Who would’ve thought an obscure hip-hop artist would go down in history as the most overrated political moment of all time?
Sister Souljah — a name now always followed by “moment” — made headlines back in 1992 when she said of the Los Angeles riots: “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”
This inflammatory comment incensed a majority of the American public. Then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton cemented Souljah’s name in political history when he denounced her comment at a convention for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition — an event at which the hip-hop musician also spoke.
Even though Clinton was expressing the majority opinion of the country in denouncing Sister Souljah, it took stones to do it at a Rainbow Coalition event that welcomed her. Especially when Jackson himself quickly rebuked Clinton’s remarks and there was speculation that the then-Arkansas governor’s talk would cost him critical support among the African-American community.
Instead, it turned out to be one of the highlights of Clinton’s successful presidential campaign. While the original Sister Souljah moment was an instance of a Democrat refuting left-wing extremism to align himself with the vital center, the phenomenon has now become code for what Republicans politicians should allegedly do to placate the mainstream media.
Every time some figure on the right says something or does something that upsets the hive of elitist media opinion, it’s demanded that GOP leaders and candidates have a “Sister Souljah moment” and denounce said figure. Unlike Clinton, who targeted a fringe figure on behalf of the vast majority of America, conservatives who try to pull off a Sister Souljah moment always target large segments of their own base to appease elite media opinion.
That’s an inversion of what made Clinton’s statement so effective: it dramatically resonated with large segments of the public.
Not surprisingly, these attempts fail. Republicans and conservatives get no political rewards for these moments of base-slapping — particularly during presidential campaigns.
In 1996, Bob Dole lambasted the pro-life movement in attempt to make his platform look more “big tent.” Dole went on to lose to Clinton by a wide margin on Election Day.
In 2000, both George W. Bush and John McCain had their respective Sister Souljah moments in the GOP primary. Bush critiqued Robert Bork’s cultural pessimism in a high-profile speech and McCain tore into the religious right. McCain lost the primary. Bush went on to lose the popular vote in a general election he narrowly won.
In 2008, McCain reveled in the opportunities to please media elites by denouncing alleged extremists on his way to losing the general election to Barack Obama.
In 2012, enraged liberal opinion-makers called upon Mitt Romney to castigate Rush Limbaugh for insulting Sandra Fluke. Romney did so, albeit tepidly, and was rewarded with constant coverage of his supposed “war on women.” He also lost the general election.
In spite of all the failures that have accompanied Republican Souljah attempts, we’re now gearing up for even more denunciations from the right during this election cycle. Right now, there are already two issues that are making the mainstream right pray for a Sister Souljah moment.
The first, of course, is Donald Trump. He continues to surge in the polls and continues to infuriate Republican leaders. Nearly every candidate — with the notable exception of Ted Cruz — has profusely condemned Trump’s more incendiary comments. Then, instead of receiving compliments from pundits, these presidential hopefuls get blowback for taking so long to condemn the flamboyant billionaire.
Meanwhile, Rick Perry, the one candidate who decided to go all-out on Trump, was rewarded with measured praise by the press and declining poll numbers from actual Republicans. (RELATED: Denunciations Won’t Stump The Trump)
While the Republican Party hierarchy and presidential hopefuls tangle with Trump, various conservative commentators are fretting over accusations from Twitter trolls that they’re “cuckservatives.” Cuckservative is a lovely combination of “cuckold” (a man whose wife is cheating on him) and “conservative.” It has its origins in white nationalist circles, which is why many of the offended object to it.
But, unfortunately for those wishing to bury the word cuckservative, it’s now gaining traction among conservatives — in large part due to a popular Breitbart article and the latest capitulation by Republican leaders in Congress. (RELATED: GOP Leaders Are Driving Their Base Into The Arms Of Donald Trump)
Against the intentions of the commentators who drew attention to this term in an attempt to differentiate themselves from extremists, it has been embraced by many within these pundits’ own respective audiences.
In short, it’s had the opposite effect of a Sister Souljah moment.
Which is just another reason conservatives should stop trying to have these overrated moments.
The original event brought respect for Bill Clinton and put him in line with the majority of America that was repulsed by the rapper’s comments. Clinton also looked bold and strong in making his denunciation at an event where he could’ve faced immediate backlash.
Republicans and conservatives, on the other hand, never gain respect when they engage in condemnations of supposed radicals. They always make their condemnations from a position of weakness.
Instead of looking like champions of the American majority, they look like cuckolds beholden to the left and the mainstream media.
Democrats have grasped that they have little to gain from making public pronouncements against extremists on their left and they no longer engage in Souljah moments.
If only we could expect the same from Republicans, who will likely make further attempts to distance themselves from the base at the guaranteed expense of votes and respect.
Voters cast ballots for candidates they respect. Republicans engaging in pseudo-attempts at repudiating radicals won’t give them that needed quality.
Only looking bold and strong, like Clinton did in 1992, will earn them respect.