BUAZ, Idaho – On a quiet street south of downtown Boise, Michael Dick has adorned his front yard with homemade signs, including a large yellow poster that jokingly thanks President Joe Biden for a growing list of complaints – gasoline at $ 4 a gallon, inflation, Afghanistan, COVID-19. Dick, 59, recently added “dead civilians” and “dead US soldiers” to his description in capital letters in black marker.
Elsewhere in town, next to a No Entry sign, 60-year-old Michael Schwartz used black spray paint to scribble “Joe Blues” onto a pink poster board.
And that’s mild in comparison to the sentiments that some people – mostly from conservative regions – express in their backyards and on the signs they drag with them to greet Biden as he travels the country.
On Wednesday, when the President visited Scranton, Pennsylvania, he was greeted at the corner of Biden Street by a woman holding a hand-made “(expletive) Joe Biden” sign with the American flag as the vowel in the offending word. Also in Boise, Rod Johnson, a retired gunsmith, hung a blue flag on the roof of his house that read “(expletive) Biden.” At the bottom, in smaller letters, he added: “And (abusively) you voted for him !!”
“I’m not the only Republican who doesn’t like Biden,” Johnson, 68, said in an interview wearing a red Proud White American hat and tightening a skinny cigar. “I just decided to show it.”
During the 2020 presidential campaign, one of Biden’s political superpowers was his sheer harmlessness, as he often managed to embody – even for those who disliked him – a harmless grandfather, an awkward uncle, a leader who could calm America down, resilient, even boring again after four years of Donald Trump’s rule.
But it’s clear that after nine months in power, Biden – or at least what he represents – is increasingly becoming an object of hatred for many of Trump’s supporters. The scathing chatter is partly a reflection of Trump’s repeated unsubstantiated claims that Biden is a usurper, depriving him of his legitimate presidential claim, and partly a consequence of Biden’s regretted Republicans, his spending plans and his immigration policies.
However, anger also demonstrates that a political party or cause often needs an enemy, an object of vilification, that can unite its supporters – and, in this case, it is refracted through the rudeness, violation of norms and vulgarity of the Trump era.
Uh-huh, ridicule and insults are nothing new to politicians, especially those who get to the White House. Former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as well as Trump, have been criticized for withstanding protests on their motorcade routes and at some of their events. At one Los Angeles fundraiser in 2011, Heckler called Obama the Antichrist; Graffiti “(expletive) Trump” adorns some walls in Washington DC
However, the current surge of anti-Biden signs and chants is on a different level, much more vulgar and widespread.
The ubiquity of Trump signs, especially in rural areas of the country, has long been astounding and perhaps unprecedented for a losing candidate, especially nearly a year after the election. But now in cities like Boise – in the red and blue states and almost all over the country – anti-Biden signs are also popping up, often with angry and obscene insults.
Some of them are handwritten. The rest are bought on Amazon. Still others are purchased professionally. Rough signs are held by people lined up along the routes of Biden’s motorcade and gathered around his events. The protesters are shouting obscenities from outside.
Then there are chants. In early October, “(expletive) Joe Biden!” a shout erupted from the crowd at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Kelly Stavast, an NBC Sports reporter, was interviewing NASCAR driver Brandon Brown at the time and joked, “You can hear the crowd chanting, ‘Let’s go Brandon! “”.
Trump supporters immediately noticed signs of cover-up, claiming on social media that journalists were deliberately censoring anti-Biden sentiment. The brief video sharing quickly went viral.
The result has been a proliferation of chants in recent weeks, “Let’s go, Brandon!” – now used as a substitute for Trump supporters – and more vulgarly original, sometimes abbreviated as “FJB”.
Trump’s Save America PAC has even started selling a $ 45 T-shirt with a black and white Biden graphic over the phrase “Come on, Brandon.” And the PAC sent out a message to its supporters: “#FJB or LET’S GO BRANDON? Either way, President Trump wants YOU to receive our new ICONIC shirt. ”
Former President Donald Trump Jr.’s son has repeatedly promoted the meme and original scandal on his social media feeds. While performing in Georgia, he took to the stage after the crowd chanted “USA! UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! ”And roared,“ I heard a couple more chants. Did you hear the other one walking around? ”The crowd picked up the signal and burst into shouts,“ Come on, Brandon. ”
Vitriol even entered the House ward. Congressman Bill Posey, RR for Florida, closed this week with a statement, “Come on, Brandon.” Then, abruptly returning to House propriety, he concluded, “I surrender.”
When Trump was in power, he used public profanity, unlike any other modern president, which his supporters believed was true and his opponents considered vulgar and sometimes racist. He spoke out against immigrants from “(abusive) countries.” He tweeted that Senator Mitt Romney, Rhode Utah, was a “pompous ass.” He was elected after bragging about grabbing women by the crotch.
Sometimes he responded by invoking obscenities from the Democrats.
“One of the many legacies of the Trump presidency is the normalization of angry speech,” said Mike Murphy, Republican strategist and Trump critic. “Trump and our culture in general have knocked decency out of politics, so now it’s just anger therapy – so you pull out your magic marker and make your rude sign on the lawn.”
Murphy, whose Twitter biography describes him as the “Furious GOP strategist,” added: “When Trump acts like a savage, it makes others think it’s okay to act like a savage. … We are so tribal that now everyone is angry Democrats or angry Republicans. “
This tribalism is reflected in the polls. A 2020 AEI poll found that 64% of Democrats consider the GOP so flawed that it poses a major threat to the country, while 75% of Republicans say the same about the Democratic Party.
Schwartz – an Idaho resident with a spray-painted signboard – said he was partly motivated by his anger that the 2020 election was stolen, a claim Trump has repeatedly made despite being false. “I don’t understand how he won without committing voting machine fraud,” Schwartz said of Biden. “How the hell did he get the landslide?”
Now that Biden has been in power for nearly a year, Schwartz said he has lost faith in his ability to deal with foreign policy, as well as domestic issues such as immigration and the current labor shortage.
“A lot of people don’t want to work,” Schwartz said. “They’re waiting for the government to issue another check.”
For Johnson, who immediately asked his son to help him find his own anti-biden flag on the Internet after he saw one of them waving from the back of a truck, immigration is also a motivating issue. He said he wanted Biden to limit the number of people crossing the border, adding, “Where the hell are we going to put people who are already here?”
But these signs often seem to be not only a manifestation of widespread anger against the system that helped promote Trump, but also a specific accusation against the current president.
“The psychological dynamic that led to Trump’s rise is recurring again – it’s the feeling that you’re losing your country and being run by someone who doesn’t have the cognitive ability to run fast food,” said Cliff Sims, serving in a senior administration position. Trump. “The anger is caused not so much by Joe Biden personally as by the state of the country he runs. He is an avatar – he is like a symbol of America’s decline. “
Administration officials have tended to downplay the phenomenon, with at least one of them claiming to be unfamiliar with the chant “Let’s go Brandon” or his rougher cousin, although they are now chanting everywhere, from football stadiums to concert venues and local bars. …
“I never heard of this song until you explained it to me,” said White House spokesman Andrew Bates. Citing an anonymous message board known for promoting online extremism, he added, “I guess I’m not spending enough time on 8chan or whatever.”
Signs followed Biden almost everywhere, held by the protesters. The President addressed them askance during his visit to Howell, Michigan earlier this month.
“They said it was time to build an economy that looked from the side of Scranton, Pennsylvania, where I grew up as a child, instead of looking down from Wall Street,” Biden said in a speech that day, and then He quickly added, “Despite some signs I’ve seen, that’s why 81 million Americans voted for me, the largest number of votes in American history.”
In an interview following the speech, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Michigan, a centrist representing the area, said the protesters in her area were clearly agitated. While she supports free speech, she added, she dislikes the use of harsh language.
“What really disappointed me was the profanity and some unnecessarily disgusting things that people wrote on signs just a few blocks away from the school,” Slotkin said. “And I think that reflects the fact that there is a tension in the country now of people who are angry, and they seem to have lost decency and politeness.”
Less than two weeks later, while visiting a child development center in Hartford, Connecticut, Biden again found himself being haunted by signs bearing the four-letter anti-Biden slogan.
“It’s just heartbreaking for kids to see how rude and impolite some of our reasoning has become,” Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn tweeted.
And when Virginia governor candidate Glenn Youngkin campaigned in Culpeper last week, the crowd tried several times to launch the Let’s Go Brandon campaign. sing. After Youngkin jokingly called Biden the “uncle” of his opponent, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, one of the participants shouted, “Brandon! Come on Brandon! ”
Hours later, at a rally in Richmond hosted by conservative radio talk show host and former Trump State campaigner John Fredericks, several speakers led a crowd of several hundred.
Among them was Arizona State Representative Mark Fincham, a candidate for the post of Arizona State Secretary, who was backed by Trump. Fincham knew how to get loud applause after a 10-minute speech about his campaign to topple Biden’s victory in his state, urging, “So, I would like to have one round – if you don’t mind, just make me laugh -” Come on, Brandon! ” “
Some of those who installed anti-Biden signs, especially the vulgar ones, found themselves in conflict with local authorities, including one woman in New Jersey who was asked to remove several banners because they violated the local anti-obscenity ordinance. She said she plans to appeal the judge’s ruling in court.
This has not stopped Trump supporters. As reporters left Biden’s event in Elk Grove, Illinois earlier this month, an anti-Biden protester could be heard speaking over a loudspeaker nearby, rumbling, “We all wave to you so you know how much you suck.”
Karissa Wolf reported from Boise. Washington Post authors Sean Sullivan, Matt Wieser, and Dave Weigel contributed to this report.