Colin Powell rose to the highest ranks of the armed services, advising US presidents and even serving as the first black Secretary of State. Following the news of his demise on Monday morning, tributes poured in from political circles. But a big “what if” is looming over his career.
What if he had sought the presidency?
In 1995 his Memoirs “My American Journey”was a bestseller and speculation reached a fever pitch that Powell, with his sterling defense credentials coupled with a friendly demeanor, would seek the presidency of the United States, as a Republican.
Would the Powell presidential run have changed the course of the GOP and American politics? It is impossible to know for sure.
Years before an upstart, little-known U.S. senator from Illinois would go on to become the nation’s first black president, Powell had a clear start to make a serious, credible run for office.
But eventually he refused.
Powell’s brand of conservatism may have extended a wider appeal to black audiences—who, as noted by many political scientists and even comedians, do not have monolithic political interests, even if Democrats may have dominated their vote for much of the last century.
and unlike some black conservative provocateur who today Marketed his appeal by opposing popular causes primarily among black voters, Powell’s politics, while conservative, would have placed him well into the mainstream of black political thought.
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Advocating for conservative social values, along with a strong national defense, pro-growth business policies and low taxes, can and still can find a receptive audience among a large segment of the Black vote. But Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Willie Horton Ad and birth-conspiracy theories pushed by Donald Trump, among others.
appeal to black voters
Powell’s military service and his success climbing the ranks demonstrated the American aspiration for merit. His military career may also have solidified his appeal with both white and black voters.
In this polarized era, Democrats regularly 80% to 90%. have receivedThe % of the black vote, even though some black voters lamented loudly, feel they are allowed by the party. This conversation is also held quietly at barbershops, beauty salons, deacon board meetings, historically black colleges and universities, and other places where national politics and the media are more focused on black political interests than the caricatures that emerge. is discussed together.
It’s entirely possible that even if Powell ascended to the presidency, he would have long been unable to reshape the party’s relationship with black voters. And his overall political popularity plummeted after helping the Bush administration as Secretary of State to address regime change in Iraq before the United Nations.
Powell himself felt disenchanted with the GOP at times, and later in his life he split from the party at the presidential level. he will say later He expressed regret over the speech he made at the United Nations in 2003, where he helped make the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, based on intelligence that was later proven to be flawed.
A few days before the 2008 election,E soon endorsed President Barack Obama On national television, partly through his own party, citing rising nationalist tensions. He endorsed Obama again in 2012, and he supported Joe Biden on President Donald Trump in 2020.
‘Symbol of the American Dream’
Will Powell be able to push the GOP into more competitive territory with black voters and encourage the Republican Party to broaden its appeal?
“There would have been a lot of crossover appeal for people who weren’t traditionally in the GOP,” said Ron Christie, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush.
“You want to talk about the symbol of the American dream and make something out of nothing, this is it. Lots of people of color, a lot of immigrants watched her story and if you work hard, you Take it, if you apply yourself, you too can make the American dream come true and do anything and everything for this country.”
Former US Representative Gary Franks, R-Conn, expressed a similar sentiment.
Franks, one of two black Republican members of Congress during the 1990s, said, “There’s no question, they must have gotten a lot of black votes for all the right reasons.” “In 96 it was a different era. … With all due respect to Bob Dole, whom I consider a friend and a colleague, Colin Powell would have been a special candidate with strong past achievements.”
(Full disclosure: Franks was my professor at Hampton University.)
Powell aside, one cannot help but wonder what would happen in an election cycle where both parties were able to create a competitive game for the Black vote.
would like bipartisan police reform, As censors Tim Scott, RC, and Cory Booker, DN.J., recently failed to reach agreement, what has been achieved?
Whether race would be a less appealing issue, Biden was unable to tell a radio host last year if black voters didn’t know who they were voting for.you are not black“?
Wouldn’t intimidation tactics and an outright witch hunt on a vague legal principle be seen as an out-of-vote issue for one party to base it on?
We don’t know.
but what if?
Austin Boggs is USA Today’s Commentary Editor. Follow him on Twitter: @AustinBogues