WASHINGTON (AP) – When Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida ended his October 21 speech in the House of Representatives with a punch and “Let’s go, Brandon!” to many who listened, this might have seemed mysterious and strange. But this phrase was already gaining momentum in right-wing circles, and now seemingly optimistic sentiments – in fact, replacing swearing at Joe Biden – are everywhere.
South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan donned a Let’s Go Brandon face mask at the Capitol last week. Texas Senator Ted Cruz posed with a “Let’s Go Brandon” sign at the World Series. Senator Mitch McConnell’s spokesman retweeted a photo of the phrase on a construction sign in Virginia.
The line has become conservative code for something much more vulgar: “F. Joe Biden”. This is the rage among Republicans looking to prove their conservative views – this is not-so-secret handshake that signals that they are in sync with the party’s base.
Americans are used to having their leaders publicly ridiculed, and the often harsh words of former President Donald Trump seemed to push the boundaries of what was considered normal political speech.
But how did Republicans settle for Brandon’s line as a replacement for her more vulgar G-rated three-word cousin?
It kicked off on October 2 at NASCAR at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Brandon Brown, a 28-year-old racer, won his first Xfinity series and was interviewed by an NBC Sports reporter. The crowd behind him chanted something that was difficult to make out at first. The reporter suggested that they chanted “Let’s go, Brandon” to cheer up the driver. But it became more and more obvious that they were saying, “Damn it, Joe Biden.”
NASCAR and NBC have since taken steps to limit “crowd noise” during interviews, but it was too late – the phrase had already become popular.
When the president visited a construction site in suburban Chicago a few weeks ago to promote his vaccination or testing mandate, protesters used both three-word phrases. Last week, Biden’s motorcade drove past a “Come on, Brandon” poster as the president drove through Plainfield, New Jersey.
And the group chanted “Let’s go Brandon” outside Virginia Park on Monday when Biden spoke on behalf of Democratic governor candidate Terry McAuliffe. Two protesters completely abandoned euphemism by holding up hand-drawn signs with profanity.
On Friday morning, on a southwest flight from Houston to Albuquerque, the pilot signed his greeting over the speakerphone with a phrase that prompted loud sighs from some passengers. Southwest said in a statement that the airline “prides itself on providing a welcoming, comfortable and respectful atmosphere” and that “the behavior of anyone who causes disagreement or insult is not justified.”
GOP ad agency veteran Jim Innocenzi was not shy about coded rudeness, calling it “funny.”
“If you don’t live in a cave, you know what that means,” he said. “But this is done with a small class. And if you mind and take it too seriously, leave. “
America’s presidents have endured meanness for centuries; Grover Cleveland heard the singing “Ma, ma, where is my daddy?” in the 1880s due to rumors that he had an illegitimate child. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were the subject of poems that used racist imagery and accusations of bigamy.
“We have a sense of dignity for the presidency that has been continually violated throughout American history, to our dismay,” said Cal Gilson, a political scientist and professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. “We never tire of being horrified by new disturbances.”
There were many old outrages.
F-Trump graffiti still marks many overpasses in Washington, DC. A shoe was thrown in George W. Bush’s face. Bill Clinton was criticized with such passion that his loudest critics were called “Clinton nutcases.”
However, the biggest difference between the sentiment that Grover Cleveland has been dubbed in the past and today’s politicians is the amplification of their opinions on social media.
“Before the proliferation of social media a few years ago, there was no easily accessible public forum in which to shout out the most disgusting and obscene public opinion,” said Matthew Delmont, professor of history at Dartmouth College.
Even the racism and acrimony that former President Barack Obama suffered was toned down in part because Twitter was relatively new. There was no TikTok. As for Facebook, recently leaked company documents showed that the platform increasingly ignores hate speech and misinformation and allows them to spread.
Part of the US was outraged long before Brandon’s moment, believing the 2020 presidential election was rigged, despite ample evidence to the contrary, verified by recounts and court cases.
But the anger has now gone beyond stalwart Trump supporters, said Stanley Renshon, a political scientist and psychoanalyst at the City University of New York.
He cited the Afghan withdrawal, the southern border situation, and the vicious student council debate as situations in which an increasing number of people who did not openly oppose Biden now feel that “how American institutions communicate to American society what they see clearly and understood as true, in fact not true. “
Trump did not miss the moment. His Save America PAC now sells a $ 45 T-shirt that says “Let’s go Brandon” over the American flag. One message for supporters reads: “#FJB or LET’S GO BRANDON? Either way, President Trump wants YOU to receive our new ICONIC shirt. ”
Separately, T-shirts with the NASCAR slogan and logo appear on the shop windows.
As for the real Brandon, it wasn’t all that good. He joins his dad’s small staff and underfunded team. And while this win – his first career win – was huge for him, the team struggled for sponsorship for a long time, and existing partners have not promoted the driver since the slogan was launched.
Associated Press contributors Amer Madhani, Mary Claire Jalonik, Brian Slodisko and Will Weissert of Washington, and Jenna Fryer of Charlotte, North Carolina contributed to this report.