Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined Democrat Mark Udall last week in calling for bipartisan seating for the president's State of the Union address on Jan. 25. The idea is to show respect for one another, for the president, for the occasion. And, according to Murkowski and Udall, the idea is to symbolize a real effort to work together for the common good of the United States.
As gestures go it's decent enough. We could stand a dose of unity. Division isn't evil. It's a fact of political life. But relentless division turns corrosive, and now and then it's good for members of Congress -- not to mention the rest of us -- to show a measure of good will toward one another, to remember that this is one republic.
Cynics, satirists, ideologues sneer or bristle at the notion sponsored by Murkowski and Udall. That's fine, and some of the commentary is funny. Few will be gulled into thinking "bipartisan seating" heralds a golden age of statesmanship and consensus.
But maybe it recognizes the obvious. The United States faces severe challenges and nobody has all the answers. Maybe breaking the bloc-seating tradition will drive that fact home. The notion has won support of the House majority and minority leaders, and of senators as diverse as Alaska's Mark Begich and Arizona's John McCain.
One benefit of a mixed seating arrangement would be the end -- we can hope -- of dull, exasperating pauses for applause on one side of the aisle while the other cultivates varied expressions of mute disapproval. That theater has grown old.
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