So the big topic over the last week has been mixed seating at the State of the Union Address (SOTU). Democrats and Republicans sitting together rather than apart is the new prescription for the new “stop everything” problem of partisanship. It won’t make them adhere to the constitution, won’t stop them from spending our money, it definitely won’t make them behave with any less arrogance. It will be a public relations solution to a media invented problem. How nice for us all.
I could care less where these people sit. Franky the SOTU has become the least influential moment of the president’s year. Historically the constitutionally mandated event has been treated with such little importance that Thomas Jefferson, who disliked public speaking, stopped giving it in public and instead would send written statements to Congress with little pomp or theater surrounding it. It stayed that way for a VERY long time, until the progressive Woodrow Wilson started reading it aloud.
I cannot really think of many addresses that have actually set a clear direction or have stayed etched in our collective memory. They are filled with promises that are rarely kept and propaganda that re-frames policy that everyone already knows isn’t working. The rest is used for applause lines thrown in to make people feel warm and fuzzy but once again accomplish nothing.
The worst are the opposing Party responses. Every response, Republican or Democrat, is used by the media as a tea leaf into the next election. “Jim Webb is giving the response, he is rumored to be a pretty big contender in the next election” they muse. Most of these people just disappear. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave one lackluster response and it was immediately said to have completely ended his chances for the Republican nomination. He might pick back up in 2012 but pundits actually went on a rampage against him. The opposition Party response seems like a better predictor of who won’t be president and not who will.
Our nation’s problems won’t be solved by this speech and rarely are they ever honestly addressed during it either. This is basically the Golden Globe awards for politics. A night when those involved dress up, mingle and get on TV to promote their next project. Everyone in the press talks about it in the same way as they do the opposition SOTU response, “Oh the Golden Globes are always a predictor of who will win the Emmy” and then they later seem stunned when it doesn’t actually work out that way.
The entire affair seems like a giant waste of time and a tradition we could do without. The new theatrics for this year, mixed seating, means nothing to our discourse. If anything it is another step toward silencing real opposition and instead moves elected members of Congress toward the role of showpieces for a presidential rally. Let’s hope those staying seated during lines of disagreement are still visible in this setup and don’t just fade into the background.
So in conclusion, State of the Union is a waste of time and turning mixed seating into an important moment for our nation is a joke.