Mark Udall: Mix It Up For State of the Union

Amid the calls for civility and coming together as a nation in the wake of last weekend’s tragic shootings in Tucson, Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado has a suggestion for his colleagues: for one night, in a show of unity, “tear down this aisle.” The Colorado Independent reports:

Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall today echoed the sentiments of President Barack Obama’s emotional memorial speech in Tucson, urging both houses of Congress to cross the aisles and sit together during Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address.

Udall sent a letter to his colleagues in both the U.S. House and Senate asking them to break with the long tradition of partisan division during the speech, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 25. He said the split, with one party applauding and the other remaining silent, has come to symbolize the extreme partisanship of the last several years.

“The president’s State of the Union address sets the agenda for the year – the challenges and opportunities we face,” Udall said in a release. “But what Americans see when they watch it on TV is a Congress that is bitterly divided by party.

“It sets a negative tone that only perpetuates the narrative that Congress cannot – and will not – come together for the good of the country we all love. Beyond custom, 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.”

It’s hard to imagine a State of the Union address without well-demarcated cheering sections. What do you think this would look like, and what might the effect of this symbolic gesture be?

And how do you object to the principle, at least, without looking like a jerk?

20 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MADCO says:

    Will they have a square dance after or something?

    Who cares?

  2. PERA hopeful says:

    I was disappointed by ColoPols and other blogs, when so many people jumped to the conclusion that righty rhetoric caused the Tucson shootings, based upon zero evidence.  Then righties got defensive and began dredging up inflammatory quotes from people on the left, and lefties got inflamed and said yours were worse than ours, and each side denied that any of the quotes by their people were real, etc. etc. etc.  Everybody was obsessed with scoring points, and nobody wanted to listen or think about the larger issues involving civility and the lack of same in our public discourse.

    Maybe if everybody has to sit next to each other, they will begin to feel a little more kindly toward that nice person sitting next to them.  Failing that, maybe they will feel bad about playing brickbreaker on their Blackberries, or shouting invective, or otherwise misbehaving during the speech if they aren’t sitting at the kids’ table with their intellectual and maturational peers.

    A square dance afterward couldn’t hurt either.

  3. GalapagoLarry says:

    Democrats can option out if they find a T-Pub sitting on either side of them. I know, they make good salaries, lots of bennies, etc., but we can’t ask them to have their smarts sucked out by proximity osmosis.

    So I look like a jerk. I’ve looked that way since way before I started acting like one.

  4. coloradowahine says:

    Put the disruptive ones in between the well-behaved ones. Works in preschool too.

    Seriously, it is a good idea, and a reminder that they are all representatives, not simply R or D. It’s kind of friendly and folksy too.

  5. Middle of the Road says:

    from Cory Gardner.

    Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said he was fine with everyone sitting together, “as long as Sen. Udall doesn’t sit in front of me. Otherwise, I won’t be able to see anything.”

    That should be a rule in movie theaters, too.

  6. RedGreen says:

    everyone seems to be falling all over themselves to praise this, how about a contrary view?

    NY Mag’s Daily Intel thinks it’s a rotten idea. Among the reasons:

    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.

    At odds with the Kumbaya sweeping the nation? Maybe. But there’s a point to it — if staking out our differences with applause somehow stokes the fires of divisiveness, boy-girl seating doesn’t exactly begin to address the problem.

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