Gavin Newsom may have prevailed in yesterday’s recall election in California, but the issues that drove over three million Californians to vote for Newsom’s recall have not gone away. Support for the recall outperformed support given to President Trump in the 2020 election, indicating that it probably isn’t just Trump voters who are disenchanted with Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Despite Elder’s loss, his candidacy appears to have charted a new course for the California Republican Party. The Times of San Diego calls elder “a new kind of Republican,” and “the candidate that the California Republican Party has been waiting for.”
The Times goes on to write:
The party hasn’t won a statewide election since 2006. Its base of supporters has been gradually whittled down to an ever whiter and older demographic in one of the country’s most diverse states.
Now here comes Elder, offering something different. A longtime conservative talk radio host in Los Angeles, he is the most credible Black candidate for governor since the 1980s in a state that has never had one.
Throughout his short campaign, Elder has made explicit efforts to reach out to communities who have not traditionally found a home in the GOP. In press conferences, Elder has prioritized reporters from Chinese-language and Latino-focused media outlets and underscored endorsements from political leaders of color, including a former Democratic state Senate leader.
And he’s told and retold the story of his hardscrabble upbringing — as a boast, but also an appeal to voters who rarely see their own biographies among Republican frontrunners. “I’m from the ’hood,” Elder told CalMatters in a recent interview. “It seems to me that I ought to be a success story.”
The latest polls suggest that Gov. Gavin Newsom will survive the Sept. 14 recall. But if it succeeds, Elder — the top-polling replacement candidate — could pull off the unlikeliest of success stories and become California’s next governor.
Still, if there’s one thing standing in Elder’s way of reshaping the California Republican Party, his critics say, it might be this: What he believes and says.
‘Do I Look Like a White Supremacist?’
Since hitting the AM airwaves in the early 1990s, Elder has built his brand around a Libertarian economic philosophy and his deeply-held belief that liberals and Democrats overstate the role of race and racism in American life. That brand helped Elder quickly leap-frog more traditional GOP hopefuls in the recall, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the party’s 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox.
But Elder’s pugnacious conservatism has also made it easy for Newsom and his defenders to portray him as the latest face of “Trumpism” — “he’s even more extreme than Trump,” the governor said recently.
Much of California’s political establishment has the same take. Newspaper editorial boards have denounced his “extremist views” and “misogynistic attitudes.” A columnist with the Los Angeles Times wrote last month that Elder “opposes every single public policy idea that’s supported by Black people to help Black people” and labeled him “the Black face of white supremacy.”
Elder’s camp has highlighted the disapproval of the commentariat as an indication of his anti-establishment cred, but he has also pushed back. “Do I look like a white supremacist?” he said in a recent campaign ad. “I walked those hard streets.”
But most statewide surveys show that Elder polls like a typical Republican candidate: He is less popular with Latino, Black and Asian voters than he is with whites.
That doesn’t surprise Matt Barreto, founder of UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative.
“If Larry Elder had run on a very welcoming racial unity message, he could have presented himself as a different type of Republican,” he said. “He’s just not the candidate who says ‘racial unity’ to voters.”
Elder’s Pitch to Voters
Two weeks ago, Elder held an especially unlikely kind of press conference. He was endorsed on Zoom by former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, long perceived to be a moderate Republican, and former state Senate leader Gloria Romero, a Democrat.
The event was also unusual in its appeal. Elder rattled off his long-held positions on education (parents should have more options and teachers’ unions are blocking needed reforms) and crime (state laws are too lax). But he repeatedly emphasized how those views ought to appeal to Black and Latino Californians.
“I do believe that the impact of the poor quality of education disproportionately hurts Black and brown people,” Elder said. “Crime disproportionately affects people living in the inner city, many of whom…are the Black and brown people that the left claims that they care about.”
When it came time for questions for the man who has spent much of his adult life opposing affirmative action, reporters “representing the Latino communities” were given priority.
Both Maldonado and Romero pointed to Elder’s background as evidence of his credibility. Sacramento politics needs to be “shaken up,” said Maldonado, the last Republican to be lieutenant governor, in 2010-11. And who could be in a better position to do that shaking than “a brother from South Central Los Angeles?”
In an earlier interview, Romero said she does not agree with Elder on many issues. But she was drawn to his candidacy for his support for charter schools and his criticism of teachers’ unions, but also his “lived experience.”
In his concession speech, Elder reiterated the concerns his campaign had focused on, and showed no indication that he was going to give up politics. California will likely see Elder again. Watch his speech here:
Action Line: If you look at the map of voter preferences in California, you’ll see that the counties to the north and east of the state voted to recall Newsom, and those in the South and West of the state voted to keep Newsom. Perhaps the state should be split up the middle and the chips should fall as they may. Perhaps Elder will lead to a common-sense revolution in California, but until then, if you’re trapped in the state that treats you like a piggy bank to withdraw money from, it’s time to look for a better America.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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