When a life size cutout of Donald Trump, positioned in the backseat of a convertible, went by in the 50th annual London Bridge Days Parade in Lake Havasu City, Arizona the crowd started shouting ‘Let’s go, Brandon!’
The chant may have seemed cryptic and weird to many who were listening, but the phrase is growing in right-wing circles.
The seemingly upbeat sentiment — actually a stand-in for swearing at Joe Biden — is everywhere.
Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida ended an Oct. 21 House floor speech with a fist pump and the same phrase “Let’s go, Brandon!”
South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan wore a “Let’s Go Brandon” face mask at the Capitol last week.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz posed with a “Let’s Go Brandon” sign at the World Series.
Sen. Mitch McConnell’s press secretary retweeted a photo of the phrase on a construction sign in Virginia.
The line has become conservative code for something far more vulgar: “Fuck Joe Biden.”
It’s all the rage among Republicans wanting to prove their conservative credentials, a not-so-secret handshake that signals they’re in sync with the party’s base.
Americans are accustomed to their leaders being publicly jeered, and former one-term President Trump’s often-coarse language seemed to expand the boundaries of what counts as normal political speech.
But how did Republicans settle on the Brandon phrase as a G-rated substitute for its more vulgar three-word cousin?
It started at an Oct. 2 NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
Brandon Brown, a 28-year-old driver, had won his first Xfinity Series and was being interviewed by an NBC Sports reporter.
The crowd behind him was chanting something at first difficult to make out.
The reporter suggested they were chanting “Let’s go, Brandon” to cheer the driver.
But it became increasingly clear they were saying: “Fuck Joe Biden.”
NASCAR and NBC have since taken steps to limit “ambient crowd noise” during interviews, but it was too late — the phrase already had taken off.
When President Biden visited a construction site in suburban Chicago a few weeks ago to promote his vaccinate-or-test mandate, protesters deployed both three-word phrases.
This past week, Biden’s motorcade was driving past a “Let’s Go Brandon” banner as the president passed through Plainfield, New Jersey.
And a group chanted “Let’s go, Brandon” outside a Virginia park on Monday when Biden made an appearance on behalf of the Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe.
Two protesters dropped the euphemism entirely, holding up hand-drawn signs with the profanity.
On Friday morning on a Southwest flight from Houston to Albuquerque, the pilot signed off his greeting over the public address system with the phrase, to audible gasps from some passengers.
The phrase has also taken over iTunes’ Top 10, where four songs titled “Let’s Go Brandon” are at the top of the charts.
“Let’s Go Brandon,” released last week by avowed Trump supporter Bryson Gray, has been sitting at No. 1 since Sunday, knocking of Adele’s much-hyped comeback single “Easy On Me.”
“Before the expansion of social media a few years ago, there wasn’t an easily accessible public forum to shout your nastiest and darkest public opinions,” said Matthew Delmont, a history professor at Dartmouth College.
A portion of the U.S. was already angry before the Brandon moment, believing the 2020 presidential election was rigged despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, which has stood the test of recounts and court cases.
But now it’s more than that to die-hard Trump supporters, said Stanley Renshon, a political scientist and psychoanalyst at the City University of New York.
Trump hasn’t missed the moment.
His Save America PAC now sells a $45 T-shirt featuring “Let’s go Brandon” above an American flag.
One message to supporters reads, “#FJB or LET’S GO BRANDON? Either way, President Trump wants YOU to have our ICONIC new shirt.”
Separately, T-shirts are popping up in storefronts with the slogan and the NASCAR logo.
And as for the real Brandon, things haven’t been so great.
He drives for a short-staffed, underfunded team owned by his father.
And while that win — his first career victory — was huge for him, the team has long struggled for sponsorship and existing partners have not been marketing the driver since the slogan.