The U.S. Capitol, site of next week's State of the...

The U.S. Capitol, site of next week's State of the Union address Credit: GETTY IMAGES

If individual Republicans and Democrats sit next to one another during the State of the Union address next week it won't change the world, and maybe not even the nation's nasty politics. It is just symbolism, after all.

But if a revised seating chart comes to reflect a genuine realization that winner-take-all politics doesn't serve the nation very well, it could lead to important progress. Congress should follow the lead of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who suggested the idea, and just do it.

There's something a bit silly about Democrats and Republicans encamped on opposite sides of the aisle in the House chamber, and the theater of those on one side standing and clapping, while those on the other sit and scowl. That's symbolic too - of a nation divided.

In the aftermath of the massacre in Tucson, ideally Washington will move beyond symbolism of either sort and actually commit to civility, pragmatism and the search for common ground.

Do that and it will still be difficult to meet big challenges such as containing health care costs, deficits and debt, rethinking military spending, going green and improving education. Refuse to do it and solving problems of that magnitude will be all but impossible.

A symbolic start on a more productive course is better than not starting at all. hN