Standing in front of the state's governor on Thursday morning, Colin Powell attacked North Carolina Republicans for turning away minority voters. Strong words — but not ones he hasn't used before. Powell has been trying to tell his party how to win over black voters for almost two decades.
"I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote," said Powell, a Republican, at the CEO Forum in Raleigh.
"It immediately turns off a voting block the Republican Party needs," Powell continued. "These kinds of actions do not build on the base. It just turns people away." …
Powell, who served under President George W. Bush, also said the new sends the wrong message to minority voters. "What it really says to the minority voters is ... 'We really are sort-of punishing you,'" he said.
A call to Gov. Pat McCrory's office for a response to Powell's critiques has not yet been returned.
But this should come as no suprise. On at least four other occasions, Powell has criticized the racial sensibilities of his party. On another occasion, a staffer close to Powell did the same.
September 1995, to the New Yorker
In an interview with the magazine that quickly made national news, Powell suggested that Republican leaders – including Ronald Reagan — didn't understand race issues.
"The problem with Reagan and [George H. W.] Bush and (former Defense Secretary Caspar) Weinberger and their ilk is that they just never knew," Powell says …
In the interview with the New Yorker, he said Bush and Reagan were two of the closest people in my life," but added that on the issue of racism, "they were never sensitized to it. … This was an area where I found them wanting."
August 2000, to the Republican National Convention
During his speech at the convention which nominated George W. Bush as the party's candidate, Powell appealed to the Republican delegates to be more sensitive to people of color.
Recently, Governor Bush addressed the annual meeting of the NAACP. He spoke to the delegates about his plans for housing and health and educational programs to help all Americans. He also spoke the truth to the delegates when he said that the party of Lincoln has not always carried the mantle of Lincoln. I talked with him again today and I know that with all his heart, Governor Bush welcomes the challenge. He wants the Republican Party to wear that mantle again. …
He knows that that mantle will not simply be handed over, that it will have to be earned. The party must follow the governor's lead in reaching out to minority communities and particularly the African-American community.
December 2008, to CNN
Shortly after the election that made Barack Obama president — the candidate Powell endorsed — the then-former Secretary of State again criticized Republicans for marginalizing black and minority voters.
In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria for Sunday's "GPS" program, President Bush's former secretary of state said his party's attempt "to use polarization for political advantage" backfired last month.
"I think the party has to take a hard look at itself," Powell said in the interview, which was taped Wednesday. "There is nothing wrong with being conservative. There is nothing wrong with having socially conservative views - I don't object to that. But if the party wants to have a future in this country, it has to face some realities. In another 20 years, the majority in this country will be the minority."
October 2012, Powell's former chief of staff talks to The Ed Show
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former top staffer for Powell, told MSNBC's Ed Schultz his views on the party.
Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists. And the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander in chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin. And that’s despicable.
January 2013, on Meet the Press
Speaking to David Gregory, Powell again criticized Republicans on the topic of race.
There’s also a dark — a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party. What do I mean by that? I mean by that that they still sort of look down on minorities. How can I evidence that?
When I see a former governor say that the President is “shuckin’ and jivin’,” that’s racial era slave term. When I see another former governor after the president’s first debate where he didn’t do very well, says that the president was lazy. He didn’t say he was slow. He was tired. He didn’t do well. He said he was lazy. Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans, but to those of us who are African Americans, the second word is shiftless and then there’s a third word that goes along with that. The birther, the whole birther movement. Why do senior Republican leaders tolerate this kind of discussion within the party?
There's a big picture point that might be worth making. Republicans also appear not to be eager to embrace criticism from prominent members of the party that happen to be black.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.