I realize that the debate over Colin Powell’s party status doesn’t need any more participants, but I am going to throw in my two cents and say that if Powell wants to continue to identify as a Republican, not only should he be allowed to, but his decision should be welcomed.
Indeed, I cannot understand why anyone would advocate a contrary tack. The GOP has lost the White House and both houses of Congress, and is doing badly in terms of party registration. Every party has its “let’s purge the nonbelievers” moment, but usually, such moments come about after the party in question has achieved power, and can afford to be more ideologically pure. In this case, however, Republicans are actually debating the implementation of ideological purity before achieving power.
Sorry, but I don’t think it works that way. First off, I don’t want to see people like Colin Powell drummed out of the Republican party. But if we are going to have the debate, and if we assume arguendo that the debate is a good one to have, then why don’t we put it off until the GOP actually does make its comeback? Because in order to make that comeback, Republicans are going to need the help of moderates like Powell to create a governing coalition. That coalition cannot be made by conservatives and libertarians alone, alas, much as some libertarians and conservatives want to believe the contrary. If the GOP talks of purging people like Powell even before restoring itself to a position of power, guess what? The GOP will never restore itself to a position of power. Period.
And as I write, I would never want Powell to leave the Republican party. Even after the GOP makes its comeback, it is going to have to confront the hard task of staying in power, and in order to do so, it is going to have to ensure that the governing coalition that brought it to power remains intact. Again, I am aware that demands for ideological purity increase once a party comes to power, and that is because the party in question can afford to have those kinds of debates once power is attained. But if the Republican party wants to create a governing coalition that will be able to last for decades, much as the New Deal coalition did, then it is going to have to keep from going overboard when it comes to debates over ideological purity. We should never stop asking what it means to be a Republican, and we should never stop arguing over principles. Such arguments keep a party young and vibrant. But when people come to the Republican party and offer their talents and services to help the party become the governing power in America, we should refrain from showing them the door.
I know that Colin Powell voted for Barack Obama. I know that he has spoken in defense of the Obama Administration. That’s enough to justify a debate with Colin Powell. It is not enough to revoke his GOP membership, and the membership of the many like him.