A friend of ours was at the football game at Michigan Stadium on Saturday with his 14-year-old son, when some guy just behind him in the concourse starting shouting “Let’s go Brandon!” over and over again.
This would have confused the hell out of me (I was also at the game but didn’t witness this) since the only “Brandon” I associate with Michigan Stadium is Dave Brandon, the former UM athletic director, who did such a horrible job — among many other things he regularly replied to polite email criticisms by insulting and upbraiding his interlocutors — that about a thousand students marched on the university president’s house, demanding he be fired.
He was eventually, and went on to wreck Toys ‘R Us in classic MBB alumnus style. (I don’t know what he’s doing now — counting his ill-gotten tens of millions, probably).
Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, Let’s Go Brandon. It turns out the the shouting fan was referencing this bit of Wildean wit:
On Thursday, Rep. Bill Posey, a Republican from Florida, ended a speech on the House floor with a curious exclamation: “Let’s go, Brandon!”
Let’s go who now?
Posey had been railing against President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill: “They want you to help put America back where you found it and leave it the hell alone,” he said right before the Brandon cheer, which he accompanied with a desultory fist pump.
The expression coming from a sitting member of Congress caused a bit of a stir online. Why? Who’s this Brandon character and what does he have to do with building back, or not building back, America? The simple answer is that he’s a race car driver—but it’s a long story, and who Brandon is actually matters less than what the phrase “Let’s go, Brandon!” means. It’s a euphemism—and its direct translation is “Fuck Joe Biden.”
To understand how an apparent chant of encouragement morphed into a right-wing rallying cry, we have to go back to a NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway that took place about three weeks ago. It was a big day for 28-year-old driver Brandon Brown, who’d just scored his first Xfinity Series win, which is why he was interviewed on camera by NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast. Stavast, on the fly, suggested to Brown that the crowd was cheering “Let’s go, Brandon” in his honor.
But anyone watching could hear clearly that that’s not what the crowd was cheering. It’s unclear whether Stavast misheard or was, as some outlets reported, attempting “damage control,” and Stavast has not commented on the matter. Some confusion would be somewhat understandable—“Let’s go, Brandon” has the same number of syllables as “Fuck Joe Biden.” But for conservatives who believe the media is constantly lying to them, it felt like a potent example of a journalist distorting the truth. After that, “the conservative social media ecosystem quickly latched onto the moment,” as the BBC put it.
“Let’s go, Brandon!” has since been chanted at college football games, printed on T-shirts, and praised by Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz. It’s also trended numerous times on social media as a tongue-in-cheek way to criticize Biden and blame him for anything that’s going wrong in the country at any given moment. According to tech site BGR, it’s now “simply being used as a replacement for the more vulgar invective directed at President Biden. Instead of dropping the f-bomb at the president like that crowd did, you can say this [phrase] instead—and people will know what you really mean.”
The phrase has also reached the point in the life cycle of a meme where it has inspired a hit rap song. After originally going viral on TikTok, the video for “Let’s Go Brandon” by Loza Alexander, which juxtaposes footage of the original NASCAR interview with the rapper wearing a red “Make Music Great Again” baseball cap, has now been viewed more than 2.6 million times on YouTube.
Basically to understand the right wing in this country you have to imagine the stupidest possible response to anything, and then assume its actual response will be a lot stupider than anything you can possibly imagine.