Blue State Blues: What Larry Elder’s Campaign Means for Conservatives

Larry Elder campaign (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

If Democrats hoped to keep conservative talk radio host Larry Elder off the ballot in the upcoming recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom, their plan backfired spectacularly this week.

Not only did Elder win his case in court, forcing Secretary of State Shirley Weber to place him on the list of candidates, but he also earned free statewide publicity as a result.

Elder left open the question of whether Democrats had deliberately conspired to keep him out of the race. But after all the complaints about new Republican voting laws, and continuing accusations of “Jim Crow” from President Joe Biden on down, it was certainly ironic to see Democrats in California try to keep a black candidate off the ballot for allegedly failing to redact his tax returns properly, while exempting the white incumbent from having to submit tax returns at all.

Larry Elder — the Sage from South Central, as he is known to fans — is one of the country’s most prominent black conservative voices.

Other Republicans on the recall ballot have their advantages: Caitlin Jenner’s celebrity, Kevin Faulconer’s experience in government, John Cox’s policy proposals, and so on.

But Elder has something few politicians, can boast: a nationwide base of fans who have known him for years

Unlike other California Republicans, he has not tried to distance himself from Donald Trump; he has not needed to. His views often line up with Trump, but are independent. He has deep roots in the conservative movement that long predate current political obsessions.

Ten years ago, I was given a special book by a screenwriter named Robert Avrech, who is a rare Hollywood conservative and is active in the local Orthodox Jewish community. The title is The Book of Ariel, and it is a tribute to his late son, a young man who fought pulmonary fibrosis for eight years before passing away at the age of 22.

One of the tributes in the book was written by Larry Elder, whom Ariel Avrech — an Orthodox Jewish teenager — adored for his political insights.

Elder wrote:

Robert told me that, through the radio, I became something of a — I don’t know the right word — influence, inspiration, a hero to his son. Would I, asked Robert, take time from my busy schedule to visit his son?

So I did visit Ariel, and he and I spent approximately 45 minutes talking. In his weakened condition, Ariel could respond only intermittently, and I did most of the talking. … After Ariel and I spoke, Robert told me that his son smiled broadly for the first time in months, and, after my visit, Robert told me that Ariel spoke often of our conversation, and how special it made him feel. How special it made him feel?

In my living room, I have photos of myself with Walter Cronkite, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. But at the top of my, call it, “wall of fame,” sits the photo that Robert took of Ariel and me.”

I hope to tell God that I know you.

Elder led the field of challengers even before he won his court case. But he — like any conservative politician running in California — still faces significant obstacles.

Newsom’s poll numbers have recovered from the depths of last December. The media are on Newsom’s side, and so are Hollywood and Silicon Valley — the triumvirate that rules American politics. The Republican base has eroded in California since Schwarzenegger ended in disgrace. Middle class families have deserted the state, rather than waiting for political change.

Any Republican who manages to oust Newsom would also face a legislature in which Democrats still hold absolute power. With their supermajority, they can pass any law and override any veto.

The unions that run the state — teachers, nurses, state and local employees — will not allow anyone to touch the state’s pension system or its punishing tax code. The environmentalists and amnesty organizations will mobilize to protect their interests from any would-be reformer.

But Elder, who would be California’s first black governor, would be an effective advocate for the idea that there is an alternative — that California need not be doomed to discover, too late, the destructive effect of “woke” one-partyism.

Win or lose, Elder will inspire conservatives nationwide, showing that their ideas transcend race, and can compete — even in the bluest of states.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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