George Washington Made Me Do It

The news that Michael J. Fox has been invited to attend the State of the Union reminds me to complain about the unpatriotic character of our current practice. Let's recall what the Constitution (Art II, sec.3) calls for:
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
A communication of the President of the United States to the Congress of same. Since 1966, however, we have added the execrable "response" from the other party. It means we no longer think of the President as "ours," --the President of all the people-- but merely as the head of his political party. (The point is made in spades this year, when the Dem's choice is a man who is proud of refusing to shake the President's hand.) Is the respondent a co-president that he should require "equal time"?

George Washington's Farewell Address is generally invoked these days only by isolationists urging us against "foreign entanglements." But Washington's chief concern was to recommend a sense of national pride and unity as bulwark against the danger of such entanglements:
the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.

And earlier:
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The point is not of course to stifle political opposition, but that we should have a lively sense of all being in it together and great confidence in the ability of our political process to find solutions to problems.

Did you ever notice that in both houses of Congress the members sit in the round, rather than facing each other in opposition as they do in Parliament? The Founders wished to reinforce the primacy of nation over state, party or faction even in the seating arrangement. Washington called for us to
indignantly frown[...] upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
People who wish to restore a bi-partisan tone to Washington might think about such things...and start by getting rid of the "response to SOTU."