Monday, January 17, 2011

Do I have to separate you two?

For reasons I can't understand, Mark Udall's idea of having members of Congress of different parties sit together during the State of the Union is gaining steam. It's not that changing a legislature's seating arrangements is solely a gimmick. Seating matters! (I've got a whole paper on that!) But it only really matters over the long run -- if members tend to sit together over the course of a session they might tend to vote a bit more like each other. But I can't see much happening if they sit together for a one-hour speech. That's pretty gimmicky.

Also, as Dan Amira explains, this seating proposal would take away one of the really valuable aspects of the State of the Union address:
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. 

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