Noting that Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman’s preferred attire would not pass muster for a worker in a fast food restaurant let alone the notionally more dignified U. S. Senate, the editors of the Washington Post take a stand:
We vote nay. Dressing formally conveys respect for the sanctity of the institution and for the real-world impact of the policies it advances. Putting on a suit creates an occasion for lawmakers to reflect, just for a moment, on the special responsibilities with which the people have entrusted them and on a deliberative process that at least aspires to solemnity. Judges are perfectly “able to choose” what they wear while on the bench, but court wouldn’t be court unless they put on black robes.
At the risk of idealizing the place, the Capitol is, or should be, thought of as the temple of the world’s oldest continuous democracy. Within that, the Senate floor is its most sacred space. It was the setting for America’s most consequential debates on war and peace, freedom and slavery. Throughout history, those who participated in its proceedings dressed accordingly. Admittedly, the appropriate level of dignity is subjective; you know it when you see it. And when a senator comes to the floor in pickup softball gear, you don’t.
My own preferences are:
- Work from home. The Senate should adopt rules and technology that allow them to meet officially from their homes.
- Repeal the 17th Amendment
There are all sorts of points of departure I could take on this subject. Let’s go with this one. What is the end point of the present slippery slope in Senate decorum? I don’t think it’s Maine Sen. Susan Collins wearing a bikini on the Senate floor, a spectacle from which I’d just as soon be spared.