the most significant transfer to the idea of a complete and total socialist state in the history of this republic to the opposition – while simultaneously cultivating an atmosphere where the first non-Caucasian won a free, unencumbered, unchallenged, fair election to the office of the most significant office in all of civilization and someone is 'BLAMING" it on Rush Limbaugh! From your point of view you ought to be thanking him, for crying out loud!
    You and your ilk literally make me laugh until I have to run to the bathroom peeing in my pants.
    Unbelievable! I just love this kind of humor. Maybe a stint on late-night TV? Prime time? Just too funny to be true!
    A parody of a parody.
    Laughing all the way to the bathroom.
    Puh-leeeeez! I just can't stop laughing.
    My stomach is cramping from so much laughter.
    Keep it up. Honestly. Laughter is great for the soul.
    Say more! Say more!

    December 11, 2008 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |

    I second this : " Powell is correct, but he also forgot to mention the likes of Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Bill O'Really? and Neal Boortz. They are all hate mongers and would rather see the country go under than see Obama and the democrats do something positive and good for the country and the world."

    December 11, 2008 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  25. Bob

    @Mike, who said "As a Republican white male who voted for Obama I believe I have a right to say that Colin Powell is the exact opposite of what Martin Luther King envisioned for America. Here we have a man who voted for the color of a man's skin and not the content of his character."

    I'm a white male Republican and I'd vote for Powell in a heartbeat. If you ever listened to him talk before the election, you'd know he was as thoughtful as ANYONE about the issues. I can guarantee you he voted for Obama because he believed Obama was the best choice. Sure, many blacks voted for Obama due to skin color just as many whites probably did the reverse...guess what that's life, and we're slowly getting better at that. But Powell is a very thoughtful, smart guy and I respect him immensely.

    I'll even go this far. If Powell had thrown his hat in the election even just a year ago, he'd be the President-Elect right now. Guaranteed.

    December 11, 2008 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56