If you haven’t been following the lead up to tonight’s State of the Union address, or “SOTU” as inside-the-Beltway rags call it, something remarkable and history-making is about to happen.
Rather than being separated into sections, Republicans and Democrats have been encouraged to spread out and sit with each other. This could have all kinds of ramifications.
From the perspective of the television audience, it’ll be a bit harder to discern audience reactions than in previous years, with one side of the room in standing ovation and the other a sea of arms folded across chests at key points in the speech. In an effort to engender bonding and stimulate civil communication between red and blue, members of Congress have spent time this week choosing whom from the opposite side they’ll sit with during the address.
When I heard this, I became concerned for members whom no one asks to the dance. Just like senior prom, there are always a few who are passed over by classmates looking to score the most popular dates.
Yesterday, Vanity Fair came out with an initial report of who’s going with whom, along with suggestions of topics these duos should avoid, lest all Hades break loose in the chamber, as it did last year, if I recall correctly. This morning, The Washington Post‘s Style section suggests how bipartisan cliques might form around common interests and habits.
I haven’t heard how this intermingling is supposed to take place in practicality. Does one member go and save a seat for his or her buddy? Or will duos make it a true date—maybe a double date—and get a bite to eat together before the speech? A nightcap afterward, perhaps? Will they share a box of Jujubes? Or will they end up elbowing or kicking each other beneath the seats like young siblings, when the uncomfortable subject of spending priorities comes around?
What about those who refuse to cross the aisle and remain amongst their like-minded colleagues? Perhaps they are already practicing the Wave or synchronized heckles.
I rested up during the AFC and NFC playoffs so I can be nice and alert for SOTU. Call me a wonk if you will; perhaps this comes from many years in a job in which I had to take detailed notes and write a report the next morning. Tonight I’ll just pop some corn and watch the show. Okay, so I may take a few notes. Old habits die hard.