The Republican Party of late has been on a listening tour, asking people for recommendations about what the party should do to revive itself after the last two disastrous election cycles. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has offered his opinions and in the process may have done more to further divide the party he claims to support.
Appearing last Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," Powell said if Republicans "don't reach out more, the party is going to be sitting on a very, very narrow base." Powell said his "model" for this outreach effort is the late Jack Kemp, who he said, "was as conservative as anybody" and "a man who believed in inclusiveness, reaching out to minorities, reaching out to the poor, sharing the wealth."
Kemp did, indeed, believe all those things, but his efforts did not bring enough new voters to the party to make a significant difference. That's because Democrats own "compassion."
A question that host Bob Schieffer should have asked is, "General, you are for more government, abortion and affirmative action. What distinguishes you from Democrats and their positions on these and other issues and if you take the same positions as Democrats, why should people vote Republican?"
Powell said that while he voted for Ronald Reagan twice and the two George Bushes twice, he had also voted for John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter the first time. But in 1976, Powell's definition of a good Republican, Gerald Ford, ran against Carter. If Powell wanted a Republican who was a practical secularist who seemed unconcerned with big government and who believed that "every state should have a constitutional right to control abortion and ... that such laws need to recognize and provide for exceptional cases," Ford ought to have been his man.
Another question Schieffer should have asked Powell: "Republicans tried your go-along-to-get-along strategy for 40 years in the House of Representatives. They were docile and ready to accept whatever the Democratic majority doled out to them. It was only when Newt Gingrich began contrasting the two parties that Republicans started winning. Aren't you recommending a failed strategy that would again doom Republicans to permanent minority status for the foreseeable future?"
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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