WASHINGTON -- As someone who served six years in the White House, I have a deep respect for the office of the presidency -- even when I don’t particularly like or respect the current occupant.
So when chants of “F--- Joe Biden!” began to spontaneously erupt at college football games, National Football League games and even the Ryder Cup, I was not a fan.
But “Let’s go Brandon!”? Now, that’s a whole different story.
The “Let’s go Brandon!” chant emerged at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway, while NBC reporter Kelli Stavast was interviewing NASCAR driver Brandon Brown.
As the raucous crowd behind him broke into a loud “F--- Joe Biden” chant, Stavast told Brown “You can hear the chants from the crowd -- let’s go Brandon!” Anyone watching knew that was not what the crowd was saying. Suddenly a meme was born. Instead of “F--- Joe Biden” crowds at sporting events began chanting “Let’s go Brandon!” instead. The phrase has been emblazoned on T-shirts, highway billboards and banners flown behind planes over football stadiums.
Count me among those in favor of the new chant.
First, it replaces a vulgar epithet with a sarcastic commentary on Biden’s disastrous presidency. The focus shifts from insulting Biden the person, to well justified mockery of Biden’s catastrophic actions in office. Worst inflation in 30 years?
Let’s go Brandon! Gas prices up $1.31 a gallon since his election? Let’s go Brandon! Home heating prices skyrocketing? Let’s go Brandon! Self-inflicted crisis at the southern border? Let’s go Brandon! Left hundreds of Americans behind in Afghanistan? Let’s go Brandon! Can’t find a Thanksgiving turkey or the Christmas gifts your kids want because store shelves are bare? Let’s go Brandon! Approval rating dropped to 36%? Let’s go Brandon!
Second, the new chant literally arose from “fake news” -- a reporter misreporting what an anti-Biden crowd was saying. The moment encapsulated everything that many conservatives find wrong with the president’s media enablers, who they believe lie about them to cover for him. “Let’s go Brandon!” mocks not just Biden, but pro-Biden media bias.
Third, it’s funny. People are using it in hilarious ways.
In Virginia, someone broke into the control cabinets for two electronic road signs and changed the messaging to read “Let’s go Brandon!” When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a signing ceremony for a legislation barring vaccine mandates in his state, he held it in Brandon, Fla.. In Brandon, Minn., someone put the words “Let’s go” in front of six signs welcoming visitors to the city.
For those outraged by it, ask yourself: Is “Let’s go Brandon!” really worse than the chants of “Not my president!” that greeted Donald Trump on his election? And let’s not forget that Trump opponents did not hesitate to use vulgarity to express their disgust with him.
At the 2018 Tony Awards, Robert De Niro got a standing ovation when he yelled “F--- Trump!” from the Broadway stage. And after Trump lost to Biden in 2020, “FDT” (“F--- Donald Trump”) by rappers YG and Nipsey Hussle became the No. 1 song on iTunes. A raucous crowd of Biden supporters playing the song and holding “F--- Trump” signs even made it onto a CNN broadcast. The network did not bother to come up with a euphemism.
“Let’s go Brandon!” is far from the worst thing that has been said about an American president. During the George W. Bush administration, I listened to protesters beat drums in Lafayette Square day and night while chanting “Bush lied and people died!” During Watergate, Richard M. Nixon faced chants of “Jail the Chief!” from his opponents.
When President Grover Cleveland was rumored to have fathered a child out of wedlock, his opponents chanted: “Ma, ma, where’s my pa?” (To which Cleveland’s supporters responded: “Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!”) Ulysses S. Grant was called “a drunken trowser-maker.” Franklin Pierce was called the “pimp of the White House.”
Abraham Lincoln was mocked by his opponents as “the nightman” (someone who empties commodes at night). John Adams was declared “a hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, not the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
By those standards, “Let’s go Brandon!” seems downright tame.
The only ones hurt by the chant are kids named Brandon whose parents can no longer cheer for them at sporting events. Otherwise, it is a perfectly harmless and humorous way for Americans to express their frustration at a flailing -- and failing -- presidency.
Follow Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.