Fall 2015

Class Note

Larry Elder, ’77: Filling the Conservative Airwaves

By Sheryl James

“About 1.25 million Americans every single year.… And of that number, 40 percent say that but for the firearm, they would have been dead. These gun laws… sound like they’re common sense. Who abides by them? You and me. Bad guys don’t give a rip. That’s why they’re called ‘bad guys.’”

——Larry Elder, on his talk radio program, The Larry Elder Show


Larry Elder
Larry Elder, ’77

If the above excerpt doesn’t get your attention, a few other Elder-isms might. 

For instance:

  • Blacks are more racist than whites.
  • The welfare state is our national narcotic.
  • There is no glass ceiling.
  • The media bias: it’s real, it’s widespread, it’s destructive.

These are from Elder’s 2001 best-selling book, The Ten Things You Can’t Say In America (St. Martin’s Griffin). Just in case he didn’t ruffle the politically correct and liberal crowd enough with that, he followed up two years later with Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America (St. Martin’s Griffin), another bestseller.

Among other points, Elder declares here that “racial and sex discrimination are non-issues in the 21st century.” All the while, Elder, ’77, has offered his wisdom on his talk radio show, now on the air for some 20 years.

It would be difficult to find another U-M alum who can mix it up like Elder can. He represents a small category: black conservatives. Suffice it to say that the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have not been on Elder’s show.

“In my 20 years on the air, I’ve only been able to get one or two of these so-called black leaders on my show,” Elder says. “I’ve called Jesse Jackson maybe 100 times.” Elder says Ebony, the iconic magazine of black America, ignores the likes of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, among other highly respected black Americans. “The common element between all of these is that they’re conservative.”

Elder’s views directly reflect his upbringing. He was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. His parents, Randolph and Viola, both were hard working and had experienced racism.

But, says Elder, they refused to raise their three sons as career victims. Elder recalls his mother reading him a children’s book about U.S. presidents in the 1950s. “And she said, ‘Larry, if you try hard enough, someday, you could be in this book.’” Elder points out that he didn’t have to wait for 2008 to believe that. His mother also told him no one could hurt his feelings without his permission. Randolph Elder (U.S. Marine, janitor, restaurant owner, in that order) was equally unruffled.

“So this kind of thinking of myself as oppressed … or as a second-class citizen, never occurred to me,” Elder says. His mother later told him they did not want their children to grow up angry about “crap that doesn’t happen anymore.”

Elder also credits his urban, black neighborhood, which was full of intact families—now long-gone—with helping to develop his views. “Today, 75 percent of black kids are raised without their fathers.” This—not racism—is America’s number-one problem, Elder says.

The empowered thinking of Elder’s upbringing helped lead him to do well in high school and earn his bachelor’s degree in political science from Brown University in 1974. He selected Michigan Law because it was “one of the finest law schools” in the United States. He found Michigan Law “extremely difficult, extremely competitive, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience—and living in Ann Arbor.”

After practicing law for several years, a one-week guest-hosting opportunity on a Cleveland talk radio show ignited his talk radio career. He was offered his own show at KABC in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, and he has been on the air, online, and on cable TV ever since. He added another book, Dear Father, Dear Son (WND Books, 2012), and also writes a blog on topics such as, “Will Eric Holder Ever Run Out of Race Cards?” and “Ferguson: Not Even An O.J. Jury Would Convict Officer Wilson.”

Suffice it to say he has not been profiled by Ebony. Ask him if he cares. However, he was honored this year with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Despite the Obama era, Elder, a Republican and “small ‘l’” libertarian, is not backing down. He focuses on what he calls the “victicrats,” which he defines as those who live with a “those forces are holding me back” mindset.

“That’s what the left has done to women, to gays, to Latinos, to minorities. Because the left is a collection of special interests of people who feel maligned,” he says. “And what I like to think I do is I de-program victicrats so they can think for themselves.”