Larry Elder talks presidential run, fatherless epidemic, school choice and the '11th Commandment'
Conservative commentator Larry Elder is teasing a potential 2024 presidential run as he looks to capitalize on the attention he garnered as the leading Republican challenger in California Gov. Gavin Newsom's 2021 recall election.
Although Elder was unsuccessful in his efforts, the popularity of his gubernatorial campaign gave him national attention, especially in conservative and Republican circles.
Recently, Elder has hinted at possibly joining the field for the 2024 Republican nomination, which already includes former President Donald Trump, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
"I think Larry Elder brings a couple of things to the table that the others don't," Elder, 70, told The Christian Post in an interview on Friday as he attended the Black Conservative Summit in Chicago, Illinois.
"Most notably is an ability to refute effectively the lie that America is systemically racist. It is a lie that Democrats push because they want black people to think of themselves as victims. ... The second thing I think I bring to the table is the recognition that the No. 1 social problem facing the country is a large number of children in America who entered the world without a father in the home married to the mother."
Elder believes "we need to talk about why this is going on," and that is "because of the welfare state."
"Lyndon Johnson launched the so-called 'War on Poverty' in the mid-'60s. Since then, we've spent over $20 trillion dollars, and what we've done is we've incentivized women to marry the government, and we've incentivized men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility," he continued.
"And I think our side — meaning the conservative side, Republican side — does not talk enough about that. I intend to."
CP interviewed Larry Elder about his possible presidential run, what he learned from his experience running for governor, his religious beliefs and other topics. Below are excerpts from that conversation.
Christian Post: In a recent interview, you said that you were giving "some real serious thought to running for president." Have you reached a decision yet?
Elder: I have pretty much reached a decision. I'm going to make an official announcement sometime next month, maybe the third or fourth week, but I'm this close to deciding to do it.
CP: What lessons did you learn from your California recall gubernatorial campaign in 2021 that you would apply to a presidential campaign?
Elder: One of the lessons I learned is try your best to not get outspent by your opponent. I learned that it's grueling, it is hard. I know why a lot of people don't want to do it; you're attacked, often unfairly. If you're not flushed like Donald Trump, you don't make money while you're running. You lose money if you're gainfully employed, as I was. And, it's difficult to win in a state like California where conservatives are outnumbered.
Registered Republicans are outnumbered by registered non-Republicans three to one. There hasn't been a Republican win statewide in California in over 20 years. And the last time somebody won as a Republican governor was Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that was in a recall election, and that was in 2003.
Since then, until now, there are now 5% more registered Democrats, there are 50% more registered independents — and even the New York Times said that independents in California vote Democrat — and there are 33% fewer registered Republicans.
I got the same percentage of the replacement votes as did Arnold Schwarzenegger, with a much more daunting battlefield.
There are 58 counties in California. On the replacement side [of the ballot], I won 57. I raised $22 million in seven and a half weeks. And I got more votes virtually than all of the other replacement candidates combined.
My disappointment is that the other Republican rivals did not do what I did when I ran, and what I intend to do if I decide to run for president, and that is not say anything negative whatsoever about my Republican rivals. Because they're not the target. The target in the case of California was Gavin Newsom.
The way he shut down the state, ignoring science, causing all sorts of unintended consequences, most notably businesses failing, depression going up, homicides going up, opioid addiction going up. The target was the way people are leaving the state, the target is the large number of homelessness, and the very little that the state is doing about it, the poor public schools.
Every time anybody asks me to say something negative about my Republican rivals, I said, "I'm sorry, the target is not so-and-so, the target is Gavin Newsom, and here's why." So, when I decide to run, if I decide to run for president, I intend to adhere to that same commandment that Ronald Reagan did, the 11th Commandment, "thou shalt not say anything negative about a fellow Republican."
CP: Possibly testing your 11th Commandment rule here, former President Donald Trump has already announced that he is running for president in 2024. If you run in the Republican Primary, you will likely be squaring off against him. Why would say that Republicans should choose you over Trump?
Elder: I'm saying that they should or shouldn't. I have my own argument to make, and my argument is just as I've said. I think I know what to say about energy independence, I think I know what to say about illegal immigration. I support school choice. I'm an adamant proponent of school choice.
I think the Republican Party ought to decide on its own, but they won't be deciding it based upon me cutting this person up, cutting that person up. I think that Donald Trump has a record to run on. I think he was an extraordinarily good president, extraordinarily effective with the Supreme Court, with the borders, with the economy, with foreign policy. I think he's got a record to run on. I think [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis, if he decides to get in, has a record to run on. He's done extraordinary stuff in Florida. I think we are blessed to have a deep, deep bench.
So, that would be my argument. I'm not going to denigrate Donald Trump; I'm not going to denigrate Ron DeSantis. I think they're great, great patriots and great people.
CP: Speaking of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, he has garnered headlines for undertaking efforts to ban critical race theory in schools. Given your stated rejection of the claim that America is a systemically racist country, do you support such measures for schools? If elected president, would you pursue federal anti-CRT legislation?
Elder: Well, what I would like to pursue federally is to ban the Department of Education. Education should be a state and local function, unfortunately, it is not. A lot of our schools get federal dollars, and as long as they get federal dollars, we as taxpayers have a say in what they do with those federal dollars.
I am adamantly opposed to critical race theory, but more importantly, I believe that we ought to get back to education being a state and local function. And I strongly support, as I said, school choice. I believe the money ought to follow the child than the other way around.
We are in a situation where 85% of black eighth graders, these are kids who are 13 years old, according to the NELP test, known as the "national report card," 85% nationwide can't either read nor do math at grade level. Fifty percent of black eighth graders can't even do basic reading and that means a substantial number of black 13-year-olds in America today are functionally illiterate. This is a moral scandal.
You have 13 public high schools in Baltimore where zero percent of the kids can do math at grade level and another half a dozen where only 1% can. That's almost half of the government high schools in Baltimore. This is hideous, this is something that everybody ought to be outraged about. And I think one of the reasons that many blacks are not outraged about it is that they are unaware of it because the teacher's union is so incredibly powerful.
In California, when I ran for governor, the teacher's union by far and away gives more money than any other organization to the politicians. And they oppose school choice. And, as a result, you have a bunch of politicians who wouldn't put their own kids in a K-12 government school on a bet, still opposing school choice. Gavin Newsom opposes school choice; his own kids were enjoying a private education when other kids were shut out and doing virtual learning during COVID.
Nationwide, 10% of us have our kids in private schools, 6% of black families do. Forty-nine percent of Philadelphia government school teachers with school-aged kids put their own kids in private schools. What does that tell you? The people who know the schools best aren't putting their own kids in it.
This is something that I will be talking about a great deal if I decide to run for president.
CP: Earlier, you mentioned that if you run for president, one of your major focuses will be the fatherlessness epidemic. If elected president, how would you combat fatherlessness?
Elder: The first thing is to draw attention to the problem. Barack Obama said a kid raised without a father is five times more likely to be poor and commit crimes, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to end up in jail. He said this [in a Father's Day speech] I believe it was and he hasn't said it before or since.
Unless people are aware of the problem, people are not going to make more responsible choices. Also, I believe that we ought to have some mechanism so that the money goes that toward social programs can be directed by taxpayers to the social programs that they know and that they believe work in their own communities. But the bottom line is, we need to have a conversation about this.
I remember in 1994, Louis Farrakhan, for whom I have no respect as a leader, but I have a great deal of respect for his position on that day, he brought a bunch of men together and talked about their moral responsibility to their wives and to their girlfriends and to their mothers. And I contacted the Washington, D.C. police that day, and I ask them whether crime went up or went down. Normally, when there are these rallies, crime goes up because bad guys know it and they take advantage of the police being deployed for these marches. And the police told me it was the most peaceful march they'd ever had and crime actually went down that day. So, just by putting people together and talking about their moral responsibility, he changed behavior.
The president has a big bully pulpit, and I intend to use it.
CP: What are your religious beliefs and how do they influence your politics?
Elder: Well, my pastor is Pastor Jack Hibbs of the Calvary Chapel Church in Chino Hills. He's an amazing man. And I am a strong believer in life; I am a strong believer in the message of the Gospel. My moral values and my political values are informed by that. I think that the Bible is the greatest piece of literature ever written. All your answers are there. All the things that you're concerned about are right in there, and it's the foundation of who and what I am.