Sweats and a hoodie on the U.S. Senate floor? Well, why not? Why not, I mean, a dress code for the U.S. Senate appropriate to the present habits and pastimes of the, ahem, world’s greatest deliberative body?
We know, I assume, how the Senate’s Democratic majority leader, Charles Schumer, put the matter the other day. He instructed the sergeant-at-arms to cease enforcing an unwritten rule prescribing business dress on the Senate floor — suits, neckties and all that stuff. And dresses or pantsuits for women members.
“Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor,” said Schumer, affirming his own intention to go on wearing a suit.
A popular, and likely correct, theory as to why the change, and why now, points to the sartorial tastes of Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman, who, according to the Washington Post, “often sports droopy basketball shorts and roomy hooded sweatshirts.” Who, from photos, I judge to be an all-round slob.
We might want to consider slobbery as the present Senate’s foremost characteristic, hence a reason for opening the chamber door to self-expression in all its various and inventive forms.
Self-expression got to be a Senate characteristic partly because of the voters’ newly relaxed attitudes about life and its demands. But today’s senators really put self-expression in high gear.
Self-expression means what you want to do versus what is expected of you in all decency. As in the Senate’s case, addressing Major National Problems.
A few of these problems come quickly to mind: trillion-dollar spending bills that necessitate the borrowing that fuels inflation; the lack of an immigration policy amid events such as inspired the Wall Street Journal headline on Sept. 22 — “Migrants Overwhelm Texas Border City”; the malign looks that Communist China and its leaders — who used to wear Mao outfits before they switched to Western suits — throw our way; the inability to focus on a workable and affordable energy policy that keeps our lights on; growing attempts seemingly everywhere to suppress fellow Americans’ right to free speech; racial disharmonies; educational failures; a 60-year-old drug problem that kills more and more Americans; the collapse of standards and norms in what we used to regard as ordinary life.
Standards? One such used to be the prescription of clothing appropriate to places and occasions as specified by what we call “society.” We’ll pass over that long-dead way of thinking and move right along to what leaders today think we must think about.
Such problems can’t amount to much, or we’d address them in businesslike ways — wearing perhaps business attire. Or, wait — isn’t that what we’ve done — the starched shirt and wingtip shoes thing? And look at the world’s greatest deliberative body and its inability to do anything closely aligned with the public good.
Maybe Sen. Fetterman of the grave old Quaker commonwealth of Pennsylvania is onto something. Can’t solve adult problems? Maybe what the Senate today is cut out for is high school-level problems: sports; the internet; who’s cool, man; and who’s not.
Try it the Fetterman way, man. Put on your basketball shorts. Maybe dribble a bit during roll calls. The possibilities are endless. After a while, you might think: Hey, maybe things aren’t as grave and absorbing as the news shows make ’em out to be. Deficits? We’ve had ’em before. And, hey, we’re still here. China? The same. Deliberation in the Founding Fathers mode? Those guys wore kneed pants and ruffles. Nobody’s up for that stuffy stuff anymore.
It brings to mind one application of how the new age has new modes of reacting and thinking and answering the democratic call to services.
The favorite footwear of the Fetterman set? Flip flops. If that particular shoe fits, let our senators wear it.