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Commentary: How Powell can answer Cheney

  • Story Highlights
  • Roland Martin: Colin Powell is right to advocate a broader, more moderate GOP
  • He says he should follow through on his words by building an organization
  • He says Democrats regained power in 1990s after forming moderate group
  • Martin: Powell could be the architect of a new Republican party
By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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Editor's note: A nationally syndicated columnist, Roland S. Martin is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith" and "Speak, Brother! A Black Man's View of America." Visit his Web site for more information.

Roland Martin says Colin Powell should back up his words with action to reshape the GOP.

Roland Martin says Colin Powell should back up his words with action to reshape the GOP.

(CNN) -- The back-and-forth between former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and radio entertainer Rush Limbaugh, has been, well, entertaining and fascinating.

You have these enormous personalities and egos slamming into each other over what it means to be a Republican and the course the party should be on, as it is in desperate need of a vision.

Yet while folks like me in the media love the brouhaha, and TV and radio producers salivate at the chance to book any one of these three on their programs, the inevitable question has to be asked: What now?

And this is where former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is correct. Powell must go beyond commenting on the state of the party and what it needs, and work to help rebuild, reshape and revitalize the GOP in the form he thinks is appropriate for the 21st century.

Let's be clear: Powell is under no obligation to hit the road campaigning for candidates, raising funds, participating in strategy sessions, and the dirty work necessary to make his vision a reality. But unless a leader such as Powell champions the cause of a moderate Republican Party, what he has been saying lately will be merely words.

It has been my contention after the 2008 presidential election that the Republican Party is in desperate need of a separate entity that would have the same effect on the GOP as the Democratic Leadership Council had on the Democrats.

Talk to liberal Dems and they will tell you the DLC aimed to counter the impact the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. had on the party after his presidential runs in 1984 and 1988 -- they feared the left dominating the party levers.

So these largely white southerners, and moderate and conservative Democrats created the DLC to broaden the Democratic Party's reach, make it more palatable to big business, and fiscal conservatism. And who came out of this effort? Then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, a co-founder of the DLC who went on to win two terms as president, and dominate the party for 16 years until President Obama came along. This, frankly, is what is needed in the Republican Party.

It would be a hell of a thing to witness Powell take his stature and considerable influence and band together with other liberal-to-moderate Republicans to create an organization that represents their values and vision.

Like it or not, the opposition to them in the GOP is already organized with infrastructure and a fundraising mechanism. So to counter them, there has to be an entity that people can look to, or enlist in, to show the rest of the world that Powell isn't whistling in the wind, but has thousands -- or millions -- standing behind him and those who think like him.

If such an organization was created, and all of a sudden you had chapters forming in states across the country, you would have the infrastructure to identify candidates to run in local and state races, and challenge the people Powell and others think are driving the party further into isolation as a largely southern and regional party.

It's clear the GOP has enormous problems in the Northeast part of the country, and with Obama winning a sizeable portion of the Hispanic vote, and the party's staunch opposition to illegal immigration, it is going to have a hell of a time in the Southwest and West. And with a fractured party, there is no better time to create an alternative that people can believe in and rally behind.

On CNN last week, senior analyst Gloria Borger said there clearly is a civil war raging within the GOP, and Powell and Cheney are on opposite sides. I chimed in that in any war, I'd trust the guy who put on a military uniform -- Powell -- rather than the guy who ran from serving our country -- Cheney.

Powell has clearly shown he is adept at leading our troops to victory on the battlefield by planning and shaping a perfect battle plan to defeat the enemy. Now it's time to see if he has the chops to do the same in the political arena, where the enemy is not as readily identifiable.

There is no doubt he has the capacity to do it. It's now a question of whether he wants to do it. As the old saying goes, you can talk the talk or walk the walk.

Mr. Powell, do you have your walking shoes on?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland S. Martin.

All About Bill ClintonColin PowellNewt GingrichRepublican Party

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