Here's another unasked question: "You think Republicans should go after the Northeast liberal vote and embrace their concerns. But wouldn't that lose them the very Southern vote that has contributed to so many GOP victories in the recent past? How do you win elections when, even if you could win the Northeast, you lose the South?"
Powell was correct when he rebuked Republicans for not living up to their pledge to reduce the size and reach of government. He said what Americans want is not "just slogans, limited government. They want effective government; government that works..." By definition, government that works will be limited because government will not reach into areas in which it has no constitutional business.
Powell had a chance to test his theories by running for president, but in 1995 he announced he would not do so. Powell has never run for elective office. For Republicans to take his advice on how to win elections would be like Powell taking advice from an Army private on battle strategy.
We have two main political parties because there are people who take opposite views on important issues -- from taxes, to the size of government, to abortion to how the Constitution should be read by justices of the Supreme Court, to the best way to defend the country. Candidates win elections by making their case on these issues and persuading a majority of voters that they are right and their opponent is wrong. Parties can't win elections by watering down their positions and accepting into the party those who don't believe in its foundational principles.
Democrats don't accept Powell's doctrine. There are no small government, low taxes, right to life, strict constructionist Democrats in leadership positions in their party.
Powell's doctrine is a prescription for more Republican losses. The GOP has been declared prematurely dead before in 1964, '76, '92 and 2008. It revives when it remembers its principles, not when it abandons them or pretends they no longer matter in the pursuit of a self-defeating "big tent."
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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