Larry Elder is a confounding frontrunner in the Republican race to replace Gavin Newsom as California governor.
The outspoken libertarian radio talkshow host entered the recall campaign just days before the filing deadline. He has zoomed to the top of a long list of candidates running against the state’s Democratic governor – perhaps both despite and because of his divisive, contrarian politics.
Elder opposes the minimum wage and gun control. He’s said he doesn’t believe that a gender wage gap exists, and has called the climate crisis a “crock”. He has suggested that fatherless families drive up crime rates in Black communities. In three decades on air, Elder has made a name disseminating controversy.
His most extreme views are not only out of line with those of the majority of voters – but also with the views of many of the state’s Republicans. And yet it’s not impossible the self-proclaimed “sage from South Central” will become the next governor of one of America’s bluest states.
A reputation as rightwing contrarian
Elder, 69, was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. After graduating from Brown University and the University of Michigan, he practiced law for a decade before transitioning to political punditry – landing his own show on local station KABC in Los Angeles in the early 90s.
In response to his inveighing against affirmative action, denials of systemic racism and claims that Black leaders exaggerate discrimination, a group of LA residents in the 1990s organized a two-and-a-half-year boycott of the radio show’s sponsors.
Flyers circulating at the time called him a “White Man’s Poster Boy”. Some advertisers did drop Elder, but he ultimately prevailed. His show was syndicated, and he started building a huge national radio audience, making frequent appearances on Fox News and cultivating his brand of contrarian libertarianism.
“He’s been on the radio for 27 years, down in LA, talking man-bites-dog politics that are ironic and contradictory,” said James Lance Taylor, a political scientist at the University of San Francisco. “And in some ways, the only reason why he’s able to say much of what he says is because he’s Black … he uses his race as a weapon.”
Earlier this year, Elder blamed Barack Obama for the deaths of George Floyd and other Black men, writing that the former president should have encouraged citizens to better “comply with the police” to avoid being shot.
During the coronavirus crisis, he has given a platform to Covid-19 conspiracy theorists, including a self-identified physician who promoted the false claim that coronavirus vaccines were being pushed in minority communities as “population control”. Elder has said he has been vaccinated but has vowed to repeal California’s mask and vaccine requirements if he wins the governorship.
“Larry Elder is not to be taken seriously,” Taylor said. “But because he has some recognition and a large microphone, he’s been thrust upon us.”
An electoral face-off between Elder and Newsom would be highly improbable, were it not for California’s idiosyncratic recall laws. There are few requirements to get on the recall ballot, other than a $4,200 filing fee. But if more than half of California voters say they want to remove Newsom from office, the remaining candidate with a plurality of votes becomes governor.
That means Elder doesn’t need to win over the majority of voters – just enough to beat out Newsom’s other opponents. In a recent poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, 47% of likely voters supported recalling the governor, compared with 50% who opposed removing Newsom from office.
In response to the second question on the recall ballot – who should replace the governor if more than half of voters choose to remove him from office – most said they would avoid answering, or were undecided. Eighteen per cent said they would pick Elder – more than businessman John Cox, former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and state assemblyman Kevin Kiley.
If the recall is successful, Newsom, a largely popular governor who won office by capturing a greater share of the vote than any other Democrat in state history, would be replaced by a fringe candidate whose extreme views don’t even capture most of the state’s Republican base. It would be “a complete shock” to California politics, Taylor said.
A familiar voice on the right
For many Californians, the recall has triggered flashbacks to the 2016 presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Many of Elder’s views and policy platforms fall in line with those of Trump. He has backed Trump’s migrant family separation policy and become a mentor to the architect of the previous administration’s harshest anti-immigrant policies, Stephen Miller. He has repeatedly claimed that Black people are more prone to crime and violence than other demographic groups, and echoed Trumpian lines that characterized Latino immigrants as criminals.
Although he initially said that Biden had won the election “fairly and squarely”, he has taken to repeating election fraud conspiracy theories. And taking cues from the former president, Elder has begun to sow mistrust in the recall election system.
The radio host’s rightwing views and his repeated, deliberate bending of truth and statistics to support his views on crime and policing “are particularly problematic given the racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd”, Erika D Smith wrote in a column for the Los Angeles Times.
“His policies are so opposite of what the majority of Californians believe,” Smith told the Guardian.
The celebrity pundit’s politics and policies are “in a lot of ways more consistent with the views of national Republicans” than California Republicans, said Corrin Rankin, the California GOP Central Valley vice-chair. The state party decided not to endorse any of Newsom’s opponents, and Rankin said she herself was staying neutral.
But, she noted, many of Elder’s views – including his opposition to a minimum wage – are less aligned with the state’s more moderate Republican base. “I was surprised when I heard that Elder announced he was running for governor,” she said, especially since he had in the past insisted he had no interest in running. “I think everybody was surprised.”
And yet, said Dan Schnur, a politics professor at three California universities who has advised Republican candidates including John McCain, Elder’s candidacy makes sense in the post-Donald Trump era – his celebrity and convention-bending persona appeals to a certain type of conservative.
“Especially among the types of conservative voters who are fueling the recall, he’s a very familiar face and very familiar voice,” he said. “He’s someone they know and trust.”
If 50% of voters choose to recall the governor, “Elder is very well positioned to be the state’s next governor,” Schnur said, though Newsom is still “the odds-on favourite to survive this election.” The radio host has raised $4.5m in campaign funds – more than other Republican challengers – but just a tenth of Newsom’s $45m trove.
Elder’s campaign did not respond to the Guardian’s request for an interview.
‘Even more extreme than Trump’
Newsom, who throughout the year has tried to characterize the recall election as a rightwing effort, has found an easy foil in Elder. “Some say he’s the most Trump of the candidates,” Newsom told supporters at a campaign event last week. “I say he’s even more extreme than Trump in many respects.”
Even if victory remains unlikely for Elder, the momentum Elder has gained has worried many Democratic voters and lawmakers.
“You have somebody here who has absolutely no idea how government runs,” said Sydney Kamlager, a California state senator and vice-chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, “someone who does not care about people’s due process, about their reproductive rights, about their civil rights.”
“The way Larry Elder has lived his life is is sketchy, to say the least,” said Kamlager. “If he gets the governorship, it would be a fail of epic proportions.”
California’s Democratic supermajority in the legislature could block or override many of the actions taken by a Governor Elder. But as California responds to the pandemic, a deep economic crisis, raging wildfires and drought, the idea that “unprepared and untested” Elder might lead the most populous US state “is unconscionable”, she said.
“I really am opposed, and I am deeply offended by someone who thinks that the governorship is the next iteration of a reality talkshow,” she added.
In a state that positioned itself as a foil to Donald Trump’s vision of America, seeing a rightwing, Trumpian candidate rising to head of one of the most progressive states in the country would amount to “complete abandonment of what makes California California”, Taylor said.
Every Day, Biden Smells Like More of a Loser
With a hint of confusion in his eyes and a whiff of failure in the air around him, Joe Biden is watching his approval ratings continue to plummet to the point where just 42 percent of Americans approve of his job performance.
Which makes sense, since at least so far Biden really doesn’t seem very good at this whole being president thing despite dreaming of and preparing for it for decades. With his staff trying to hide him from the press, and his penchant for saying confusing things, Biden isn’t rhetorically equipped to talk himself out of this mess. He was elected on a simple mandate to not be Trump, but after promising not to do Trump things, doing his own thing has proven more difficult.
To some degree, he put himself in this corner. By governing as he campaigned (as a competent centrist), Biden might have locked in a governing majority of alienated center-right Americans along with his extant Democratic coalition. However, Biden chose to abandon efforts to transcend the current political paradigm, choosing instead to appease his base. Talk about a tragic plot twist.
His deference to progressives was foreshadowed early on: first when he flip-flopped on taxpayer funding of abortion during the campaign, and then with the partisan passage of his COVID-relief bill in February. But real trouble arrived this summer, when he prematurely declared “independence” from the virus (followed by mixed messaging over boosters), and his Afghanistan withdrawal went dangerously sideways. Then it became clear that allowing progressives to hold his bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage would result in more than just a temporary delay.
One could argue that Biden’s decision to pander to the leftward flank of the Democratic Party caused or exacerbated the various crises he now confronts—ranging from the border crisis (his “compassionate” policies and rhetoric served as a magnet) to violent crime (it’s hard to blame Biden for this, though his party’s “defund the police” rhetoric didn’t help) to inflation, which is now tied with COVID as Americans’ biggest concern (Biden ignored Larry Summers’ warnings about overheating the economy). The current stalemate over his legislative agenda is the clearest example of this deference to progressives. And since his stalled legislative agenda feels especially like a self-inflicted wound, it’s worth spending a little additional time here.
Had Biden aggressively moved to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, he would likely have garnered dozens of Republican votes, and progressives would have likely either caved to his will or been shown to be impotent. This is my counterfactual analysis, at least.
Instead, though, Biden let progressives press him into (sort of) linking passage of the bipartisan bill with a $3.5 trillion social welfare reconciliation package. By trying to have it all, there’s now a chance that he could get neither.
Why would an experienced former senator and vice president—who spent his career working across the aisle—make this mistake? Here’s one hypothesis: Ideas have consequences. And the assertion has taken root that Americans are so polarized and ideologically sorted that persuasion is a fool’s errand.
Since Bill Clinton, every U.S. president has essentially bought into this premise, despite all of them except Trump having explicitly campaigned as game-changing uniters. Bush and Obama won re-election with this formula, which probably explains why it isn’t easily abandoned, even as the trajectory of America this time at least feels like it has been headed downard. Biden had a fresh opportunity to break the cycle, but he has instead followed the path of his predecessors.
That aside, his even more fundamental problem is a lack of competence. We saw this in Afghanistan, where the dubious decision to withdraw all U.S. troops was compounded by the hamfisted manner in which the withdrawal was executed. And this same lack of competence is evident when it comes to Biden’s stalled legislative agenda.
If Biden was going to make the foolish decision to link the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the reconciliation bill, he could have first made sure he had all 50 Democratic Senators on board.
It’s no surprise that Manchin, who hails from West Virginia, would pose a roadblock when it comes to passing the Democrats’ “green” agenda items, so discussions with him should have begun on day one. Instead, Biden and the Democrats tried to jam their own framework through—and retroactively sell it to him.
Of course, it’s even more complicated, since Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema is the other holdout. Unlike previous examples where duos like recalcitrant Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine could be won over simultaneously, Manchin’s problems with the bill (mainly climate related) are entirely different from Sinema’s (generally having to do with taxes). And don’t forget the fact that appeasing them too much could alienate other, more progressive, Democratic votes. This is just one big mess.
And the problem for Biden (and America) is that the problems keep piling up. China is menacing Taiwan and testing hypersonic weapons (Biden says we will defend Taiwan if they are attacked). Gas prices are up, with Biden admitting they’re not coming down any time soon. And then there is the ongoing supply chain crisis.
Biden’s problems are piling up so fast that it reminds me of lyrics from Hank Williams, Jr., “The interest is up and the stock market’s down. And you only get mugged if you go downtown.”
Those lyrics, recorded in 1981, reflected those dark times. It’s worth noting that Ronald Reagan went on to win 49 states, three years later.
Joe Biden better hope for a similar turnaround.
Jake Tapper Says Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Has ‘Issues’ After Her Rant On Bannon Vote
The House was voting to support the criminal contempt resolution against Donald Trump’s former White House strategist Steve Bannon after Bannon ignored a subpoena to testify before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Greene blasted fellow lawmakers for not punishing Black Lives Matter protesters and singled out Cheney by calling her a “joke.” Cheney, in turn, said Greene was a “joke” who has pushed the wild claim that Jewish-funded “space lasers” were responsible for wildfires.
“Congressman Raskin and Congresswoman Cheney are talking on the floor and, according to my sources …. Congresswoman Greene goes over to them and she starts screaming at them,” Tapper said to his CNN co-hosts.
“Look, I’m not a licensed psychologist, I don’t know her, but her behavior suggests somebody that has real issues, that is not tethered to reality or basic standards of decent behavior,” Tapper said.
He also referred to Greene’s conspiracy theory that “wealthy Jewish Americans were using laser technology to cause fires in California for some financial incentive.”
“I mean, it is a deranged anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, and yet that is somebody with whom many Republicans are siding,” Tapper added.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene and Liz Cheney really represent the two doors for the Republican Party right now. Which one does the Republican Party want to emulate?” he asked.
Greene is known for her outbursts. Last month, she yelled at a group of Democrats as they held a press conference on the steps of the Capitol about legislation to guarantee the right to an abortion. Greene loudly interjected that “unborn women” have a “right to life.”
Check out Tapper’s remarks in the video clip up top. His comments about Greene begin at about 0:36.
Also on HuffPost
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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Family’s new dog attacks and kills 7-year-old boy, Oklahoma cops say. ‘Gut-wrenching’
A 7-year-old boy was killed Wednesday when his family’s new pet dog attacked him, Oklahoma officials say.
Deputies in Creek County were dispatched around 7:20 p.m. Wednesday for reports of a missing child, the sheriff’s office said. Fifteen minutes later and not long after deputies arrived on the scene, a family member found the body of the boy, according to the sheriff.
The boy was identified by KOCO as James McNeelis, who was playing outside with the dog before it attacked him. Family members told KJRH the dog was a sheltie-corgi mix and they only had it for three weeks after rescuing it as a stray.
Shannon Edison, a neighbor of the family, described the incident as “gut-wrenching” in an interview with KOTV.
“We knew something was wrong. As a mother, you know that scream, if anybody has ever heard that scream, you know that scream,” Edison said. “Something was catastrophically wrong.”
The sheriff’s office said an animal control facility has possession of the dog.
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Ashanti’s Seductive Bikini Video Ignites a Social Media Commotion, Fans Bring Up Singer’s Ex Nelly
The singer, who turned 41 last week, is currently in the Bahamas with friends as she commemorates her birthday.
In the short clip first posted by her stylist Tim B, Ashanti was seen enjoying the festivities as she danced on what appears to be a boat in a beaded turquoise bikini complemented with a tiara and two ribbons pinned to her swimsuit straps.
When “The Shade Room” posted Ashanti’s bikini video on the site’s Instagram page, many flooded the comment section with remarks about her ex Nelly. A few even brought up the infamous hug that occurred between the two last month.
“Y’all better stop before Nelly come thru the phone screen to ask for a Hug.”
“Nelly bout to walk across the Atlantic to get a hug.”
“No wonder Nelly went for that hug trying to rekindle a flame that’s been blazing by itself.”
“Nelly somewhere snatching that band-aid off.”
“Nelly somewhere figuring it out.”
In addition to the Nelly statements, Ashanti commented that the video was all in good fun by saying, “My birthday month!!”
Last week on Oct. 13, Ashanti celebrated her actual birthday by going to dinner with family and friends in New York. The singer also took Instagram to explain how priceless it is to celebrate life with those you love.
She said, “Super overwhelmed with the birthday wishes. I’m grateful to God that I wake up to so much love…and so many blessings. Incredibly grateful for another year. One thing we’ve all seen is that tomorrow isn’t promised… Being surrounded by friends and family, celebrating life is priceless. Thank you to each and everyone of you for all the love!!! I genuinely appreciate it from my heart 10/13.”
Every Day, Biden Smells Like More of a Loser
Jake Tapper Says Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Has ‘Issues’ After Her Rant On Bannon Vote
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