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What on earth has happened to our political culture?

Remember stories of Democrats and Republicans in Congress disagreeing on the floor of their respective chambers and then joining each other for dinner with their families? Remember when Joe Biden and John McCain loved each other?

As we say in the South, “them days are gone.” Nowadays, members are more likely to punch each other, or at least give it some thought. This month has been especially embarrassing in the “let’s rumble” department.

It began with a heated exchange between Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin and a Teamster official testifying before a Senate committee. The two men, both of a brawny, macho-man sort, apparently have a history of bad blood between them. What should have been a Q&A between Senator and witness degenerated into a “take-it-outside moment,” with Senator Mullin standing to leave his committee chair and head down toward the witness. That prompted the committee chair, 82-year-old Senator Bernie Sanders, to shout, “Sit down! You are a United States Senator. Act it!” Blessedly, Mullin did as he was told, but the mortifying moment lives forever on the internet.

But wait! There is even more bad blood!

A Tennessee Congressman who vowed to remove former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy from the Speaker’s chair accused McCarthy of elbowing him in his kidney while charging through the halls of Congress. McCarthy denied the accusation, but an NPR reporter who was interviewing the Congressman when McCarthy barreled down the hall later tweeted that McCarthy “shoved” the Congressman and that she had “NEVER seen this on Capitol Hill.”

And, there was a Congressional taunt, highly inappropriate but amusing nevertheless. A House committee chair, James Comer, got into a tense exchange with a committee member of the opposite political persuasion. Arguing over President Biden’s finances and the chair’s personal finances, Comer lost his temper, used the word “bull****” in his role as chair, and finished up by yelling at his blue plaid sportscoat-clad Congressional colleague, “You look like a Smurf!”

Of course, the ongoing saga of George Santos continues with shocking revelations from the House Ethics Committee that he used his campaign funds for trips, gambling, fancy shoes, Botox treatments and a membership to a porn website, among other expenses. The report is on top of all the lies the man has told and various swindles he is alleged to have devised.

Really? Is there no shame, even when well-earned?

The United States is now less than a year away from a Presidential election year and all manner of down-ballot contests, and I do not know a single soul who is looking forward to it.

As we consider the candidates we will support, no matter whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or unaffiliateds, please, please, please look for candidates who are reasonable and responsible adults, not hotheaded partisans of any stripe. Look for people who have a demonstrated record of supporting what is best for our community, state, and nation as opposed to a partisan or special interest agenda. Look for people you would feel comfortable visiting your own home in the presence of your own family.

And, yes, I agree that some of this outrageous behavior would be laughable if it were not so terrifying that these are the people in charge of our government.

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