Journalist Dan Walters of the CalMatters.org website has concluded that attacks by the media, the Democratic Party, and establishment Republican candidates on conservative talk radio host Larry Elder are so vicious that they may be backfiring.
In recent days, there has been a barrage of such attacks, led by the Los Angeles Times, Politico, and other mainstream publications, echoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Republican rivals like former San Diego Mayor Ken Faulconer.
But the attacks seem to be failing — not only because they are weak, Walters notes, but because they are identifying Elder for voters as the candidate the political class fears most, making him the most attractive alternative in the ongoing recall.
Newsom obviously hopes that focusing on Elder and the supposedly terrible fate that would befall California should he become governor will not only change the subject but motivate Democrats to vote against the recall. Democratic voter apathy is, polls indicate, the prime reason Newsom is in danger of losing his office.
However, the focus on Elder could also make it more likely that he would, in fact, become governor should the recall succeed. Voters who favor the recall could easily conclude that if Newsom, the media and Faulconer are ganging up on Elder, perhaps he’s just the man to lead the revolt against the political status quo.
That’s what happened in 2016 when Donald Trump emerged from the Republican pack to become the GOP’s presidential nominee. The more Trump was attacked for his many personal shortcomings, the more attractive he became to angry Republican voters. The rest, as they say, is history.
The attacks on Elder, a black Republican with a large radio audience, fall into roughly four categories.
Race: It is difficult to portray Elder as a white supremacist, for obvious reasons, so opponents have portrayed him as a stooge of white supremacists. L.A. Times Jean Guerrero compared Elder to white supremacist David Duke in July, and followed suit with a column in August, declaring: “If Larry Elder is elected, life will get harder for Black and Latino Californians. Likewise, Times columnist Erika D. Smith wrote this month that he is the “Black face of white supremacy.”
Gender: CNN claimed Elder “has a long history of making disparaging remarks about women” on radio — a surprise to his audience. The network’s best (worst) example: a joke about the Women’s March in 2017: “Donald Trump has probably gotten more obese woman off the couch and in the streets, working out, than Michelle Obama did in eight years.” Politico ran with a claim that he “brandished” a gun at an ex-fiancée; when interviewed on local radio, she veered into side claims.
Radical views: Newsom and others have exaggerated Elder’s views to make him seem extreme. In a Zoom call with his Democratic supporters, for example, the embattled governor claimed that Elder “thinks climate change is a hoax.” More accurately, the San Jose Mercury News reported: “Elder said he believes climate change is occurring and that humans are a factor, but the extent to which people are to blame ‘is debatable,’” a position well within the mainstream of political debate.
Finances: The Hill reported the sensational headline this week: “California launches investigation into recall candidate Larry Elder’s financial disclosure.” The violation: he listed a source of income from a company named after himself, but did not indicate whether he owned a stake in the company (he owns all of it). His campaign admitted the “oversight,” and corrected the filing. The media blew up the filing error as if it indicated some kind of major financial impropriety.
Elder has led most polls of candidates to succeed Newsom, should the governor be recalled. The recall ballot includes two questions: first, whether Newsom should be recalled and renewed; second, which of 46 alternatives should replace him.
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.