Can we all just get along?
Following the atrocity in Tucson, mainstream Democrats and Republicans made a pledge to try to be more civil in their public debates, to discourage inflammatory rhetoric and to make at least a gesture of reaching across the aisle to the other party. House Majority Leader John Boehner led a very respectful and moving tribute to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who was shot in the head.
Then, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) made the suggestion that members of Congress break with tradition and sit with members of the opposite party during tomorrow night’s State of the Union address. He offered the idea as a way of bolstering the new atmosphere of civility. From The WaPo:
It’s one of the first symbolic acts of this supposedly new era of civility in Washington: Heeding a call from Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), nearly 60 lawmakers – and counting – from both parties are pledging to sit together at Tuesday’s State of the Union address, breaking with the tradition of separating themselves by party.
But there will always be at least one bonehead who will see something nefarious in a simple, if superficial, gesture designed to generate goodwill. In this case, the bonehead belongs to Georgia. U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), one of the most rightwing and conspiracy-addled members of Congress, called on Republicans to reject the idea of sitting next to a Democrat, according to CBS News:
“I already believe very firmly that it is a trap and a ruse that Democrats are proposing,” Broun said. “They don’t want civility. They want silence from the Republicans. And the sitting together being kissy-kissy is just another way to try to silence Republicans, and also to show — to keep the American people from seeing how few of them there are in the U.S. House now.”
Broun was responding to remarks from a caller who said she appreciated observing the partisan divide during the State of the Union. Typically, the president often receives standing ovations during the annual address from members of his own party, while members of the opposition party are more likely to stay seated.
“What the Democrats are going to be doing when Barack Obama spews out all his venom (emphasis added), then, if they’re scattered throughout all the Republicans, then it won’t be as noticeable as if we’re sitting apart,” Broun continued. “So it is a ruse and I’m not in favor of it and I’m talking about it and I hope other members of the Republican conference in the House will not take the bait.”
So much for civility.
You can listen to Broun here: