The Slatest

The Story Behind “Let’s Go Brandon,” the Secretly Vulgar Chant Suddenly Beloved by Republicans

Brandon Brown smiles and raises his left arm to point to the sky as he stands beside his car bearing the checkered flag on the racetrack
Brandon Brown won a NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 2—and inspired a meme. Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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In case you’re wondering, Brandon Brown, the race car driver who started this all, doesn’t seem too upset about how his name has been co-opted.

So now you know: Posey was not cheering on someone named Brandon on the House floor this week. The good news: Apparently politicians still have enough decency not to say “Fuck Joe Biden” in the halls of Congress. The bad news: What they’re saying instead may be even more embarrassing.

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