This week, former Secretary of State Colin Powell paid a visit to Sean Hannity on Fox News. Hannity seemed to be frustrated that Powell is not being a “good Republican” by seeking out truth rather than playing by simple party rules. Still, Powell laid out his position and clearly specified that he is taking his time to evaluate both parties before making a decision in the next election.
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I really like Colin Powell. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you probably like him too. The reason that we are likely in agreement on our appreciation for Powell is because the man has sharply positioned himself as a potential friend to everyone, but as the water boy for no one.
Watch Colin Powell’s interview with Sean Hannity here (please disregard the hater’s heading on the video):
Powell has been masterful at leveraging his political power by refusing to give too much loyalty to any candidate too quickly, until he’s sure the candidate is going to represent his interests. His actions remind me of Rule 20 of the “48 Laws of Power”: “Never commit to anyone.”
While I don’t agree that one should spend his/her life being non-committal, there is a certain degree of power that you can maintain by holding back and taking your time. In Financial Theory (which I studied in graduate school), this is referred to as managing the “moral hazard” problem by engaging in ex-ante optimal contracting.
Translation: Before you commit, you hold all the cards. That’s when you should carefully negotiate your terms so that you don’t get screwed when you hand power over to the other party. The logic applies whether you are considering a new job, buying a car, or deciding to have sex with someone.
Powell is playing the political game like a true general who has probably memorized every word of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.” He knows that his endorsement has a tremendous amount of leverage and that both President Obama and Mitt Romney are licking their chops to get their hands on it.
Powell maintains his position as a loyal Republican, while irritating other Republicans by not walking the party line. In fact, Powell reclaims the definition of what it means to be a Republican by speaking to issues such as Affirmative Action, the environment, and all the other things Republicans aren’t supposed to talk about.
By speaking with common sense and refusing to play for anyone’s political football team, Colin Powell has given himself arguably the most powerful individual endorsement in the United States.
All of us can take a note from General Powell, who supported President Obama in 2008, but makes it clear that he will only support a candidate who cares about the same things he does. He celebrated the victory of the first Black president, but he wasn’t popping bottles of purple Kool-Aid and proclaiming Obama to be the second-coming of Martin Luther King Jr.
That’s why Obama is willing to do almost anything to get his support. If we were just as poised as General Powell, Obama would be begging for our support as well. Instead, the Obama Administration works overtime to appease gays, women, immigrants, and other groups with the full understanding that the Black community has given their dire loyalty with little-to-no expectations.
This is not the Colin Powell approach to political thought.
The title of Powell’s latest book is “It Worked for Me.” This title might be a cue for the rest of us, for it’s time to elevate our game.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.