After a circus of a summer spent hearing appeals from a motley crew of gubernatorial candidates, Californians will decide on Tuesday whether to recall Gavin Newsom. If they do, the man who replaces him will probably be Larry Elder, a libertarian radio host who rose to the top of a crowded field of small-time Republicans, including a guy who has been touring the state with a live Kodiak bear (we weren’t kidding about the circus).
The problem with the 69-year-old Elder is that he’s no better equipped to run a state of 40 million than the man-bear duo, and more dangerous to California’s future than either of them. Current polling indicates Newsom will prevail, but to have someone as inexperienced, regressive, and bigoted as Elder come this close to assuming control the nation’s most populous state is a terrifying prospect for the people of California — and for the rest of the nation.
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How close is this close? Californians will be asked two questions on Tuesday: 1) Should Newsom be recalled and, if so, who should replace him? If more than 50 percent of voters say yes to the first question, whichever candidate voters bubble in most for the second will be the new governor. There are 46 (!) candidates on the ballot, and polling puts Elder’s support at around 28 percent, more than 20 points ahead of his closest competitor, a Democratic YouTube influencer named Kevin Paffrath. This means that if enough disaffected voter decide it’s time for Newsom to go, Elder will likely be on his way to Sacramento despite being favored by only around 25 percent of the 50 percent of voters who want Newsom recalled. It’d be a small miracle given Elder’s rap sheet, which we’ve broken down for you below:
He’s said he wouldn’t have voted for the Civil Rights Act
The self-proclaimed “Sage of South Central,” Elder made a career as a Black man espousing conservatives views in a liberal state. He’s railed against Black Lives Matter. He’s claimed repeatedly that racism doesn’t exists, or at least that it’s not a problem in America. He’s said the idea of voter suppression is a Democratic con job. He’s argued Barack Obama had less to overcome in running for president than did white candidates like Mitt Romney and John McCain, and that police are more inclined to shoot white Americans than Black Americans.
He’s also said that if he were in the Senate in the 1960s, he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act, the landmark anti-discrimination bill passed in 1964. “To the extent that those laws mandate any kind of interference in the private sector, I would have voted against it,” Elder said at a Libertarian convention in 1998.
Elder’s speech didn’t end there. He transitioned from bashing the Civil Rights Act into bashing the Americans With Disabilities Act, saying he was “upset” that it exists. In August, Media Matters pointed out several other instances in which Elder has criticizes the law that prevents employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. Elder has called the ADA “hideous,” said it creates “dependency” that impinges upon “our freedoms,” and says he felt “double-crossed” when George H.W. Bush signed it.
His record on women’s rights … isn’t great
In a 1996 ad promoting his radio show, Elder says this about women: “Glass ceiling? Ha! What glass ceiling? Women, women exaggerate the problem of sexism.” Not great, which is why a hand proceeds to slap him across the face in the ad, which was uncovered by CNN. He then says that Black people “exaggerate the significance of racism” and that “Medicare should be abolished,” with each line eliciting a new slap. “What’d I say?” he says at the end of the ad, a grin on his face.
Elder wasn’t joking about his lack of respect for women. He argued in a 2000 piece for Capitalism Magazine that “women know less than men about political issues, economics, and current events,” citing the results of a questionnaire. Elder went on to argue that the Democratic Party was hindered by its fidelity to “SHE issues” like Social Security, health care, and education, and that those pushing these issues — namely women, with Elder citing how Bill Clinton lost the male vote in 1992 and 1996 — were “ill-informed.”
Media Matters also pointed out that in his 2002 book, Elder railed against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Family and Medical Leave Act, positing that employers should be able to discriminate against women based on pregnancy.
He allegedly demanded his girlfriend get a “Larry’s Girl” tattoo to prove her devotion to him
Elder’s former fiancee Alexandra Datig told Politico in August that Elder would often threaten her, and “repeatedly” demanded that she get a tattoo that said “Larry’s Girl” to prove her devotion to him.
This isn’t why their relationship ended, though. No, Datig broke off their engagement in 2015 after, she says, Elder pulled a gun on her after he’d been using marijuana. “He checked if it was loaded — while I was talking,” Datig said. “He wanted to make sure I saw that he had it.”
Datig later in August filed a police report over the incident, also alleging that Elder pushed her in 2014.
Elder has denied he pulled a gun on Datig. “I have never brandished a gun at anyone,” he wrote on Twitter in August. “I grew up in South Central. I know exactly how destructive this type of behavior is. It’s not me, and everyone who knows me knows it’s not me. These are salacious allegations.”
His views aren’t exactly aligned with the people of California
There are millions of Republicans in California, but the state is still overwhelmingly Democratic. California hasn’t elected a Republican senator since 1988. It hasn’t voted for a Republican candidate for president since Ronald Reagan. Every statewide office is currently occupied by a Democrat. Elder, who is vying to hold the state’s highest office, is close to as far to the right as one can get on several key issues. Here’s a brief rundown on where he stands:
- Covid-19: It’s not shocking that, as a libertarian, Elder would be opposed to vaccine and mask mandates. As governor, he would abolish them before he has his “first cup of tea,” he’s said. He’s also pushed his share of vaccine misinformation, claiming that the science isn’t “settled” on whether young people should get the vaccine or wear masks in school. (The CDC, FDA, and American Academy of Pediatrics have all recommended the vaccine for young people.)
- The climate crisis: Elder has said he’s “not sure” climate change is to blame for the wildfires torching California at a historic rate. For him, this counts as progress. In 2008, he called climate change a “crock.”
- Minimum wage: Not only does Elder opposed an increase to the minimum wage, he opposes the very idea of a minimum wage. “The ideal minimum wage is $0.00,” he told the McClatchy editorial board.
- Gun control: No way. He’s a libertarian, remember?
- Abortion: Again, he’s a libertarian, so he support a woman’s right to choo— Wait, what’s that? OK, sorry. Elder very much opposes a woman’s right to choose. He’s also said that sex education “has no role in school.”
- Health care: Elder has for years opposed anything resembling medical welfare. “Grandfather everyone currently on Medicaid, and then admit no more people and end the program at the federal level,” he wrote in 2010. “Charity is not allowed by the Constitution, and it should be left to the states — even better, left to the private and nonprofit sectors.”
- Immigration: Elder has advocated denying education and emergency care to undocumented immigrants.
Once again, this man stands a reasonable chance of becoming the new governor of California.
He’s a big Trump fan and has pushed the lie that the 2020 election was rigged
Elder told reporters in August that Joe Biden won the election “fair and square,” but he reversed course a day later during an interview on a conservative radio show. “Do I believe that Joe Biden won the election fair and square? Give me a mulligan on that one. No I don’t.” He then cited Alan Dershowitz’s contention that the Supreme Court should have taken up the Pennsylvania election results, calling Dershowitz — who has represented both Trump and Rudy Giuliani — “a left-wing professor.”
It isn’t surprising, then, that Elder has been drumming up doubt in the validity of the recall. “You can also print your own ballot here in California,” he said on Sean Hannity’s radio show last week. “What could possibly go wrong? We know about all the shenanigans that took place in 2020.”
On Monday, the day before the election, Elder on his campaign site even said he had “detected fraud” in the election that resulted in “Governor Gavin Newsom being reinstated as governor.” This is before any results had even been released.
He hosted a bizarre legal reality show called Moral Court
Just watch the clip until the end.
He thinks Stephen Miller should be president
Stephen Miller is the vilest, most bigoted person to work in the White House in recent memory. Larry Elder is a huge fan.
The two go way back. Miller called into Elder’s show while he was in high school in the Los Angeles area, and Elder has supported the anti-immigration former adviser to Trump ever since. He even told Miller he’d like to see him in the Oval Office himself. “I hope to live to see the day when you become president,” Elder once wrote to Miller, who responded by telling Elder he is “the one true guide I’ve always had.”
He’s, uhh, never held office or demonstrated he’s a serious person
Politicians suck. We know. At the same time, when running a government the size of California’s, it stands to reason that it might help to have some experience running … a government, any government, or at the very least working in one.
The last, and only, person to slide into the Governor’s Mansion after a successful recall in California was Arnold Schwarzenneger, who became governor after Gray Davis was recalled in 2003. Schwarzenneger had no government experience and led the state into a financial quagmire before riding into the sunset with an anemic 22-percent approval rating.
There’s also, of course, Donald Trump, who won the presidency in 2016 despite having no experience in government and proceeded find creative ways to botch just about every problem that crossed his desk. This includes Covid-19, which has now killed well over 600,000 Americans due in no small part to Trump’s ineptitude.
He doesn’t seem to actually want to be governor
Elder indicated in February that he didn’t really want to be governor of California. “I’d love to serve. I’d hate to have to run,” he said. “I just don’t believe I have the stomach, the temperament, the personality, the drive, the willingness to deal with these doofi in Sacramento for the next several years of my life.”
It’s hard to tell here if Elder is saying he doesn’t have what it takes to run for governor, or to run for and then also serve as governor. The first part of the quote indicates the former. The bit about dealing with all the “doofi” in the state’s capital indicates the latter. It’s also possible that making sense isn’t a strong suit of Elder’s, something that could hinder his ability to appeal to a state of 40 million.
(It’s also possible Elder just really wanted to use the word “doofi,” which is a little more understandable.)
“I’m not going to run,” Elder added.
Four months later, he entered the race.
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