Even if it was against your will, you’ve probably heard of instant meme and surprise rap supernova Danielle Bregoli, a.k.a. Bhad Bhabie, a.k.a. the “Cash Me Outside” girl. On a 2016 episode of “Dr. Phil,” the then-13-year-old Floridian invited audience members who laughed at her … um … candor to catch her outside of the studio to … umm … settle their disagreement through means of fisticuffs.

I am sure that most rational people would not want to vote Bregoli into elected office. But the fine folks of Oklahoma did elect Sen. Markwayne Mullin, who last week basically told Teamster General President Sean O’Brien to catch him outside, to throw down, to get to brawling, to catch these hands. IN AN OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL HEARING. Make it make sense.

You can’t.

We’ve all been told to aspire to noble higher office and public service at some point. As a kid, you might want to be president, or the scrappy pol who turns government corruption on its head — the “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” of it all. But now those we sent to speak for us are basically acting like characters in a Jill Scott song, literally offering to take off their rings in the hallowed halls of power and start scrapping.

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Apparently, O’Brien had sent some salty X posts Mullin’s way, in which he called the junior Republican senator “greedy” and wrote, “You know where to find me.” Rather than deciding to let it go because of the importance of his office, Mullin was basically like, “Bring it,” and literally stood up like he was gonna do something. It only ended when Bernie Sanders, America’s cranky grandpa, told Mullins to sit down and reminded him, “You’re a United States senator!” — a position that’s supposed to denote a certain level of decorum.

This is a problem.

I am aware that, to quote Shawn Colvin’s Grammy-winning “Sunny Came Home,” the world is burning down in war and suffering from climate change, hatred and general stupidity. There’s a weird unsettled energy out here, and it feels unsafe. But when people who have been chosen by the citizenry to represent them in the most important of issues are acting like Doc Holiday calling people out in saloons, we have failed as a society. I certainly can’t point to any of these folks with certainty and tell my son that he should desire to be like any of them.

I am not naive or historically ignorant enough to suggest that American politics have always been honorable and polite; this country was built on blood, in turmoil. Vice President Aaron Burr killed former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a duel. (There’s a whole musical about it.) Mullin even justified his outburst by citing how many duels President Andrew Jackson got into. Then again, Jackson was an enslaver and signed the Indian Removal Act, so if that dude’s your role model, that tells me everything I need to know about you.

But even one-time MMA fighter Mullin posing with firearms and making the conservative TV show rounds talking about how he would punch out O’Brien isn’t the only recent example of political foolishness. The same week, Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett accused former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of elbowing him, and Rep. George Santos of New York said he would not seek reelection after damning evidence of criminal conduct was found by the Ethics Committee. Yet all of these people remain, as I am writing this, in office, without censure. Which means someone thinks this is OK.

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Not me. But some of you.

We are in a moment of terrible conflict and bitterness and hatred. In such moments, it would be comforting for those in the higher offices of the land to show some decorum, some class, some dignity. Instead, they’re showing naked photos in hearings, lobbing ageist one-liners at colleagues, calling for secessionist “national divorces” and feeling up dates in public theaters. And all of that was just two people!

In the past, this kind of crap might get you reprimanded, censured or maybe expelled. But in our deeply contentious and fiercely partisan world, there isn’t even a slap on the wrist. This behavior, by the way, comes from factions who claim to be the most Christian, the most traditional, the most upstanding.

I’ve gotten some, um … emotionally charged mail accusing me of bringing race into everything, and you will not be disappointed that I’m gonna do that now, too. You cannot tell me that if a Black politician had threatened to beat up a witness and literally gotten out of his or her seat to commence said beating, that the halls of government and the media wouldn’t be calling for their condemnation, or arrest, or stoning in the town square of the mob’s choice.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott got called out as uncouth for saying “Shorty, pull up your mask” during a quarantine-era press conference, when he was literally talking to a dude named Shorty. If he had lunged at someone in anger, he’d be recalled immediately. Y’all know this.

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You may notice the people I have called out for their tackiness happen to be Republicans, but Democrats don’t always comport themselves in the decorum expected of their stature. Whether it’s members of congress bringing popcorn into the hearings to elect a speaker, or Baltimore’s fierce auntie Nancy Pelosi ripping up former president Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, there is a fervent and emphatic eschewing of any semblance of civility.

But Pelosi didn’t throw the torn papers at Trump. Not until she was literally barricaded in the Capitol as angry mobs menacingly raided her office in defense of the then-president did she express her intent to “punch him out” if he set foot in the building. And we didn’t know about it for more than a year, because she didn’t jump up in his face.

I do not know how we can purport to be a proper country and claim to have honor in service and in office when we just let this stuff go. If my little Black son told another kid to “bring it” in a public forum, he’d be tackled by police before he got to the word “it.” You would call him a thug. A criminal.

Yet we’re letting this vicious buffoonery stand. How can I ever tell my child that he should want to aspire to politics when the politicians seem to be aspiring to be Cash Me Outside Girl?

This column has been updated to correct Sen. Markwayne Mullin’s political title.


Leslie Gray Streeter is a columnist excited about telling Baltimore stories — about us and the things that we care about, that touch us, that tickle us and that make us tick, from parenting to pop culture to the perfect crab cake. She is especially psyched about discussions that we don't usually have. Open mind and a sense of humor required.

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