DeSantis laughs after setting off ‘Let’s go Brandon’ chants. What does that mean?

DeSantis referred to the Biden administration as the ‘Brandon administration’

Gov. Ron DeSantis laughs during a speech in West Palm Beach. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

WEST PALM BEACH – During a speech in West Palm Beach on Wednesday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis riled up a crowd of supporters when he referred to President Joe Biden’s administration as the “Brandon administration.”

“If you look at what’s going on with some of the big corporations with their woke agenda, when you look at the Biden, the Brandon administration in terms of,” DeSantis said before his sentence trailed off and he started laughing.

The comment drew cheers from the crowd and set off chants of “Let’s go Brandon,” a phrase that has become conservative code for something far more vulgar: “F*** Joe Biden.”

The phrase can be seen around the country. It has been used by prominent members of the GOP and could be seen on a sign at one Jacksonville business this week.

“They said way worse about Trump for four years,” DeSantis said Wednesday.

"Let's go Brandon" phrase is animated on the sign for Otto Motive Vehicle Maintenance & Repair on Philips Highway in Jacksonville. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

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.

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: “F*** Joe Biden.”

DeSantis has a different take on why the phrase has taken off.

He said Wednesday he believes it wasn’t a misunderstanding about what the crowd was chanting, but instead, it was a case of the NBC reporter covering for Biden.

“So they’re chanting this and so you have a reporter from NBC who knows that’s what they’re saying and she’s trying to cover for Biden so she says, yeah, they’re chanting, ‘Let’s go Brandon.’ And that was a lie. And so this chant I think has taken on a life of its own because it exposes the dishonesty of these corporate reporters and what they do every day to try to lie,” DeSantis said.

RELATED: Southwest investigates pilot who used anti-Biden phrase while greeting passengers

America’s presidents have endured meanness for centuries; Grover Cleveland faced chants of “Ma, Ma Where’s my Pa?” in the 1880s over rumors he’d fathered an illegitimate child. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were the subject of poems that leaned into racist tropes and allegations of bigamy.

“We have a sense of the dignity of the office of president that has consistently been violated to our horror over the course of American history,” said Cal Jillson, a politics expert and professor in the political science department at Southern Methodist University. “We never fail to be horrified by some new outrage.”

There were plenty of old outrages.

“F*** Trump” graffiti still marks many an overpass in Washington, D.C. George W. Bush had a shoe thrown in his face. Bill Clinton was criticized with such fervor that his most vocal critics were labeled the “Clinton crazies.”

The biggest difference, though, between the sentiments hurled at the Grover Clevelands of yore and modern politicians is the amplification they get on social media.

“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.

Even the racism and vitriol to which former President Barack Obama was subjected was tempered in part because Twitter was relatively new. There was no TikTok. As for Facebook, leaked company documents have recently revealed how the platform increasingly ignored hate speech and misinformation and allowed it to proliferate.

A portion of the U.S. was already angry well 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 anger has now moved beyond die-hard Trump supporters, said Stanley Renshon, a political scientist and psychoanalyst at the City University of New York.

He cited the Afghanistan withdrawal, the southern border situation and rancorous school board debates as situations in which increasing numbers who were not vocally anti-Biden now feel that “how American institutions are telling the American public what they clearly see and understand to be true, is in fact not true.”

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.

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.