Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why I support Edwina Rogers

Edwina Rogers, a former Republican strategist has been named the Executive Director (and chief lobbyist) of the Secular Coalition of America. You can guess what happened next in the left-wing atheist blogosphere. Yeah, these clickable links say exactly what you expect.

To be fair, some people did say they will give her a chance. Rogers also submitted to two interviews with prominent secular bloggers, and the information from them is important.

The frustrating part is vocal members of the secular community expect Rogers to grovel before them and publicly beg forgiveness for aiding and abetting the Republican party. This is an unrealistic demand to ask someone who will be marching over to Capital Hill and knocking on red doors.

Rogers didn't handle the Greta Christina interview perfectly. She said she doesn't believe the majority of elected Republican officials support social conservative positions like opposing gay marriage, and thinks the jury is still out on that one. I'm a registered Republican too, and I don't buy that for a second.

She and Christina talked past each other for most of the interview. Christina wanted her to pay penance for being involved with the Republican party and Rogers wanted to show that she joined the party for economic reasons. American parties are so weak that members are not required to pass a strict litmus test, and Rogers wanted to emphasize that there are plenty of people who believe in the things secular people value who are also Republicans, so it's wrong to assume membership is an endorsement of everything the party stands for.

I think a lot of the misunderstanding here is that Rogers is going to be the head of a lobbyist group, not a spiritual leader for atheists and agnostics. With that in mind, her GOP credentials are an asset, as she will get in more doors than the usual Democratic gang who speak about secular values.

The unstated major premise here is that the Republicans have been bad on secular issues, so the Democrats must be good on them. I completely agree the Republicans have been an obstacle for secular values, but does that tell us anything about the state of the Democratic party?

Remember the election of 2008, when the Democrats took over Washington and quickly legalized gay marriage on the federal level? No, of course not. They won't even do that now. The black church plays a crucial role in Democratic politics. An embarrassing 38 percent of registered Democrats are creationists. That's not as bad as the Republican rate of 60 percent, but it's not something to stick on the fridge. Republicans gets low ratings from the SCA's own voting appraisal, but the Democrats didn't ace it.

Was Rogers predecessor, Sean Faircloth, ever asked to explain himself for his involvement with the Democratic party?

There's a lot of tribalism on display here, and Rogers should be seen as someone who can prove that the secular community isn't a generic liberal advocacy group. Surprisingly, I've been unable to find any mention of Edwina on the feminist blog, which is surprising as its been beating the drum to get more women in the secular and skeptical communities.

Lobbying is not perfect at changing minds, but effective or not, that's what the SCA is for. Unfortunatly, GOP officials often have leaders of the Christian right whispering in their ears. Someone needs to whisper some reason in the other ear, and Rogers is someone who can pull that off.

1 comment:

  1. It's quite a pity that the big atheist leftists conflate atheism with social democracy and the Democratic Party. This is especially disappointing given the existence of nontheist libertarians like Shermer, Rand, Penn & Teller, classical liberals such as Pinker and Mencken, and conservatives like George Will.

    I'm fairly certain a few of the big names objecting to Edwina filling the position have heard of David Hume and Thomas Hobbes. I wonder if it ever occurred to them that two of the biggest materialists in Western history were also proto-conservatives.

    And yet the PZs of the world still labour under the belief that they are secular popes who can excommunicate people who are too conservative.