Colin Powell: Republican

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 24, 2009

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.

  • Jimdandy

    I was able to view the Powell interview today. I can see why the conservative voices that contribute many of these comments do not like him. He comes across as a very honorable, intelligent and reasonable man. He states his case and his arguments without resorting to personal attacks or name-calling. He has tremendous credentials that span decades and he is an independent thinker. All of these attributes seem to be anathema to the Republican Party right now, especially to its more conservative members. This conservative irrationality is actually good for the country. It hastens the downfall of those who are opposed to mature thinking and intelligent debate. It strengthens the majority of Americans who have a desire for solidarity with their fellow citizens and who wish to find solutions that have a beneficial effect on as many people as possible. As long as the conservative voices who are opposed to embracing their fellow countrymen are exposed then those of us who want the best for our country can see them for who they are and make sure that their voices, while allowed to be heard, will never control our beloved democracy. One for all and all for one is not the rallying cry of these vocal conservatives. They seem to be interested in disenfranchising as many of their fellow countrymen as they can in a pursuit of irrational and selfish goals. These goals in the end would drown all of us including the conservatives who espouse them.

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      I would pen an extended reply to this fatuous nonsense, but seeing as how you probably copied it from a draft of a speech even Howard Dean thought it would be too ridiculous to give, I should reserve War and Peace-length comments for someone who actually is worth the time. Of course, it is obvious that you didn’t read the linked story, and don’t seem to understand that there are conservatives like Newt Gingrich who are both willing and enthusiastic about having Powell in the Republican party. Next time, perhaps it would be best to actually respond to the story at hand, instead of merely repeating talking points–something any parrot can do.

      Oh, and I do appreciate that you will resolve to ensure that conservative voices are “heard.” How touchingly tolerant. Of course, whether conservatives are in power or liberals are, depends on elections, and not on the resolution of a single commenter who comes armed with DNC talking points that substitute for original thought. Elections are certainly less censorious and ideologically oppressive than your script-masquerading-as-comments are, a fact that ought to disappoint you, even as you blather meaninglessly about how much you supposedly adore our “beloved democracy.” Forgive me if I doubt you; you seem to be the type who only approves of democracy when your side wins. Indeed, I am sure you are that type.

  • Brian Garst

    I have some issues with your argument. But first let me say that I agree that we should welcome Colin Powell’s decision to consider himself a Republican, and that it’s not the best idea to drum him out of the party. However, we simply cannot afford to follow the path he wants us to follow. If that means his leaving, so be it. His ideas would wreck the party. Being the party of democrat lite is not a path that leads back to the majority.

    The numbers game is a bit more complicated than your analysis admits. It’s fine to say that reducing the ranks seems counter productive to regaining power, but what if the inclusion of certain people, and certain ideas, costs us more votes than they gain? How many tea party activities does the big government ideas of Powell turn off from the republican party?

    A necessary part of regaining power, in my estimation, is returning the party to a coherent message of limited government. A vocal Colin Powell, telling us that the people want big government and defended the disastrous President he helped elect, is an obstacle to that goal. His voice must be countered when he makes those arguments. Unless, that is, you think that the democrats will screw things up so badly, and the public will desire to punish them strongly enough, that the Republican party needs no coherent principles to return to power. That may even be true, but I’m not convinced of it.

    Waiting till power is regained to fight for principles is a tactic that suggests power is an end, not a means. It’s a tactic common of the democratic party, and it works well there. I’m not convinced it works for republicans. Republican voters are more ideological than democrat voters, who are little more than a coalition of varied interest groups seeking government handouts. To regain power these republican voters are going to need to be mobilized and motivated, and that requires prominent republicans standing up for conservative principles, and that’s something Colin Powell, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to want to see happen.

    Absolutely we don’t need to show Powell the door, but we don’t have to let him and his ideas have any influence on the parties future, either.

  • BLG

    You have, with some regularity, gleefully trotted out polls indicating that this is a center-right country. Add to that, if you will, that in politics, particularly as regards ideology, people want a real choice, and when given one between an imitation and an original, they’ll choose the original every day of the week and twice on Sundays. So, if we accept that this is a center-right country, and that people will always choose an original over an imitation, then why wouldn’t we want to purge the “Democrat Lites”? Furthermore, how has implementing ideological purity after gaining power worked out for us in the past? Present-day political realities (the power of incumbency, etc.) have only made it more difficult, if not impossible, to rein in those who’ve meandered off the reservation. In any case, I don’t want Colin Powell, or those like him, drummed out of the party either, I just don’t want him or his ideas directing or dominating it.

    As something of an aside, seeking power as a means to an end is conservative; seeking power per se is liberal. You seem to be suggesting we engage in the latter, to which I can only reply, “No thanks.” In or out of power, we should stand for principle always first, power always second.

  • nemesisenforcer

    I find myself in very rare disagreement with our esteemed blogger.

    The party MUST purge itself precisely to become the governing party once again. It must re-find its bearings, core principles, animating issues, and its membership, hierarchy, and public faces must reflect this essential soul-searching. What good is having a party that is supposedly focused on “conservatism” if it’s most public faces are no different from democrats? What good is having someone in the party who votes AGAINST that party and for the very antithesis for which it stands? Powell voted against McCain. McCain himself is hardly a shining figure of classical liberalism, government restraint, fiscal discipline, a champion of liberty, or much else that our movement supposedly stands for. A good fried from AZ summed up the 2008 contest as such: McCain is a democrat, Obama is a communist. If McCain wasn’t liberal enough for Powell, who will be? Who will we have to run to convince him and others like him (Arlen Specter, Lincoln Chaffee) that we’re the party they should be in? What’s the point of a 2 party system when the only goal is to see how liberal each party can possibly be to claim the mantle of “inclusive” and “big tent?” Republicans didn’t stay home in 2008 because John McCain was too conservative. Having Powell and other RINOs like him in the party weakens us, not strengthens us. As they gain positions of influence within the party, they push it to the Left, in a perverse application of Conquest’s Law. They nominate people like McCain who turn into disasters precisely because of their Leftist tendencies, not conservative credentials.

    The Reagan coalition was successful and popular because it maintained discipline and sought to exclude, whenever possible, the corrosive influence of (barely) lukewarm “conservatives” like Powell. Likewise the Gingrich revolution: no room was made for liberals masquerading as conservatives. A conservative ascendancy will only be possible once WE (true conservatives and libertarians) regain control of the party and redirect it AWAY from its current course.

    Insistence upon ideological purity and consistency is a prerequisite to success. It was only after the Gingrich revolution that we saw the defection of numerous conservative democrats to the Right side of the aisle. Likewise only after the trouncing we took recently at the hands of a disciplined and much more rigid Democratic party did Specter and Chaffee slink away and reveal their true allegiances. Taking steps to keep them in while we’re in the wilderness will only exacerbate our difficulties, not alleviate them.

    The party must cleanse itself from within to make a credible claim to being an alternative to the democrats. At the very least it should be considered since nothing else seems to be working to restore us to power and to reinvigorate the party and its beliefs. If we are to remain the minority party, I would prefer it because we are TOO different from them rather than too much like them.

  • Pejman Yousefzadeh

    1. It is a center-right country, but that means that we ought to get the center, as well as the Right, into our coalition. That’s why I want to keep Powell and people like him.

    2. I don’t want to implement an ideologically driven purge after power is achieved. I am just stating that usually, the purges come after power is achieved, not before.

    3. I don’t advocate seeking power per se.

  • Alan K. Henderson

    What irks me about Powell is that he talks a lot about politics without discussing specific policies he’d like to see come to fruition.

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