How ‘Let’s go Brandon’ became code for insulting Joe Biden
Chant targets Joe Biden ... why?

Biden
Insults of Presidents are nothing new.

When Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida ended an Oct. 21 House floor speech with a fist pump and the phrase “Let’s go, Brandon!” it may have seemed cryptic and weird to many who were listening. But the phrase was already growing in right-wing circles, and now the seemingly upbeat sentiment — actually a stand-in for swearing at Joe Biden — is everywhere.

The line has become conservative code for something far more vulgar: “F—- Joe Biden.” It’s all the rage among Republicans wanting to prove their conservative credentials, a not-so-secret handshake that signals they’re in sync with the party’s base.

Americans are accustomed to their leaders being publicly jeered, and former President Donald Trump’s often-coarse language seemed to expand the boundaries of what counts as normal political speech.

But how did Republicans settle on the Brandon phrase as a G-rated substitute for its more vulgar three-word cousin?

It started at an Oct. 2 NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Brandon Brown, a 28-year-old driver, had won his first Xfinity Series and was being interviewed by an NBC Sports reporter. The crowd behind him was chanting something at first difficult to make out. The reporter suggested they were chanting “Let’s go, Brandon” to cheer the driver. But it became increasingly clear they were saying: “F—- Joe Biden.”

NASCAR and NBC have since taken steps to limit “ambient crowd noise” during interviews, but it was too late — the phrase already had taken off.

When the president visited a construction site in suburban Chicago a few weeks ago to promote his vaccinate-or-test mandate, protesters deployed both three-word phrases. This past week, Biden’s motorcade was driving past a “Let’s Go Brandon” banner as the president passed through Plainfield, New Jersey.

And a group chanted “Let’s go, Brandon” outside a Virginia park on Monday when Biden made an appearance on behalf of the Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe. Two protesters dropped the euphemism entirely, holding up hand-drawn signs with the profanity.

On Friday morning on a Southwest flight from Houston to Albuquerque, the pilot signed off his greeting over the public address system with the phrase, to audible gasps from some passengers. Southwest said in a statement that the airline “takes pride in providing a welcoming, comfortable, and respectful environment” and that “behavior from any individual that is divisive or offensive is not condoned.”

America’s presidents have endured meanness for centuries; Grover Cleveland faced chants of “Ma, Ma Where’s my Pa?” in the 1880s over rumors he’d fathered an illegitimate child. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were the subject of poems that leaned into racist tropes and allegations of bigamy.

“We have a sense of the dignity of the office of president that has consistently been violated to our horror over the course of American history,” said Cal Jillson, a politics expert and professor in the political science department at Southern Methodist University. “We never fail to be horrified by some new outrage.”

There were plenty of old outrages.

“F—- Trump” graffiti still marks many an overpass in Washington, D.C. George W. Bush had a shoe thrown in his face. Bill Clinton was criticized with such fervor that his most vocal critics were labeled the “Clinton crazies.”

The biggest difference, though, between the sentiments hurled at the Grover Clevelands of yore and modern politicians is the amplification they get on social media.

Even the racism and vitriol to which former President Barack Obama was subjected was tempered in part because Twitter was relatively new. There was no TikTok. As for Facebook, leaked company documents have recently revealed how the platform increasingly ignored hate speech and misinformation and allowed it to proliferate.

A portion of the U.S. was already angry well before the Brandon moment, believing the 2020 presidential election was rigged despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, which has stood the test of recounts and court cases.

Trump hasn’t missed the moment. His Save America PAC now sells a $45 T-shirt featuring “Let’s go Brandon” above an American flag. One message to supporters reads, “#FJB or LET’S GO BRANDON? Either way, President Trump wants YOU to have our ICONIC new shirt.”

Separately, T-shirts are popping up in storefronts with the slogan and the NASCAR logo.

And as for the real Brandon, things haven’t been so great. He drives for a short-staffed, underfunded team owned by his father. And while that win — his first career victory — was huge for him, the team has long struggled for sponsorship and existing partners have not been marketing the driver since the slogan.

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Published with permission of the Associated Press.

Associated Press


4 comments

  • PeterH

    October 31, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    Ignorant Republican whining is deafening!

  • Patricia Brennan

    October 31, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    I am outraged by all of this. We now have an honest man who is working harder than the one prior to him. He has explained his platform extensively, he is 100% committed to making The United States of America a better place for all of us and some individuals, a Southwest pilot, for God’s Sake is gleeful in trying to trash him. That Southwest Pilot deserves to be fired immediately and I hope Southwest has the GUTS TO DO SO. Do we really want to go near the horror of the prior administration???? While I was not present, it sure appears that man’s main priority and duties were associated with PLAYING GOLF FOR FOUR VERY LONG YEARS DURING WORK HOURS? As one American who loves my country, The United States of America,
    I THINK NOT!! THE COMPARISON BETWEEN THESE TWO MEN IS CRYSTAL CLEAR:
    GOOD VS. EVIL!!!
    I THINK I HAVE MADE IT CLEAR WHO WAS/IS GOOD AND WHO WAS EVIL!!!!
    I SUGGEST EVERY AMERICAN GIVE SOME SERIOUS THOUGHT TO WHAT WE WENT THROUGH FOR FOUR VERY LONG YEARS AND THE CLEAR CUT CHANCE TO DO MUCH BETTER!!!
    GIVE THIS CURRENT PRESIDENT A BREAK.!!!HE HAS ONLY BEEN IN OFFICE FOR LESS THAN A YEAR!!! I know I couldn’t do better, could you????ADDITIONALLY, ANYONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO SEE THE CHARACTER AND INTELLECT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THESE TWO MEN!!! IN THE PAST WE HAD A SPOILED CHILD IN MY HUMBLE OPINION AND NOW WE HAVE A GENTLEMAN!!! THE MOOD OF THE USA HAS ALREADY BRIGHTENED. FOR ME, I AM VERY GRATFUL FOR THE CHANGE!!!!

    • PeterH

      October 31, 2021 at 11:51 pm

      I wrote an email to Southwest through their site. This pilot sounded a dog whistle to passengers who might agree with him. This type of behavior could initiate air violence. More ignorant stupidity!

      • Ron Ogden

        November 6, 2021 at 5:56 am

        “Initiate air violence!” Oh My Gawdd!
        If ever you needed an example of somebody getting his panties in a wad, you now have it from this poof.
        “Air violence!” Oh. Biden, save me!

Comments are closed.


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