‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Isn’t Going Away
A sign of our times.
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.
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.