Larry Elder’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


Larry Elder, the Republican candidate in the California gubernatorial recall race, was chased from a homeless encampment yesterday, one of his campaign stops. The first question is, why would Elder, a conservative, fish for votes among the homeless. Any campaign operative would say that is a waste of time for him: how many of the homeless vote and how many would vote for a Republican? (Considering their current situation in California is the result of liberal public policy, I wonder why the homeless would not run any candidate who is not running on the Communist Party ticket out their encampment. What do they have to lose with a world revolution?)

Candidates campaign where the votes are and for Elder there are no votes among the homeless. He needs to be revving up his Trump base. Let us say that he went to the encampment for a photo op, to show he is, to borrow George W. Bush’s term, a compassionate conservative. He might in fact truly be compassionate—although whether professions or demonstrations of compassion make any difference in the lives of the homeless or the poor is open to debate—but he would hardly be in a position to convince the people he visited. When was he ever moved to visit such encampments during all his years as a radio commentator?

A woman wearing a gorilla mask narrowly missed him with an egg. (Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had gravel and eggs thrown at him recently. So, the world has even become unkind to liberal politicians!) A ruckus ensued and Elder and his handlers were forced to leave. Was this reception racist, something that happened to Elder because he is a Black conservative, not just a conservative? Caitlyn Jenner, also a conservative Republican vying for the governor’s seat in this recall, visited this encampment, and although heckled, was permitted to complete the tour without incident. She is White. And what was the gorilla mask supposed to mean? If a Black conservative is given a more difficult time than a White who espouses the same views, that is clearly racist.

But a Black conservative is seen as more dangerous than a White conservative, not merely, to the liberals and the left, a scoundrel, a reactionary, a simpleton, but a traitor to his race. White conservatives are not seen as traitors to their race. The difference is significant. It is a question of race loyalty, in part. But for Elder and Black conservatives generally, “What do I owe my race?” is not a rhetorical question but a real, deeply existential one. It might be better put, “What do I owe my identity, such as it is, which chose me by a set of accidents more than I chose it by an act of the will? And what Identity am I supposed to will? Or is what I will, because I am of the oppressed, more limited than the range of identities a White wills?”

Are Black conservatives, in the end, any more dangerous than anyone else out here espousing whatever political views he or she espouses? Is it the wish of liberals and leftists to deny Blacks the same range of political expression that Whites have? And if so, would that not be a bit paternalistic? Every group needs all the voices it can muster, including traitors. Ask any musician if any worthwhile music can be made without dissonance.