Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Is this seat taken?"

Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have decided to sit together at this year's State of the Union Address, in a symbolic move to combat partisanship.

I like the sentiment, and it's a good visual move for an event that's essentially a national pageant.

I've seen some suggestions that party-line seating helps the viewing public to know which side favors what (based on who stands when, who claps where, etc.), but it's not like the average SOTU viewer doesn't already know that the GOP hates social spending and taxes, and the Democrats love equal rights and health care.  We don't need to see who claps at the idea of extending Medicaid provisions to know how the parties tend to view these issues.

What we do need to see is that the partisan rancor that fuels so much of our politics stops where the work of governing starts.  We need to be reassured--because it isn't at all clear from how Members behave and speak--that all who serve in the Legislative Branch are willing to embrace a recognition of a common goal: promoting the welfare of all Americans.

So what I want to see at the State of the Union is this: when the doors open and the Members file in, Nancy Pelosi should walk in with Eric Cantor and take a seat right next to him.  Steny Hoyer should lock arms with Kevin McCarthy.  And throughout the House chamber, Republicans and Democrats should circulate among each other, point to seats near their colleagues, and ask, "may I join you?"

No comments:

Post a Comment