Jonathan Bernstein is frustrated, Ted Cruz’s Empty “Sister Souljah” Moment. He can’t figure out why people would call this a “Sister Souljah” moment. I share his frustration, but it is easy enough to explain: smarter conservatives are so desperate to find signs of the slightest amount of reasonableness in the Republican Party that they act stupidly. And shockingly, the conservative doing this today is the generally very smart and insightful David Weigel.
What Ted Cruz did was very simple. He blasted some Middle East Christians for not being big enough supporters of Israel. Not surprisingly, the people he spoke to did not like what he said. They booed him. But since when it angering an audience a “Sister Souljah” moment? If that were the case, Chris Christie would have a long line of such moments. But no one thinks he does. Instead, they think he is just a bully.
The point of a “Sister Souljah” moment is to increase your “moderate” credibility by attacking part of your own constituency. Democrats are great at this. The New Democrats don’t seem to believe in anything so much as they do attacking their own base. Criticizing the labor movement is hugely popular. Such moments are extremely rare coming from Republicans. But Bernstein notes a good one: Rand Paul attacking voter ID laws. And how do we know it was a “Sister Souljah” moment? Because he almost immediately backpedaled. What he said really was an offense to his base and an effort to appeal to the middle. The same can be said of Chris Christie’s attack on anti-Muslim bigots.
But what exactly did Ted Cruz risk? Unwavering support for Israel is absolute Republican orthodoxy. Going before unfriendly audiences to tell them that you are just as extreme as ever is not a “Sister Souljah” moment. It shows a little bit of guts. But no one has ever questioned that Ted Cruz is a true believer who is willing to tell anyone that he is right and they are wrong. Weigel is pushing the definition of the term so far that Ted Cruz’s Green Eggs and Ham filibuster could be so named. After all, he was telling all of America things they didn’t want to hear.
But what’s going on with Weigel? It’s got to be that he just got excited. But this kind of thing really calls into question his objectivity. And this is something he clearly prizes. As a libertarian, he takes a kind of centrist position so he can laugh at both sides. But this article is off the rails. It is titled, Watch Ted Cruz Turn a Political Problem Into a Pro-Israel Sister Souljah Moment. And it ends, “Sister Souljah achievement: Unlocked.” That sounds more like cheerleading rather than reporting or even analysis. And this is always the problem with people who have major ideological axes to grind pretending that they don’t.