Powell, a man of integrity and thoughtful conviction, went on to become Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, representing our country with distinction. Few public figures enjoy Colin Powell’s credibility.
So his criticism of what passes for the Republican Party these days was informative when he was interviewed recently on “Meet the Press.”
“I think the Republican Party right now is having an identity problem,” observed Powell. “I’m a Republican who grew up along with George Bush 41. I grew up with Ronald Reagan. The Republican Party of Dick Lugar and John Tower. But in recent years, there’s been a significant shift to the right and we have seen what that shift has produced: two losing presidential campaigns.”
Powell might have added a lot of lost seats in the House and Senate in the recent election.
“The country is changing demographically,” Powell went on. “And if the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they’re going to be in trouble.”
The GOP is already in trouble, as evidenced by Mitt Romney’s dismal presidential campaign. Romney, who called himself a “moderate” just 10 years ago, lost the election because he went all in with the relatively small number of right-wing fanatics.
When Romney tried to move to the middle, it was too late. By then he’d angered and offended just about every voting constituency that wasn’t white, middle aged and male.
“When we see that in one more generation, the minorities of America, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Asia-Americans will be the majority of the country, you can’t go around saying we don’t want to have a solid immigration policy,” Powell sagely commented. “We’re going to dismiss the 47 percent. We are going to make it hard for these minorities to vote as they did in the last election. What did that produce? … It caused people to turn out and stand in line because these Republicans were trying to keep us from voting.”
How did the Party of Lincoln inflict such a disastrous if not fatal injury on itself?
“There’s … a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the Party,” explained Powell, “they still sort of look down on minorities. When I see a former governor say that the president is shuckin’ and jivin’, that’s a racial-era slave term. When I see another former governor (say) the president was lazy … to those of us who are African-Americans, the second word is shiftless. … Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the Party?”
That’s easy, Mr. Secretary. Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and the rest of the far-right noise makers.
“We need more education work being done in this country,” Powell added. “We need a solid immigration policy. We have to look at climate change. There are a lot of things that the American people are expecting and the Republican Party … really has to focus on some of these issues and not ignore them.”
Predictably, the extremists went apoplectic over Powell’s pragmatic, forward-thinking wisdom.
The worst attack came from Quin Hillyer, a Southern, white, middle-aged male who edits the conservative American Spectator. He ripped Secretary Colin L. Powell as a “man of little character,” an “increasingly despicable backstabbing lout” who “was afforded credit he didn’t deserve” for the first Gulf War.
Such unhinged contempt makes Colin Powell’s point for him.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.