They can't tell you where to sit

My first reaction on hearing about the ever-so-earnest Congressman Udall's notion of replacing the current World Cup model of congressional seating with the sports bar model was to laugh. I imagined the likes of a doddering Frank Lautenberg and an out-to-lunch Sheila Jackson Lee, isolated in a sea of Republicans because of some secret visual dispersion seating chart, having to be equipped with a special pager to cue sitting, waking, standing, and applauding, but that reaction was mistaken.

There is nothing funny about a highly effective slap by the bipartisan Washington establishment and their media allies at the incoming conservative freshmen. "Whatever you may have thought, we are still in charge here. Whatever the old ladies in in the Don't Tread on Me! tee shirts, Sarah Palin and Dick Armey may have been to getting you here, they are nothing to you now. We decide how things operate here; we define the acceptable behavior and the acceptable language. We determine who and what are significant."

Everybody is behaving true to form; Pelosi and Murkowski have contorted their taunt masks into some semblance of mocking "payback is a bitch" grins; Boehner and McConnell look around in dazed confusion; Cantor is weaseling, and the great posturing egos of the Senate are all mounting up and riding off on some high horse or other.

What are the freshmen to do? It has never made sense to play the other guy's game, so don't. Refuse to accept the definitions of bipartisanship, civility, vitriol, concession, flexibility and reasonable objectives the bipartisan establishment is attempting to impose on you. Stick to your own conceptions of statesmanship, duty to your constituents and fidelity to your constitutional oath. Do not let Chris Matthews define gravitas for you. Define it for him and your colleagues and every hostile cable airhead and well-intentioned, but simplistic cable friend by identifying the game being played, explaining it and its implications, and rejecting it explicitly. Tell everyone that you know why you are there and that you will not be squeezed, cozened or conned by anyone, regardless of their office.

This seating and rhetorical confinement squeeze is a big opportunity to declare and to demonstrate that you have come to act and not engage in typical Washington pantomime.