NORMAN — Political commentator Fareed Zakaria told a University of Oklahoma gathering that the Republican Party needs to grow for the good of the country.
Zakaria, seen regularly on CNN and ABC News and the editor of all Newsweek international editions, was not simply playing up to his red-state audience. He said the GOP is becoming a regional party controlled by a base dominated by radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, whose average listener is age 67. Meanwhile, a majority of people younger than 30, working women, college graduates and minorities — all demographics on the upswing — voted Democrat in the last election. Zakaria said the trend is pointing to a vocal Republican base that’s shrinking coupled with an emboldened Democratic Party that feels it no longer needs moderates from either party. "We’re ending up in a 1½-party system, and that’s not healthy,” he said Monday at an OU President’s Associates dinner. "We need a two-party system, and that only happens if the Republican appeal expands.” Zakaria spoke primarily about current global economic trouble, and he said the U.S. has the leadership and creativity to lead the world out of it. He said the trend downward started about 30 years ago when communication technology emerged, hyperinflation started to decline, and the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan led to the Eastern bloc’s downfall. To illustrate the global age, Zakaria said no one in Saudi Arabia knew for nine days that Iraq invaded Kuwait because the Saudi government kept it quiet. "Now they have cell phones, they have cable TV, they even have Twitter,” Zakaria said.