You've seen the State of the Union. Or at least the first 10 minutes, before it gets very boring and goes on forever. Party members sit across the aisle from each other, and the president's party gives standing ovations when the president mention their ideas. The other party stays seated and sneers or falls asleep. (Maverick John McCain sneers or falls asleep no matter which party the president's in, because usually he has lost to that person in a presidential race.)
Sen. Mark Udall wants to change this, in light of the Tucson shootings:
Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, thinks members of his party and Republicans should sit together — not on opposite sides of the aisle — when President Obama delivers his State of the Union message to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 25.
In a "Dear Colleague" letter reported by NPR and Politico, Udall said, "There is no rule or reason that on this night we should emphasize divided government, separated by party, instead of being seen united as a country. The choreographed standing and clapping on one side of the room — while the other side sits — is unbecoming of a serious institution."
It is very childish. But what did Mark Udall think he was getting into when he ran for Congress? Just because they're trying, however briefly, to bring a less partisan tone to debates now doesn't mean that the parties' difference have gone away. In fact, the State of the Union stand-up/sit-down rituals may offer a basic public service for those we call "low-information voters," who have better things to do than follow the ins and outs of Washington's daily nonsense. Daily Intel's Dan Amira makes this good point:
Unity is great, sure, but apart from the entertainment value, there is an important practical reason to maintain the State of the Union's partisan seating arrangement. A neat separation of the parties allows the American people to see, in real time, their positions on the president's agenda and the issues of the day. It's actually very informative and helpful to be able to easily assess which proposals the Republicans and Democrats support, respectively, through the decision to applaud. It also allows us to identify the few party-bucking independent thinkers who, every so often, stand up to clap while the rest of their colleagues remain seated.
Anything else would be Unity bought cheap. If Congress members don't want things to be so partisan, they should stop screaming atrocious lies about the other party's proposals for the sole purpose of confusing the public! Then the other party gets deservedly mad, and the inept media can't sort it out, and everyone digs in. Having Mitch McConnell hold hands with Harry Reid for one night might give voters the false impression that they aren't trying to fucking destroy each other.
[Image via AP]