On this weekend’s broadcast of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” former Secretary of State Colin Powell didn’t hold back in criticizing the Republican Party for what he said are its problems with ethnic minorities.
Powell, who supported President Barack Obama in the past two elections, said he still considers himself a Republican.
“I think the Republican Party right now is having an identity problem,” Powell said. “And I’m still a Republican. … 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. I think what the Republican Party needs to do now is take a very hard look at itself and understand that the country has changed. The country is changing demographically. And if the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they’re going to be in trouble.”
The GOP showed its “dark vein of intolerance,” Powell said, in a variety of unhelpful and self-defeating ways in the most recent presidential campaign.
“You can’t go around saying we don’t want to have a solid immigration policy, [or that] we’re going to dismiss the 47 percent, [or that] we are going to make it hard for these minorities to vote, as they did in the last election,” Powell said. “What did that produce? The court struck most of that down, and most importantly, it caused people to turn out and stand in line, because these Republicans were trying to keep us from voting.”
“There’s also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party” he continued. “What I do mean by that? What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities. How can I evidence that? When I see a former governor say that the president is ‘shucking and jiving,’ that’s a racial-era slave term. When I see another former governor — after the president’s first debate, where he didn’t do very well — saying that the president was lazy. … And then there’s a third word that goes along with it: birther, the whole birther movement. Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?”
Republicans should prioritize issues like immigration and climate change, Powell urged, and dump the perception that the party only cares about the wealthy.
“I think the party has to take a look at itself,” Powell continued. “It has to take a look at its responsibilities for health care. It has to take a look at immigration. It has to take a look at those less fortunate than us. The party has gathered unto itself a reputation that it is the party of the rich. It is the party of lower taxes. But there are a lot of people who are lower down the food chain, the economic chain, who are also paying lots of taxes relative to their income, and they need help. We need more education work being done in this country.”
“We need a solid immigration policy,” he added. “We have to look at climate change. There are a lot of things that the American people are expecting.”