‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Isn’t Going Away

A sign of our times.

Red Dog Saloon in Jarbidge. At least we know the Internet is available in Jarbidge. The saloon was closed. The Outdoor Inn was open, but will close down on Halloween. The next day the Red Dog Saloon will be opened for the winter season. Apparently there's not enough staff to run both businesses simultaneously. The owner of these establishments is the cook at the Outdoor Inn and he has lived in Jarbidge his entire life.
“Let’s go Brandon” by Mitch Barrie is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Earlier this month, I highlighted the “Let’s Go Brandon!” meme that spread from NASCAR to social media, calling it “an amusing incident highlights how far we’ve fallen.” Alas, the fall has continued.

NPR‘s Wynne Davis and Scott Simon (“Here’s what ‘Let’s Go, Brandon’ actually means and how it made its way to Congress“):

“Let’s go, Brandon!” quickly spread among conservative groups and continues to be used in place of the direct expletive toward President Biden, even among members of Congress.

On Thursday, Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina was seen sporting a “Let’s go, Brandon” face mask. Duncan shared a photo of himself in the mask on Facebook saying, “The American people are furious.” Duncan continued his message and expressed frustration with the Biden administration’s immigration policies, vaccine mandates and the state of inflation in the U.S.

The week prior, another Republican, Florida Rep. Bill Posey, ended a speech on the House floor in which he talked about frustrations with the Biden administration’s agenda and legislation with a “Let’s go, Brandon!” and a quick fist pump.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, no stranger to memes, has also added to this discourse when he posted a photo from Game 2 of the World Series with another Houston Astros fan whose sign reads “LET’S GO BRANDON” in big bold letters.

Outside of Congress people are also using the phrase as inspiration for multiple songs.

I can’t help but find it hysterical that a Black man has capitalized on this phenomenon to make not one but two rap hits through sales to White geriatrics. As the late Don King would say, Only in America.

But that at least three Members of the United States Goddamn Congress are doing this is despicable. It’s arguably worse than wearing a jean jacket on the Senate floor or even a tan suit in the Oval Office.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (Idiot, SC)

And I just love that Cruz’ buddy decided that “Let’s go Brandon” was too subtle and wrote “FJB” all over the sign just to make sure he got his point across.

It’s meme-worthiness, though, is rather obvious:

Independent researcher Hampton Stall says the phrase itself is “shareable and adaptable” and can be used in public in “way[s] that cursing out the president cannot.”

Speaking with NPR’s Weekend Edition, Stall says that in addition to its ability to be shared easily, “Let’s go, Brandon!” also got a large boost by alternative right-wing media and figures.

And while it’s possible that social media platforms and search engines might ban the more explicit phrase, Stall says the meme version isn’t a phrase that can be banned.

“It’s not a search term that they were going to limit,” Stall says. “And I think that’s probably fair. There’s a difference between calls for violence and this sort of wink that the ‘Let’s Go, Brandon’ meme is.”

Well, sure. Even “Fuck Joe Biden” is protected speech but platforms like Facebook who want to remain “family-friendly” may well ban that. Besides which, given the origin story of the phrase, it’s actually pretty funny when it’s not ostensibly serious professionals sharing it. Or, you know, thousands of drunks yelling it in a crowded stadium where children and grandmothers are present.

Further, Wynne and Simon rightly place it in context:

“Let’s go, Brandon” isn’t the first president-related meme to take off, nor is it the first time a president has dealt with vulgar messages.

President Barack Obama was in office as social media’s influence began to take hold, enabling the quick spread of racist images and insults online.

The phrase “F*** Trump” was seen often on signs and apparel when former President Donald Trump was in office. And just as that phrase was capitalized on, Stall says he’s seeing the same thing now.

“There’s a lot of money to be made for people who are seizing the moment and selling,” Stall says.

As for whether people will remember this meme in the future, Stall says it has likely reached the point where most people will know what others are saying when they say “Let’s go, Brandon,” just like many still remember Trump’s “covfefe” typo turned meme.

“I think it’s sort of past the point where enough people in the mainstream political audience in the United States have heard it that it will be remembered in the future,” he says. “It just maybe won’t have the same level of staying power [as covfefe].”

Actually, I’d bet “Let’s go Brandon!” has way more staying power than “covfefe.” The latter was one among many bizarre Twitter outbursts by then-President Trump that will likely be remembered only when specifically mentioned and only by those of us who frequent that platform. The former is already a meme and has the additional advantage of consisting of actual words in the English language.

FILED UNDER: Humor, Joe Biden, Media, Social Media, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    Just another of a million data points showing how stupid and juvenile the modern GOP has become.

    If that were all it is, it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s more disturbing to see GOP representatives and senators spouting it. Smirking and thinking oneself clever when one is actually being a moron isn’t nearly as dangerous as the fundamental unseriousness and unwillingness to govern attaching themselves to this stupidity indicates.

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  2. CSK says:

    @Mikey:
    Cruz is probably aware of how personally loathsome he is, and he’s desperately trying to make himself palatable to the Trumpkins.

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  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Oh, no, they have a meme.

    I savor their impotence.

    4
  4. Kingdaddy says:

    I’m surprised that none of the usual crowd have tried to do a bothsiderism defense of Let’s Go Brandon (at least that I’ve seen). After all, “Fuck Trump” appeared pretty frequently during TLG’s administration. However…

    (1) Members of Congress didn’t embrace it. Contrast that with the eager embrace that Cruz and his ilk are giving this vulgar meme. If you had any doubts about their lack of seriousness, preferring to be trolls over legislators, this should convince you.

    Now, it’s true, celebrities did say FT frequently, and did flip him the bird. However, celebrities aren’t expected to be serious people, behaving with decorum and gravitas while they focus on fixing problems that hurt the body politic. They’re a different type of public figure than an elected official.

    (2) People didn’t display “Fuck Trump” signs on their lawns or at public events with the same frequency. At least that’s how it seems. I certainly have already seen more FT/LGB signs than I ever saw FT. In fact, I never saw a FT. I’m sure they existed. But they didn’t sprout like toadstools. If they had, I’m sure there would have been a lot more pearl clutching among the right wing commentariat. “What about the children?” I guess it’s OK for trick-or-treaters to pass by FT signs.

    There are lots of people who have posted vulgar things about trump on social media. A small number of intemperate clods have enjoyed posting “Punch a Nazi in the face” messages, an encouragement to political violence, in the same semi-public forums. But these pale in comparison to what we’re seeing. The vulgarities and calls to violence are more frequent, more public, and more extreme, on just one side of the political chasm. No one on the non-MAGA side ever say, “When do we get to use the guns?” to the applause of his fellow travelers.

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  5. Hal_10000 says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    As the High Priest of Both Siderism, I have to agree. FJB is all the Republicans have. What other rallying cry are they going to use? Small government from the biggest spenders in Washington? Strong national defense from the guys who cut a deal with the Taliban? The Republican Party has no ideas, no principles, no philosophy. They just sit in a corner screaming, “F all of you!” and flipping the bird. They’ve finally found the apotheosis of their current philosophy.

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  6. Scott F. says:

    @Kingdaddy:
    Under duress, I can be as vulgar as anyone. But, once I’ve misbehaved, I feel remorse.

    But, Rep. Duncan? Donning that mask was likely the proudest moment of his week.

    And take a moment to consider the picture with Ted Cruz in the stands at an Astros game. Senator Cruz wouldn’t be seated in the stands with the hoi polloi, so TC had to have gone out of his way to be in this picture. Look at how proud that guy is that Unctuous Ted saw his sign and wanted to have his picture taken with him.

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  7. CSK says:

    These people are infantile. That’s the best word I can think of to describe them. (Okay, okay, there are others.) They think they’re being cute and clever, and owning the libs. But they’re acting like nursery school students.

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  8. Gustopher says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    There are lots of people who have posted vulgar things about trump on social media. A small number of intemperate clods have enjoyed posting “Punch a Nazi in the face” messages, an encouragement to political violence, in the same semi-public forums.

    But have you seen the video of Richard Spencer getting punched in the face? It’s really quite lovely.

    https://youtu.be/aFh08JEKDYk

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  9. senyordave says:

    @CSK: Please don’t insult nursery schoolers. Ten years from now some 14 year old will have to deal with the shame of have been compared to Ted Cruz.

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  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    The nice thing about the “Let’s Go Brandon” is it provides a convenient way to tell which businesses and individuals to avoid interacting with.

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  11. JKB says:

    As I mentioned earlier, the most worrisome part of this for most of you is likely that it is becoming embedded in the college student opinion. Most college students don’t have thought out political opinions (there are videos), but repeat what is the recitation around campus. Well, that college default opinion is now a bit rebellious to the bureaucratic/campus regime.

    BTW, within hours, Facebook’s change to META was out as “Make Everything Trump Again”. Would be hilarious if that sticks.

    Still it might be worth considering this observation should you think the meme should be suppressed. Applies to the Vax Crow edicts as well

    The citizen must not be so narrowly circumscribed in his activities that, if he thinks differently from those in power, his only choice is either to perish or to destroy the machinery of state.
    –Mises, Ludwig von (1927). Liberalism

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  12. Gustopher says:

    @JKB: There’s a Ludwig von Mises quote for everything, isn’t there?

    I mean, not this thing, apparently, but everything else.

    Also, no one thinks it should be suppressed, just that it’s dumb and juvenile. It’s a funny three minute joke dragged out to a feature length movie, like one of the SNL skit-movies.

    But, by all means share it all over social media. That just makes it easier to organize the coming purge.

    Buggery is unexpectedly delightful.
    -Mises, Ludwig von (1927). Liberalism

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  13. Raoul says:

    How America has fallen and how did we get there. I always thought that those who advocated treating right-wingers with kid’s glove did not appreciate their stoic roughness of individualism. Well I was wrong: what a bunch of snowflakes.

  14. JKB says:

    @Gustopher: That just makes it easier to organize the coming purge.

    Nice, but lists can be made on both sides.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    No need to purge, you jackasses are doing that yourselves.

    Honestly, if all your liberal bugaboos had come together to craft a plan to get MAGAts to quit important jobs, stay off planes, get sick and die, and make themselves the modern equivalent of lepers, they could never have conceived of anything a tenth as effective as the plans you clowns came up with.

    Well-done!

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  16. Gustopher says:

    @JKB:

    Nice, but lists can be made on both sides.

    I believe von Mises had something about that…

    He’s making a list and checking it twice, enumerating who is impoverished and who is nice.
    -Mises, Ludwig von (1927). A Very von Mises Christmas

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  17. Gustopher says:

    Another fine von Mises quote, from Liberalism (1927):

    It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history. But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.

    So, fascism, as a means to an end, is fine in the short term. I would be fine if someone punched him in the face.

    It would have been wrong, of course, but if there was newsreel footage of him being punched in the face, I would enjoy it.

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  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: The more important thing is that I don’t think he’d finished his sound bite and didn’t come back to do so.

  19. J Cline says:

    The more mad it makes you, the more you’ll see it.
    Because that’s, you know, the point.

  20. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Scott F.: I’ve heard Jeff Duncan speak in person and, take my word for it, he’s the stupidest member of the SC congressional delegation. That’s saying a lot.

  21. Scott O says:

    A Southwest pilot concluded his announcements with “let’s go Brandon”. I guess you don’t have to be an adult to fly for that airline.

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  22. CSK says:

    @Scott O:
    Southwest has issued an apology.

  23. Chip Daniels says:

    Crude slurs have always been a part of our politics- I recall reading about how foes of Grover Cleveland started rumors about his fathering a child out of wedlock, and would show up to his rallies and chant “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?” (After he won, his supporters were said to chant “Gone To The White House, Ha Ha Ha!”)

    What’s new is that the leaders of the campaigns, are indulging in it. Previously most politicians preferred to be polite and observe the norms and customs of gravitas and showing respect for the office.
    To see the Republican elites indulge in slurs is new and demonstrates that they really don’t have any high minded principles or ideas, just resentment and grievance.

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  24. KM says:

    Honestly, my only problem with this is that they’re not brave enough to use the actual swear to express their feelings. I much prefer the ““Fuck Biden” blue flags and signs I saw all over after his election. The meme is stupid because they think they’re being cute and subversive like any small child going “but I didn’t technically swear so you can’t punish me!”. Calling someone a poopy-head instead of shithead doesn’t change in the intended insult, especially if you’re using the lesser invective to bypass social judgement.

    They’re nasty and straight up insulting him out loud but the way they are doing it is essentially screaming poopy-head into the void. There’s something pathetically sad about it that neuters the whole thing.

  25. ptfe says:

    @KM: It’s the same as the idiotic OK sign: the blatantly obvious pressed into service under the guise of plausible deniability by people who are, by and large, idiots. These are people whose understanding of the world is shallow, but only during a Biblical flood; the rest of the time it lies in the low-oxygen reaches of barren plateaus, and it shows.