Colorado Democrat Senator Mark Udall has put forward the oh-so-Boulder idea that politicians of both parties should intermingle for their State of the Union address seating on January 25th. Udall, and his letter's cosigners suggest that "partisan seating arrangements at State of the Union addresses serve to symbolize division instead of the common challenges we face in securing a strong future for the United States" and further that "the choreographed standing and clapping of one side of the room -- while the other side sits -- is unbecoming of a serious institution."
Senate cosigners include touchy-feely and "red state" Democrats and the usual list of "bipartisan" RINOs (including notably John McCain): Mark Udall, Lisa Murkowski, Kelly Ayotte, Mark Begich, Barbara Boxer, Ben Cardin, Susan Collins, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Mary Landrieu, Joseph Lieberman, Joe Manchin, John McCain, Claire McCaskill, Jeff Merkley, Ben Nelson, Jack Reed, Jeanne Shaheen, Olympia Snowe, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Ron Wyden. There is also a handful of House cosigners.
I have no doubt that Mark Udall is sincere. He is that sort of guy.
Indeed, there is something ridiculous (or at least unserious) about one side of the chamber cheering while the other side sits somberly, especially when the scene is repeated a dozen or more times, slowing down a speech that most of us watch only because we feel that we must. But we'd read the Cliff Notes if we could and certainly don't appreciate applauding senators keeping us from the latest episode of CSI: Des Moines, or whatever we'd prefer to numb our minds with that evening.
And a part of me likes the idea of less partisan-for-its-own-sake government. But only a part.
When a politician or party promotes policies which aim to destroy, whether in large chunks, or bit by little bit, the fundamental fabric of our republic, to cripple free markets, to increase dependency on government, and to whittle away at the liberties which have made America the greatest nation in history, patriots, including the very few members of Congress able to claim that mantle, are obligated to protest with force at least equal and opposite to that of the left's destroyers.
Congressional kumbaya is fine as long as it does not diminish the actual and perceived force of such protests.
Given the tendency of the American left to want to muzzle debate, especially once they have power, as shown by Barack Obama's masterful use of the Internet and his mass media lackeys to win election, followed by his warning to people not to pay so much attention to the news and the Web once he began to implement his anti-American policy agenda, skepticism of "getting along" is more than justified.
Whether it's wanting to reimpose the "Fairness Doctrine" or Senator Jay Rockefeller's (D-WV) statement that he'd like to put Fox News and MSNBC out of business (and what leftist wouldn't make that trade, given Fox's massive viewership advantage?), the left is not and never has been about free political speech even while it supports the First Amendment at most other opportunities. Can you imagine what James Madison would say upon hearing that political speech, the speech the Founders most wanted to protect, is the least protected class of speech in America, falling somewhere behind phone sex and (perhaps related) ads for "ED" drugs.
Not surprisingly, semi-Republican Lisa Murkowski (AK) who won reelection with the support of many of her state's Democrats after losing the Republican nomination and running as a write-in candidate, is going along with Udall. A Murkowski spokesman said "the seating arrangement is largely symbolic but also a heartfelt gesture."
What Murkowski probably doesn't understand is the power of symbolism, particularly the symbolism of Democrats -- enabled by well-meaning useful idiots within the GOP -- being able to subtly parlay the actions of a madman in Tucson into an implicit acknowledgement by Republicans that they need to "tone down" their criticism of all things Obama.
If Murkowski, along with Maine Senators Snowe and Collins go sit with their liberal friends, or if Nebraska's Ben Nelson makes a show of sitting with Republicans as he faces reelection in 2012, nobody would be particularly surprised. But as nice as the idea sounds of bringing more "civility" --- the buzzword of the month, or at least in a dead heat with "vitriol" -- to American politics, what is at stake is too great to be sacrificed for pleasantries.
As Finley Peter Dunne famously put it, "Politics ain't beanbag." As he less famously put it, "A man that would expect to train lobsters to fly in a year is called a lunatic; but a man that thinks men can be turned into angels by an election is a 'reformer' & remains at large." Perhaps the same could be said of a seating chart.