December 11th, 2008
07:01 PM ET
12 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. virginia

    Three cheers for Mr. Powell!

    December 11, 2008 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  2. Joe Blow

    Great general... but weak conservative. Sorry but Rush is way more correct than the narcisist hero worshipper. Colin should remain in his garage fixing his collectables vice voicing an opinion that at best is chest beating. Again, great general, lousy SecState.

    December 11, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  3. rhino


    Plain and simple:

    Conservatives want less taxes, smaller government and the same liberties and opportunities for ALL!

    Conservatives want individuals (black, white, pink or polka-dot) to live up to their potential, and that doesn't happen when government is constantly trying to level the playing field.

    Our replican leaders have not been very conservative of late. That's their fault for being idiots, and our fault for electing them. But our downfall was allowing them to get away from the principles above!

    December 11, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  4. Angelo Panousis

    Colin Powell could have / should have been the first black US President.

    That said, I respectfully differ with him now.

    Right is still right, wrong is still wrong and if everyone agrees to lean left at the same time just for the sake of harmonizing our voices while singing praises to our newly found saivour – then the boat will capsize into socialist hell.

    He of all people should know the importance of having a vigorous but loyal opposition. Let Rush continue to be heard and let the American be informed. We have already seen that Mr. Obama is just as willing to try to squash unflattering yet important news as was Mr. Bush. Healthy opposition is the only thing that holds absolute political ambition in check otherwise you end up with Putin or Mugabe.

    December 11, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  5. mnm

    Powell bailed on our Country and HIS President when we were at WAR! Need I say any more?

    December 11, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  6. Shazamm

    Powell...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."

    This only works if we can get past all of the stupid political correctness and racial double-standards that are in play. No group is above criticism, and until we can criticize each other in a constructive and civil way, inclusiveness is but a pipe dream.

    December 11, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  7. JeezeLouise

    Republicans are the bigots? Oh really? What segment of the population voted 90% for the guy who has the same skin color as they do? Including Powell? And the irony is that your hero is half white. That fact is lost on most of you, isn't it? BO himself in one of his books stated that he had to disown his white heritage (or words to that effect). He calls his own grandmother a "typical white person." Here's a newsflash. If it wasn't for white people, BO would NOT have been elected. He's as big a bigot as the rest of the racists in this country. Doesn't that strike any of you as the exact opposite of what made Martin Luther King such real hero? A real man with common sense who knew content of character, not color of skin is what matters? Divisive? Look to the Democrats. Vicious? Look to the Democrats. I've never, in all my life, seen such a more mean-spirited, nasty bunch of people. Compare the comments here.

    December 11, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  8. jumping

    I don't know why Powell is surprised that paid entertainers like Limbaugh and Coulter should have become the spokepersons of the modern day Republican Party. Their biggest hero is, after all, a movie star who was upstaged by a monkey. It is interesting that one of the few Republicans to reply on this forum refers to Powell as a "socialist" who got where he did because of affirmative action and voted for Obama because he was black. Talk about missing the point! I doubt anything will change the clueless Republican base, but as long as there are moderates like Powell, there is still hope for the party.

    December 11, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  9. Bayouhick

    Rush Limbaugh??? Did he mean Herr Dr. Joseph Goebbels?

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

    as both sides argue over how right one side or the other is just remember 5.3 out of 10 voted for obama – 4.6 out of 10 voted for McCain. This country is still very up for grabs at any point by changing the mind of .4 out of 10 people

    December 11, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  11. Tim

    Colin Powell is absolutely correct. The Republican party used to be the party of fiscal conservatism and the belief that gov't should stay out of social issues except in cases of enforcing equality. Sadly, the Republicans have been hijacked by bible thumpers and other religious nutcases and have run this country into the ground with cronyism and warmongering

    They need to lose this conceit that they are the party of morality, because it is so obviously not true. No one holds the monopoly on morality, *no one.*

    Quite frankly, the current state of the Republican party is anything but conservative. The Democrats have been the ones balancing the budget and otherwise cleaning up the messes the Republicans make.

    They need to stop trying to control womens' bodies and who you can fall in love with and stop hating those who are different and upholding the separation of church and state if they are to continue being relevant. The days of old white men being in power are slowly coming to an end.

    December 11, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  12. Don Wallace

    Rush scares the left, because he's not afraid to say the truth, and doesn't appease anyone. Rush is entertaining and funny. You libs need to lighten up. I'm sure that will never happen. Rush is so honest and decent it makes you lefties shrink with fright.

    December 11, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  13. Dave in Rockford

    Rush Limbaugh and others present an opinion. Are you seriously thinking that the way to oppose those opinions is to censor them? Sounds a bit problematic too me. Who gets to decide what one can say and what one can't say? Doesn't even the thought of that scenario bother you liberals a little bit?

    December 11, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  14. Louisiana Lou

    I alwalys find it strange when Demos tell Repubs tell change our views so we can win. Please demos continue what you are doing and Repubs will be back soon.
    Demo's policy-give people with no jobs/no income a house note.
    1+1=4 will never work......Barney Frank, Chris Dodd leading the fix
    of money problems will never work......Nancy P. and Harry R. never have worked. This a dream team?

    December 11, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  15. JohnB

    This might be the biggest gaggle of mind numbed robots I've ever encountered. If Rush delivered an Obama victory and Democrat gains, why would you want him gone?

    It appears to me that Limbaugh is, and always will be a threat to the true enemy of minorities in this country. Those enemies being the democrat party, and their decades of failed social experimentation.

    Rush preaches self reliance and less dependence on the government. No wonder he's such a threat.

    December 11, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  16. Ray

    Ruch believes in freedom, small government, limited taxes and the individual. Colin do you even listen to Rush? The day Rush leaves the seen is the day America is dead. All most Americans want is the government to get out of the way. Let us keep most of what we earn and don't make decisions for us. Instead, we have government that wants to design our cars, tell us the earth is getting hot when it is not, and taxes that are so high it limits freedom. Really that is all I've ever heard Rush talk about in the last 15 years. Maybe Colin you should find a spider hole like Saddam and climb in it.

    December 11, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  17. trent1280

    General Powell has done a great service (again) to his country and, if only they would listen, to his party. Such 'patriots' as Rush Limbaugh, Michael 'Savage', draft-dodgers all, degrade and defame the very idea of America when they begin another of their endless rants.

    Mr Limbaugh in particular, who avoided service to his country by virtue of a strange problem with his posterior, purports to lecture others on American identity and patriotism. His right-wing absurdities, masked by phony humor, are nothing but endless insults, deformed ambition, and childish paranoia.

    It is clear why he appeals to dunces. It is not clear why anyone takes him seriously.

    Thanks and hats off to General Powell for telling the truth about these obnoxious 'Republicans'. General Eisenhower and Senator Goldwater would be ashamed by their endorsement.

    December 11, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  18. Remy

    Some posters are so angry because Powell endorsed Obama while he is a republican. He read what was given to him by the American Intelligent services in the UN Security Council! Iraqi war is a brain child of Karl Rove and Condi Rice.

    Blaming is easy but finding the truth is very..very.. hard. I hope many Bush administration officials have to face the court proceedings in coming months for misleading a nation and corruption.

    December 11, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  19. Pat

    Does your radio not have an "Off" button? Good grief, people! Take control of your lives. Colin Powell is a RINO (Republican in name only). Of course he backed Obama, but remember that President-elect Obama is NOT black. He is bi-racial.

    December 11, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  20. Enlight endone

    Gift of the Maji:

    Nice talking points. Do you get those by email, by watching Faux News or does Larry Craig slip them under the bathroom stall for you?

    Zowee, and to think, I'm a liberal, make more money than you, pay more in taxes, worked my own way through college, work hard every day, started my own business, donate at least 20 times what you do to charity, go to church, commit tons of time to my neighbors and my community, employee dozens of people who are paid well, treated fairly and happy in their jobs and lives and, well, I'm a liberal.

    Hey, and speaking of your heroes who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, where did Herbert Walker and George W. make their money? Oh, right, they didn't. They inherited it.

    December 11, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  21. Bowman

    Can we continue to listen to Colin Powell?

    December 11, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  22. Louisiana Lou

    By the way Libs, didnot Sen Obama say he was going to visit all 57 states?

    December 11, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  23. don

    I dont understand why you Liberals continue to think that the Republican party lost because it listened to Rush Limbaugh. If you knew anything about Rush you would know that Rush has never liked McCain politically and has been vehemently opposed to him for years. The Republican party lost this election precisely because it did what you fools think it should do, it acted like Democrats Light. Why vote for the diet version when you can get the real thing? Republicans won't win elections again until they get back to their roots of being fiscally conservative, and Constitutionalists.
    I also don't understand where you get off suggesting that Republicans are somehow racists; because the only racist comments I heard this election cycle came during the Democrat primary, Democrats on Democrats.

    December 11, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  24. Charles W. Skinner

    Secretary Powell might be a great leader of men in the field, and a great diplomat, but he's just dead wrong here.

    When Conservatives stick to their core principles of smaller government, with less interference and regulation, they win EVERY time. The base turned out for Governor Palin, because she was espousing Conservative principles, and wasn't willing to budge on them. She said "this is the way it is" and stuck to it. And, you notice, while the electoral vote was somewhat lopsided, the Popular vote was actually VERY close.

    Pres. Elect Obama won by a much smaller margin than Pres. Bush did in 2004, so don't think tat his victory was some great mandate, because it isn't. Obama knows this, which is why he hasn't yet tried to rock the boat with far-left appointments. He knows that if he does, he'll lose control of congress faster than you can say tax increase.

    The base HATED John McCain because he was wishy-washy. He tried to play nice, while the Liberals simply used him, and then spit on him.

    We have 2 years to plan this. Let's let the Democrats and Liberals make fools out of themselves for 2 years, and we can run TRUE Conservatives that believe in Smaller Government, Cutting Taxes for EVERYBODY, Supply-Side Economics, National Defense and Secure Borders.

    Let's just hope that the Liberals don't bankrupt us in the process.

    December 11, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  25. poysunivy

    Wally Lind from Minnesota: I guess being from Minnesota and voting for one idiot already, Al Frankenstein, it might be OK for a vote for Colin Powell. It's hard to believe that the Minnesota idiots are voting for a failure in everything he has ever tried. Franken is a jerk that wants to steal an election.

    Democrats are not smart people.

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