How ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ became code to insult Joe Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) – When Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida ended a speech in the House on Oct. 21 with a fist …

WASHINGTON (AP) – When Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida ended a speech in the House on Oct. 21 with a fist pump and the phrase “Let’s go, Brandon!” it may have seemed cryptic and strange to many who listened. But the phrase was already growing in right-wing circles, and now the seemingly optimistic sentiment – in fact, a stand-in for swearing at Joe Biden – is everywhere.

South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan wore a “Let’s Go Brandon” face mask to the Capitol last week. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz posed with a “Let’s Go Brandon” sign at the World Series. Late. Mitch McConnell’s press secretary retweeted a picture of the sentence on a building sign in Virginia.

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

Americans are used to their leaders being mocked in public, and former President Donald Trump’s often crude language seemed to extend the boundaries of what counts as normal political speech.

But how did Republicans find themselves on the Brandon phrase as a G-rated replacement for its more vulgar cousin in three words?

It started at a NASCAR race on October 2 at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Brandon Brown, a 28-year-old rider, had won his first Xfinity Series and was interviewed by an NBC Sports reporter. The crowd behind him shouted something at first that was hard to understand. The reporter suggested they shout “Let’s go, Brandon” to cheer the driver. But it became more and more clear that they were saying, “F—- Joe Biden.”

NASCAR and NBC have since taken steps to limit “ambient audience noise” during interviews, but it was too late – the sentence had already been removed.

When the president visited a construction site in suburban Chicago a few weeks ago to promote his vaccination or test mandate, protesters inserted both sentences in three words. In the past week, Biden’s procession drove past a “Let’s Go Brandon” banner as the president passed Plainfield, New Jersey.

And a group shouted “Let’s go, Brandon” outside a Virginia park on Monday when Biden showed up on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. Two protesters dropped the euphemism completely and held up hand-drawn signs with swear words.

Friday morning on a Southwest flight from Houston to Albuquerque, the pilot acknowledged his greeting over the loudspeaker system with the phrase to audible gasps from some passengers.

Veteran GOP ad maker Jim Innocenzi had no qualms about the coded rawness, calling it “funny.”

“Unless you live in a cave, you know what that means,” he said. “But it’s done with a little bit of class. And if you protest and take it too seriously, go away. “

America’s presidents have endured evil for centuries; Grover Cleveland met shouts of “Ma, Ma, where is my father?” in the 1880s over rumors that he was the father of an illegitimate child. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were the subject of poems leaning on racist tropes and allegations of bigamy.

“We have a sense of the dignity of the presidency that has been consistently violated to our horror throughout American history,” said Cal Jillson, a political expert and professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. “We never fail to be appalled by a new outrage.”

There were lots of old outrage.

“F—- Trump” graffiti still marks many a crossing in Washington, DC. George W. Bush had a shoe thrown in his face. Bill Clinton was criticized with such fervor that his most vocal critics were called “the Clinton lunatics.”

The biggest difference between the emotions that were hurled at former Grover Clevelands and modern politicians is the reinforcement they get on social media.

“Before the expansion of social media a few years ago, there was not an easily accessible public forum to shout your ugliest and darkest public opinions,” said Matthew Delmont, a history professor at Dartmouth College.

Even the racism and vitriol to which former President Barack Obama was subjected was partially dampened 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 spread.

Part of the United States was already angry before the Brandon moment, believing that the presidential election of 2020 had been manipulated despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, which has passed the test of retellings and lawsuits. But now it’s more than that for hardline Trump supporters, said Stanley Renshon, a political scientist and psychoanalyst at City University of New York.

He cited the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the southern border situation and heated school board debates as situations in which Biden critics feel that “how American institutions tell the American public what they clearly see and understand is true is actually not true.”

Trump has not missed the moment. His Save America PAC is now selling a $ 45 “Let’s go Brandon” T-shirt over an American flag. A 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 appear in storefronts with the slogan and the NASCAR logo.

And as for the real Brandon, things have not been that great. He runs for a low-staffed, underfunded team owned by his father. And while that win – his first career win – was huge for him, the team has long fought for sponsorships, and existing partners have not marketed the driver since the slogan.


Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani, Mary Clare Jalonick, Brian Slodysko, and Will Weissert of Washington and Jenna Fryer of Charlotte, NC, contributed to this report.

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