We have no objection to the proposal that Republicans and Democrats sit together at President Obama's next State of the Union address. Mixed seating, first advocated by the centrist group Third Way, at the least would prevent a scene in which reaction to the president's speech differed dramatically from one side of the aisle to the other.
It's also welcome as a symbol of hoped-for post-Tucson bipartisanship (though it's no guarantee that some Republican won't say "You lie!" to Obama). Equally worthy are the other proposals offered by Third Way: bipartisan retreats for each house of Congress and visits by senators and representatives to the state or district of colleagues from the other party.
It's unlikely, however, that any of these innovations will end the corrosive and shrill partisanship that has characterized congressional discourse over the last decade. The reasons for the decline in across-the-aisle civility — and, more important, in cooperation on legislation — are many and difficult to overcome.
They include the outsize influence of interest groups on both legislation and debate; reapportionment that results in politically homogeneous districts; the determination by the minority party in Congress to demonize the majority party in hopes of regaining leadership; and, last and most important, the tenor of political campaigns. Even more poisonous than ads for which candidates take responsibility are the broadcasts by independent groups that typically end with an injunction to tell Candidate So-and-So to stop raiding the treasury, weakening the national defense or destroying American jobs.