Out-of-the-mainstream congressmen come in all shapes, sizes and political parties. TV camera lights attract them like moths to a flame. Big ideas to advance the nation, compromise and even tempers are seldom seen in this breed of grandstander. This type can often be found on C-SPAN late at night, addressing a virtually empty House chambers. The topics are usually conspiratorial meanderings about one policy or another. These are the ideologues, the outspoken radicals on a grand mission to prevent the United Nations from overwhelming our shores or some such nonsense.
Residents of Alabama’s 3rd congressional district have no such worries. Mike Rogers, the district’s representative since 2003, is not one of those outrageous lawmakers furiously seeking out the spotlight. Rogers is a far more serious man, and we firmly believe he has little use for his colleagues’ time-wasting antics that are all heat and no light.
Rep. Rogers keeps a much lower profile, chairing the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, looking after his district’s priorities particularly in the areas of Defense and Homeland Security spending, and performing the inglorious-but-important constituent-service duties of all local congressmen.
Yet, on the big national issues that divide Republicans and Democrats, Rogers is very much in step with his fellow Republicans in Congress. He is one more sturdy brick in the Republican wall of opposition to almost everything proposed by President Obama.
Earlier this week, Rogers said of the president, “When I have been around him, he strikes me as arrogant and disengaged.” It’s a remarkable thing for a sitting member of Congress to say about a president, and even more remarkable that it came from Rogers, who usually steers clear of such rhetoric.
Fear not, however, the congressman won’t face any repercussions from his remark. It’s become standard in modern politics; in fact, these comments are fairly tame in comparison to what we’ve heard over the past four years.
In this way, Congressman Rogers is one more cog in the machine. We suspect this is less a function of Rogers’ whims than it is a requirement for holding congressional office. Analysis shows that the differences between the political parties have grown sharper in recent years. As a result, we find fewer moderate-to-liberal Republicans and fewer moderate-to-conservative Democrats. In our times, neither party can tolerate much coloring outside the lines.
For what it’s worth, the National Journal ranked Rogers the 177th most conservative member of the House of Representatives, a ranking that puts him closer to the middle than all but two of his fellow members of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation.
Of course, even if Rogers wished to strike a more independent legislative course, it would be extremely difficult. In recent elections, the surest way for a Republican incumbent to be voted out of office is to moderate from the strict party line.
So, Rogers strides along, comfortably holding a district where his strongest challenge would likely be from a fellow Republican to his right, not a Democrat to his left. That’s the case again this year. Rogers’ Democratic opponent is John Andrew Harris, a Lee County commissioner who is little more than a placeholder in the ballot.
If by some wild happenstance Harris were to win Tuesday, Alabama’s 3rd district would be represented by an inexperienced congressman and not one with 10 years of seniority. That would be bad for the district.
So, we are stuck. On one side is an under-funded and lightly experienced politician who’s never served beyond purely local office. On the other is an experienced congressman who generally looks after his district’s priorities but is also just another puzzle piece in a larger ideological struggle.
Given our options, we recommend Mike Rogers. However, we’d prefer more options, so that voters have a wider range of viable choices, and so that Rogers could break free of the partisan restrictions that are stalling the nation’s progress.