Within 24 hours of Donald Trump descending that golden ladder into the heart of America’s political consciousness, Larry Elder once recalled, he had branded the reality TV star the next president. He urged his radio audience: “We should support him.”
Two years after Trump’s presidency, Elder sounded elated by the decision he and other Americans made. “The election of Donald Trump in 2016, in my opinion, was a divine intervention,” he told an audience of conservatives gathered at a Rancho Palos Verdes resort in 2019. “It was a miracle. He is almost an envoy of God.
Elder sounds decidedly more cautious of Trump these days, as the Los Angeles radio host leads 45 other challengers in the race to replace Gavin Newsom, should Californians vote to impeach the governor on Sept. 14. September.RELATED
Elder has gone out of his way to speak out about every other Republican presidential candidate he supported before Trump. When The Times asked to speak to him about Trump, his campaign spokesperson recommended targeting “prominent Democratic or independent supporters” of Elder. And Elder recently told CNN that he is “indifferent” to the prospect of receiving endorsement from Trump, who remains immensely popular with Republicans nationally.
Elder has been walking what one conservative commentator called a “tightrope,” balancing the imperatives of many of the most passionate advocates of the recall, who love Trump, while trying to push his way into more centrist terrain in a state where Democratic and nonpartisan voters dominate.
Internet commentator Allah Pundit theorized that the Republican front-runner is “taking a crash course in the agonizing dilemma faced by all Republicans running for public office since 2016, when a critical part of the party base turned partisan. of Trump.
Elder “wants to present himself as a generic Republican and aspiring statesman, not the kind of fire-breathing Trumpian that Californians would reject,” the blogger wrote.
Newsom’s advocates would like to link Elder as closely as possible to Trump, a deeply unpopular figure to most Californians. The former president lost California to Joe Biden by nearly 30 percentage points in the 2020 election.
An advertisement for the anti-recall campaign featured no fewer than five images of Trump. A television ad shows a picture of a smiling old man and Trump side by side and urges voters to “stop the Republican retreat.”
With little more than a week to go before the election, there has been no indication that the former president will take a position to ditch Newsom, or lend support to any of the possible replacements. And Elder’s campaign said the withdrawal “is not about Trump,” with whom the candidate has not spoken since the start of the campaign, while “it is focused on California, not national politics.”
In his days leading up to the retreat, Elder gave one of his longest descriptions of becoming a Trump fan at a 2019 retreat to the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Elder told the meeting how he initially underestimated Trump that day in June 2015 when he rode an escalator from Trump Tower to his presidential announcement event.
“I saw it. I was alone. And I said, ‘Wow, that’s pretty un-presidential. This will be one of the shortest presidential campaigns you’ve ever seen, ‘”Elder said, according to a transcript of his speech.
But the next day when he was in Sunland, he said several people reached out to him and they all spoke favorably about Trump. He spoke of a man who said, “This guy is connecting the road… no one else has connected in a long time.”
The next night, he went on his radio show and told his listeners that they should support Trump. Later in the campaign, he joined Trump for a campaign event in Cleveland and was impressed that the candidate spoke about the importance of allowing parents to choose where their children go to school.
He made what turned out to be another important connection to Trump’s world years before. It happened when he repeatedly welcomed a conservative high school student, Stephen Miller, as a guest on his radio show. By 2016, Miller had become Trump’s adviser, and Elder emailed his former protégé with suggestions on how the Republican nominee should debate the issue of illegal immigration and resurrect allegations of sexual misconduct against Bill Clinton.
After Trump arrived in the White House, Elder frequently jumped to his defense. In a radio commentary on the inauguration, she mocked participants in the Women’s March Against Trump as “obese.”
“When you look at all these women who have marched, something like 2 million, Donald Trump has probably taken more obese women off the couch and onto the streets, exercising, than Michelle Obama in eight years,” Elder said in a 2017 statement. first reported by CNN.
Elder dismissed many critics for being unable to have an objective view of the former president’s actions and accused them of suffering from “Trump disorder syndrome.”
One example came when congressional negotiators said that during an immigration debate, Trump referred to “shitty countries” and wondered why the United States received more immigrants from Africa than from countries like Norway. Critics called that racist.
Elder objected in a column that Democrats were hypocritical in criticizing the president because, in their opinion, others had made similar observations. He recalled that President Obama, describing the difficulty of achieving peace in the Middle East, would have said privately: “If everyone could be like the Scandinavians, everything would be easy.”
Elder wanted to know why Trump had been called a “racist,” but Obama did not.
He wrote another column on the eve of Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, cataloging a list of the president’s accomplishments. He credited Trump with low taxes, a strong economy and negotiating peace accords with the United Arab Emirates and Sudan.
Many criticized Trump for fueling racial tensions, but Elder took a contrary view. He credited the president with “presiding over the best unemployment figures for blacks in American history” and signing legislation to reduce the sentences of prisoners, including many black men, convicted of crack cocaine offenses.
“Imagine where Trump would rank in the polls,” Elder wrote, “if it weren’t for the constant and relentless negative media coverage and unhinged opposition that would have stifled the average politician.”
The admiration flowed in both directions. In negotiations over the debates against Biden, Trump’s team named Elder as a possible moderator.
Shortly after entering the gubernatorial race, it became clear that Elder would attempt to project a more modulated relationship with Trump and the Trump era. He told a group of newspaper opinion editors: “I think Joe Biden won the election fairly and directly.”
That immediately angered some true Trump believers, like Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who continued to push Trump’s claims of 2020 election fraud, even though they had been rejected by election officials and multiple courts.
“This could cost @larryelder a lot of votes in California” Ellis tweeted on the subject. “I totally disagree with your comments here and clearly you were poorly advised.”
Elder then reviewed his position. He told Newsweek he gave the answer to “move the hostile interview forward,” while trying to focus on other topics that he said Californians cared more about. The Republican leader in the recall also asked voters to consider the many times on the radio and in his column where he had “expressed extreme skepticism about the fairness of the 2020 elections.”
In an interview in early August, Elder objected when host Michael Smerconish introduced him as a “radio host who supports Trump.”
“I voted for Bob Dole. I voted for Mitt Romney. I voted for George W. Bush. I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush, ”Elder said,“ and whoever the flag bearer is in 2024, I will also vote for him or her. So I’m a Republican. … So, calling me a radio host who supports Trump is a bit unfair, in my opinion.
Trump and Newsom had a surprisingly cordial, if uneven, relationship while the former president was still in office. The California Democrat criticized the Republican president, for example, when he blamed the California wildfires on a lack of “raking” of forests. But Newsom and Trump also praised each other for their cooperation during natural disasters.
With just over a week to complete the recall vote, the former president has not intervened in the race.
The “divine intervention” Elder felt from Trump just two years ago felt good in the rearview mirror in recent days, when candidate Elder used another CNN interview to say he was “indifferent” about whether he got the former president’s endorsement. Elder’s comments suggested that his position was a matter of geography, not politics.
“If you’d like to endorse me, that’s fine. If he doesn’t want to give me an endorsement, that’s fine too, ”Elder said. “I have not asked. I have not requested it. I have not encouraged anyone from outside [of California] to back me up, no matter who he or she is.
Apparently the old man liked a recent comparison to Trump. It came from the London Times, which he headlined on August 21: “Larry Elder, the ‘Black Trump’, is close to taking California from the Democrats.” The candidate tweeted a link to that story.