Colin Powell: A Game Changer?

Posted 10/19/2008 by Sumner in Labels: , , ,
Big news this morning on Meet the Press: Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under GWB, has formally, and emphatically endorsed Barack Obama.

I've heard whispers for at least a couple of months now about whether and when Powell would ever endorse either candidate. Political affiliation aside, Colin Powell is one of the most highly respected public servants across the board. I remember hearing rumors back in the 1990s about whether or not he would ever run for President. I think it's safe to assume that this would never happen, but nonetheless, he could have made a solid run. It was hard to argue with a retired military man who had a wide appeal and what seemed to be a true understanding of not only how the world works, but how to navigate the political landscape.

Of course much of this was called into question when he agreed to essentially lie for the Bush administration before the UN and justify a war in Iraq. He has since admitted that his "case" may have been one of the most shameful things he has ever done in his life, given that he didn't fully believe what he was saying. What this says about his character or ability to stand up to opposition is interesting to consider, but it doesn't take away from the fact that he was and still is highly respected by Republicans and Democrats alike.

His somewhat questionable history aside, his strong endorsement for Obama strikes me as highly significant. Not only did he resolutely say that he thought Barack Obama was better prepared to lead and navigate the country through the tumults of the world today, but he strongly condemned his own party. It's one thing to say that the guy on "the other side" may be better qualified, but to say that your party is going in the wrong direction is completely different. Maybe Powell sees this as his chance to redeem himself in the eyes of Democrats and punish his Republican colleagues for pushing him into one of the biggest unsubstantiated lies in modern history. Is Powell getting a little chuckle from this whole thing?

While I think the endorsement may have a marginal effect in the poll, I think it will more importantly carry a symbolic message. The announcement may win over some military-minded individuals and moderate Republicans who were already on the fence, but I don't think it will translate into multiple percentage points in the polls. Rather than overwhelmingly solidifying Obama's support, I think it reaffirms what has become clearer in recent weeks: this is Obama's race to lose. The cards continue to go the way of Obama has he continues to be articulate, persuasive, and likable in contrast to the bitter old man on the other side.

On a symbolic level, I feel like the endorsement may prove more meaningful after the election than leading up to it. If Obama does in fact win the election, he will have done so with growing bipartisan support. When a universally liked person like Colin Powell speaks, people listen. As he continues to reaffirm that he remains a Republican, he bolsters Obama's claim at bipartisanship. His simple endorsement may prove that it is ok for Democrats and Republicans to work together in the name of improving the country. When Powell says that the country and the Republican Party are heading in the wrong direction, his voice must be heard. If Powell can ultimately change the tone of division in American politics today, he will have done more than just supported the more qualified candidate. He will have begun to pave a new path.

1 comment(s) to... “Colin Powell: A Game Changer?”


The Bard said...

Good analysis, wish I could expound on it further but I think you have hit it on the head.

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