State of Dis-union: Preview of Our Q&A with Senator Mark Udall

January 24 2012, 3:05 PM

As President Obama prepares for tonight’s State of the Union address, two Colorado congressmen are making news ahead of the annual event, for completely different reasons. On Monday, Colorado Springs Republican representative Doug Lamborn announced that he’ll be skipping Obama’s speech because of policy differences he has with the president, and because he expects that Obama is “only out there campaigning. He’s not reaching out.”* 

Lamborn’s intransigence stands in stark contrast to Senator Mark Udall, who for the second straight year has been promoting bipartisanship by urging his fellow legislators to sit together tonight, an effort that’s been dubbed (sometimes derisively) as D.C.’s version of “date night.”

Udall realizes that his gesture is largely symbolic but insists that it’s a step toward reaching the spirit of compromise that the president promised but has been unable to achieve. “Has [my proposal] made an enormous difference? No,” Udall said during a visit to 5280’s office last month. “The partisanship is still at a high level, but there’s a lot less of, You’re an idiot, You’re stupid, Your mother wears combat boots kind of stuff.”

Despite being in an election year that’s almost guaranteed to get nastier before it gets nicer, Udall is convinced that unity will eventually win out. “When this turns—and it will, I have no doubt—though it may take through the election,” he says. “But those who’ve been on the extremes will get knocked back. When it changes that’ll help create a tone where we can work together.”

Udall, in fact, has been among the most vocal supporters of bipartisanship in Congress. Check out 5280.com tomorrow for more about what the senator has already accomplished in this cutthroat climate and what he thinks needs to be done to create a more amicable and efficient political process going forward.

*What is it about Colorado? The last time any congressman skipped a SOTU address was not during the divisive tenure of Bush II, but in 1999, when then representative Bob Schaffer, along with two others, boycotted President Clinton’s speech during his impeachment trial.