Colin Powell and the direction of the Republican Party

Posted on May 6, 2009



I have a great deal of respect for Colin Powell’s military career and his devotion to his country. As a politician, however, he has proven to be somewhat of a disappointment, and the recent commotion regarding his comments about the GOP further underscore that belief.

Much hay has been made of Powell’s remarks he made to a group of corporate security executives that the GOP is in big trouble if it doesn’t move left and stop listening to “the far right.” Even more ridiculous to me is his assertion that “Americans do want to pay taxes for services … Americans are looking for more government in their life, not less.” Sorry, Mr. Powell, but that sounds like a nanny state view that isn’t supported by recent polls. RedState wonders where the center is on Powell’s political map.

In a very substantial way, Powell’s criticism of the GOP rings hollow. John McCain, the Republican Presidential nominee, is one of the leading moderates in the party, and supposedly represents the “most appealing to the center” philosophy that many are desiring to push the party toward. Powell, when presented with the most moderate Republican to date, endorsed and voted for his far more liberal and Democratic opponent. It’s why any move to make the GOP more like the Democrats will ultimately prove futile – when faced with a choice between a Democrat and a Democrat-lite, voters will choose the real thing.

The debate is ongoing regarding the direction of the Republican Party, as evidenced by Powell’s comments and by the “listening tour” currently being undertaken by GOP leaders. Through all of this it might be helpful to remember that as little as four years ago people were talking about the unprecedented success of the GOP, and it’s my belief that the downturn in Republican fortunes has more to do with events and a loss of faith in leadership ability rather than a fundamental rejection of conservative philosophy.

I believe the comments of Sen. Jim DeMint are worth remembering – that “big-tent” Republicanism must have freedom as its central pole. And to that end, it’s my belief that the bedrock values for the GOP moving forward must be fiscal conservatism, limited government, and a strong national defense. The problem is not that Americans don’t believe in these principles, it’s that they don’t trust Republicans to implement them.

Any “rebranding” effort is ultimately pointless if these three tenets are not upheld. Disagreement on social issues shouldn’t be cause for estrangement because while some of us hold conservative positions on social questions, I do agree with the idea that the GOP will never win on social issues alone – it’s just that with the abandonment of fiscal conservatism, social conservatism is really all that the party is running on at this point. And as far as environmental issues go, I believe we ought to follow Teddy Roosevelt’s lead in promoting stewardship and conservation, but not anti-capitalist, and at times anti-humanity, environmentalism.

The Republicans aren’t going to be able to rebuild the coalitions they’ll need without sticking to these three core principles of fiscal conservatism, limited government, and a strong national defense. Whatever secondary “planks” become part of the platform, these three must form the foundation. And even more key is for Republicans to follow through on these principles once in office and not vote themselves more power and larger budgets. Republicans don’t need a strong charismatic leader to rise back on top again – we only need these core values and a fundamental respect for the Constitution. It’s not only the right path to take, but one which will find success among the American people.

Posted in: Politics