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How Let’s Go Brandon became the ultimate insult to Joe Biden

President Joe Biden waving to hecklers shouting Let's go Brandon!

Spend enough time scrolling through Twitter, and you’ll eventually come across it. A simple, three-word exhortation — Let’s go, Brandon! — that’s spread like wildfire across social media. This phrase quickly became a combination anti-Joe Biden “Let’s go, Brandon” meme as well as a conservative rallying cry of sorts. It’s also driving Biden supporters crazy, and it’s not even a month old at this point. Here’s the scoop.

You’ll generally find the phrase shared in posts written by critics of President Biden, but it’s also gone on to become a hashtag, a meme, it’s included in account names and handles — and it even now adorns merchandise.

A Let’s go, Brandon song even went viral on TikTok recently, garnering tens of thousands of likes. If you haven’t come across this phrase yet for whatever reason, however, we’ll break down the backstory below. Basically, this catchphrase, hashtag, whatever you want to call it — it’s 2021’s version of that viral clip from last year of a CNN reporter insisting to viewers that protests taking place in the frame behind him were peaceful (even though a building was clearly on fire).

Original NASCAR video clip and who is Brandon?

For anyone interested in how all this got started, the Let’s go Brandon video of the NASCAR race is embedded below:

Fans chant “F*ck Joe Biden!” during the live Brandon Brown NASCAR interview

So who is Brandon, you ask? Whether the reporter in that clip made a mistake when listening to them or not is kind of irrelevant at this point. Conservatives already feel like the mainstream media is stacked against them. And here, there’s a reporter telling people something that was contradicted by what they could clearly hear with their own ears.

The phrase was all over social media again a few months ago, with the news that Southwest Airlines was canceling tons of flights (leading to suspicion that Biden’s vaccine mandate was somehow to blame). Even congressmen as well as the NRA, certainly no fans of the president, have gotten in on the act and promoted the phrase on social media. Consequently, the phrase then spilled over into pop culture.

What does Let’s go Brandon mean?

biden irs $600 reporting proposal
President Biden, shown in Washington DC. Image source: Jim LoScalzo – Pool via CNP/MEGA

This whole thing got started in October, at the Talladega Superspeedway. Brandon Brown had just won a NASCAR race. And sportscaster Kelli Stavast at one point commented during an interview with Brown afterward how the crowd seemed to be chanting in his honor: ‘Let’s go, Brandon!”

Unfortunately, that’s not actually what they were chanting. The crowd was very clearly addressing President Biden, not Brandon. Only, with an f-bomb in front of his name instead of “Let’s go!”

Needless to say, this phrase’s virality was assured pretty much from the get-go. Another common usage of this catchphrase since then has been to attach it to news that makes the president look bad. For example — The economy is in the dumps, you say? Well, let’s go, Brandon! Matter of fact, this phrase has even made it into the halls of Congress.

Florida Republican House member Bill Posey ended a speech blasting President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. Americans, he said, want Democrats to “put America back where you found it and leave it the hell alone. Let’s go, Brandon!” South Carolina GOP congressman Jeff Duncan has also been seen wearing a “Let’s go, Brandon!” face mask.

All of the Brandon meme recaps

Biden approval rating

One of the reasons this catchphrase has found such a receptive audience at the moment can be attributed to, for lack of a better description, the Biden economy.

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a bit of a supply chain crisis unfolding at the moment. Inflation is at a record high right now, and businesses are scrambling to implement the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate while also not running off an untenable number of employees.

The Biden administration has tried to downplay the supply chain crisis — which, to conservatives, has reeked of the same “Who are you going to believe — me, or your lying eyes?” defense that characterized the original “Let’s go, Brandon!” TV moment.

This also, to be sure, comes at a time when the president’s approval rating is not great. He’s a couple of months away from closing out his first year in office. And yet, Biden is almost as unpopular at this point in his first year as President Trump was. Along these lines, The Economist ran a piece recently with the headline: “No one love Joe Biden.”

“Americans elected the president to get rid of his predecessor,” the piece continued. “They’re not sure what else he can do.”

Along those same lines, the latest national NBC News poll finds that not only do a majority of Americans disapprove of President Biden’s performance as president. Almost 60% of adults view Biden’s handling of the economy negatively at the moment.

The Southwest Airlines pilot

Awareness of the catchphrase, meanwhile, keeps spreading. As more and more Biden critics become aware of it and flock to it, those on the other side are increasingly responding to it as well — sometimes in ways that are a bit unhinged.

CNN analyst Asha Rangappa, for example, recently tweeted something pretty bizarre in response to news that a Southwest Airlines pilot himself used the LGB phrase from the cockpit, over the intercom, during an announcement to passengers.

The CNN analyst seemed to be musing, via Twitter, that it was as indecent and awful as if the pilot would have said something like “Long Live ISIS.” In her tweet, Rangappa wrote: “As an experiment, I’d love for an @SouthwestAir pilot to say “Long live ISIS” before taking off. My guess is that 1) the plane would be immediately grounded; 2) the pilot fired; and 3) a statement issued by the airline within a matter of hours.”

For the record, that’s a mainstream media critic putting people who don’t like the president on par with terrorists. She’s also a former FBI agent, by the way.

Bryson Gray and Loza Alexander both wrote a Let’s go Brandon song

On the one hand, it’s true that this phrase is used as a euphemistic replacement for more vulgar invective that would be otherwise directed at the president. Instead of dropping the f-bomb at the president as the NASCAR crowd did, you can say this phrase instead. People will know what you really mean.

It’s a code phrase, it’s a meme, it’s an example to conservatives of media bias — basically, it’s a neat and tidy summation of so many different crosscurrents in the news right now. But because it’s also exploding all over social media and the public lexicon at the moment, there are even charting-topping hip-hop songs with, you guessed it, Let’s go Brandon in the title.

One of the songs is by rapper Loza Alexander, which first went viral on TikTok. Another is from rapper Bryson Gray, whose song shot to #1 on iTunes.

President Biden participates in a virtual call to congratulate the NASA JPL Perseverance team on the successful Mars landing
Let’s go, Brandon Image source: Oliver Contreras – Pool via CNP/MEGA

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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