Larry Elder hates the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming it creates “dependency” and erodes “our freedoms”

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Radio host Larry Elder, who is running in California’s gubernatorial recall election, spent years as a commentator attacking the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act and called for its repeal. Over the years in his writings and radio show, Elder labeled the ADA a “hideous” and “horrible intrusion on private business,” claimed that the law creates “dependency” and erodes “our freedoms,” and said that then-President George H. W. Bush signing the law in 1990 discouraged him from registering as a Republican because he “felt double-crossed” as a voter.

Elder is a right-wing commentator who is running as a Republican in California’s September 14 election. He has frequently made toxic remarks as a pundit. CNN's Andrew Kaczynski, Em Steck and Drew Myers reported last night that Elder “has a long history of making disparaging remarks about women.” 

Media Matters has reported that Elder's commentaries include pushing conspiracy theories related to Dominion Voting Systems and the 2020 election, and defending employers who engage in pregnancy discrimination. Elder recently doubled down his pro-pregnancy discrimination stance in response to media questioning. 

The ADA, as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission summarizes, “prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” While the law was a milestone, advocates note that much more still needs to be done to protect the rights of disabled people. 

Elder has taken the opposite position as a pundit. In his 2002 book Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America, Elder wrote a section attacking the ADA as “crippling” disabled people, claiming that “‘protecting’ the underdog exacts a high price. Altruistic ‘protection’ often cripples those it intends to protect while eroding our freedoms.” He went on to claim that the ADA deters employers from hiring disabled people and wrote, “What greater way to ensure dependency than to pass a law that says you can’t cope?” 

In a May 2003 syndicated column, Elder wrote that he “felt double-crossed” and said that he briefly registered as an independent voter after Bush, among several other measures, signed the ADA.  

Despite the influence of my Democratic mother, I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and again in 1984, because he campaigned against high taxes, supported limited government, while advancing a tough-minded defense in calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire." His successor, George Bush-41, for whom I also voted, raised taxes, passed the Clean Air Act, passed the Americans With Disabilities Act, re-regulated cable, and railed against falling oil prices.

I felt double-crossed.

My disillusionment with the GOP caused me to register as "Decline to State," which, in California, means independent. Fiscally conservative, but socially liberal on many issues, I support a government that stays out of my wallet and out of my bedroom. The Founding Fathers envisioned a federal government that trusts its people with their money and freedom, outlining this limited, non-intrusive federal government in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, leaving the other powers to people themselves or to the states.

The right-wing commentator has also criticized the ADA as “a hideous intrusion,” “an assault on private employers,” and a law that violates “the principle of federalism.”

In 2009, he criticized Republicans for allegedly “acting like Democrats” and complained that Bush “signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, a hideous intrusion into the private sector rationalized by compassion.” 

In March 2010, Elder wrote of George W. Bush: “On the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by his father, Bush bragged about the law's importance and effectiveness. That such an assault on private employers engenders praise says much about the GOP's acceptance of federal government's command and control.” 

Later that year, Elder called for “a November 3 Contract with America” that “reduces government's size and scope so that we never again jeopardize our prosperity -- which threatens our national security by robbing Americans of the resources necessary to defend ourselves against our enemies.” As one of his proposals, Elder wrote that the government should “repeal laws that violate the principle of federalism, such as wage and hour laws; federal minimum wage; the Clean Air Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act; equal pay laws; the Davis-Bacon Act (mandating prevailing union wages for those working under federal contracts); and all federal anti-discrimination laws that apply to the private sector.” 

Elder has repeated his anti-ADA stance on his radio program. On January 14, for example, he criticized George H. W. Bush for signing the ADA, which he said was a “horrible intrusion on private business, mandating that businesses do this and that and this to accommodate the handicapped, not that that's a bad thing, obviously, but government shouldn't be mandating this, for crying out loud.”