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May 03 2012

Attempting the Impossible?

The Secular Coalition has just done something very interesting.

The Secular Coalition for America—the nation’s only full time nontheistic lobbying organization—proudly announced the selection of longtime Republican lobbyist, Edwina Rogers, as its new Executive Director today.  Rogers brings two decades of experience on Capitol Hill as a lobbyist and attorney, including roles as General Counsel for several high profile politicians.

“For too long, the 50 million secular Americans have been ignored, underappreciated and undervalued—that’s what drew me to the Secular Coalition for America,” Rogers said. “It’s time to change that. Secular Americans are increasingly pulling together as a voting bloc that demands attention—a constituency that is due formidable representation in Washington, D.C.”

Rogers has been a public policy expert for over 20 years and has worked for two U.S. Presidents and four U.S. Senators. She has served as an advisor to the George H.W. Bush administration and the George W. Bush White House, as well as General Counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She worked for Senator Trent Lott while he was Majority Leader in 1999 and handled health policy for Senator Jeff Sessions in 2003 and 2004.

Rogers’ background is an ideal fit for the Secular Coalition for America, now in its 10th year.  She has a proven track record of managing coalitions and implementing nation-wide strategies. In her most recent roll as Executive Director of the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative, she organized a coalition that included major employers, consumer groups, labor unions and health care providers. In this position she also planned and implemented a successful 50-state strategy.

The Secular Coalition continues to move forward implementing its own 50-state plan, as well as continuing to focus on advocating for nontheists on Capitol Hill, including expanding recognition of nontheists by lawmakers. Rogers is a strong advocate of the separation of government and religion and is in a unique position to push the secular message to those on both sides of the aisle.

“Secular issues are not partisan issues,” Rogers said. “All Americans should be concerned about protecting our most basic rights and I want to bring that message to politicians of all stripes.”

Secular Coalition President, Herb Silverman, said Rogers has the unique ability to reach out to many of Washington D.C’s power players, who may mistakenly associate secular values with a particular political party or ideology.

When I say interesting, I mean in the sense that I’m highly ambivalent about it. On the one, obvious hand, Rogers is someone who has supported politicians and a party that have worked very hard to marginalize us. She has propped up the party of the religious right and apparently done it well. That does not endear her to me, to say the least.

On the other hand, she will be my lobbyist, not my new best friend or even nifty human being, and my lobbyist on specific issues where we do agree. It’s my understanding that Rogers is pro-choice, supports gay rights, and really is a strong proponent of secularism.

Beyond that, this is an opportunity to test whether there are any inroads to be made in dealing with Republicans on our issues. In fact, this is probably the best test that such a strategy could have. We’ve been saying forever that demanding our rights protects the rights of everyone. We’ll see whether Rogers can get that message where it is so very badly needed. I can think of longer paths to reach our goals, but few that would be steeper. But if it doesn’t work here, with Rogers on the job, I think we can safely say, “No, and this is why”, to anyone advocating a similar path in the future.

We’ll also watch to see that “reaching across the aisle” doesn’t involve kicking the people supporting the SCA on this side for propulsion. In fact, I’ll be watching for that more closely than I would with someone who identified with my side. She has already done harm. She won’t be allowed to do more–or even appear to be poised to do more–without having to justify each step. She already had plenty of work to do just on lobbying. I hope she understands that her past has bought her some more.

An interesting choice, as I said. I’m by no means certain that it will work, but I’m more than ready to be shown I’m just being cynical.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    Besomyka

    Curious. I’m interested to see what’ll come of this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  2. 2
    Robert B.

    “Secular issues are not partisan issues,” Rogers said.

    If only that were so. “No true Republican”?

  3. 3
    Stephanie Zvan

    Robert, I would phrase it differently, in that there is no rational reason for secular issues to be partisan issues, but I agree with her. How many times have you wanted to yell, “These laws protect you too, you idiots!”? It isn’t even an issue of telling your core constituents, “Look, this is a matter of fairness to those people over there, so we should play nice.” It’s a fundamental matter of liberty.

  4. 4
    kevinalexander

    She has an opportunity to save the Republican party. As it is now they are attached to the lunatic right which can’t sustain itself as that is founded on a romantic fantasy.

  5. 5
    IslandBrewer

    Many years ago, I worked for a bit on K Street (ok, it was actually I Street, but we ate at the same places for lunch). I and my firm at the time did work for Republicans, Democrats, well, basically anyone waving a bunch of money around. It was shocking how many intelligent rational people work for what are ultimately causes antithetical to their personal views. (I never worked on anything I personally found repugnant, but I did work for some people with whom I would never want to be personally associated.)

    While her prior association with idiotic Republicans is a strike against her, I’m pretty confident she can easily discard and compartmentalize that work. She’s a mercenary. She’s good at what she does (presumably). Secular folks are paying her paycheck now. If her work aligns with her personal views, so much the better.

    @Kevin

    I don’t see her as saving the Republican party so much as disassembling it. The John Huntsman/”moderate”/mildy rational Republicans can divorce themselves from the Tea Party fundagelicals, and will have to move pretty left of their current place in the political spectrum to become viable among independents and democrats, again.

  6. 6
    jamessweet

    But if it doesn’t work here, with Rogers on the job, I think we can safely say that we can safely say, “No, and this is why”, to anyone advocating a similar path in the future.

    This is one of the best takes I’ve heard on it so far.

  7. 7
    beergoggles

    I’ve heard that reasoning tossed out countless times at the beginning of stupid ventures. In the recent debate about fiscal austerity, in the debate about the iraq war, in libertarianism as a viable political philisophy. Once it starts failing, the argument then becomes that it is a strategy that cannot fail, it can only be failed.

  8. 8
    Marcel Kincaid

    No one who refers to “the Democrat Party” should be executive director of the SCA. She is steeped in Republican partisanship and it will color everything she does.

  9. 9
    Marcel Kincaid

    “I’m pretty confident she can easily discard and compartmentalize that work. ”

    Such confidence is quite irrational and contrary to evidence, which is that she is a Republican partisan hack, not merely a gun-for-hire.

  10. 10
    Marcel Kincaid

    “I don’t see her as saving the Republican party so much as disassembling it. ”

    Can I have some of what you’re smoking? Even if she wanted to, which she certainly doesn’t, she could not achieve such a thing.

  11. 11
    Mark Erickson

    I am unashamed to admit that I watch the Real Housewives franchises, and recognize Edwina from the short-lived DC version. Basically, she tried out to be a Housewife, had cameras follow her around, but she didn’t make the cut and was basically an extra. That in itself isnt disqualifying to me (although I bet I’m in the minority on that) but unfortunately, there was a clip of her being incredibly stupid. I’ll have to search for it.

  12. 12
    Mark Erickson

    Okay, didn’t find the RH video, but this is just as good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXj-oQm-NbE

  13. 13
    Mark Erickson

    Okay, found it, not as bad as I remember, maybe she’s just smart to say nothing. http://www.bravotv.com/the-real-housewives-of-dc/season-1/videos/taking-on-a-republican-lobbyist

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    My 2 cents on SCA’s Executive Director | The LatiNone

    [...] Stephanie Zvan: On the other hand, she will be my lobbyist, not my new best friend or even nifty human being, and [...]

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    Matt Dillahunty Weighs In on Edwina Rogers | Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] worthwhile pieces on this topic: Secular Coalition For… The Right Wing GOP?, Al Stefanelli Attempting the Impossible?, Almost Diamonds What I would like to hear from Edwina Rogers, Ashley F. Miller Controversy comes [...]

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    Edwina Rogers: the unanswered questions | Crommunist

    […] stunned to learn that the Secular Coalition for America had hired a former Republican operative as their new executive director. Considering the extent to which the Republican party is and has been decidedly anti-secular, the […]

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