"Let's go, Brandon" is becoming a rallying cry for the Republican base, filling as a stand-in for insulting President Joe Biden.
Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida ended an Oct. 21 House floor speech with a fist pump and cryptically let out the phrase that's disguised to be upbeat. A day later, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas tweeted the phrase. More recently, Southwest Airlines opened an internal investigation when a pilot used it over the loudspeaker.
The saying is spreading quickly, especially among conservatives who oppose Biden. Lawmakers, musicians, politicians – Sens. Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell, among others – and former President Donald Trump's campaign PAC have been using the phrase or associating with it.
What's its connection to NASCAR?
The phrase originated 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 was clear they were saying, “(Expletive) Joe Biden."
Brown, or the "real Brandon," drives for a short-staffed, underfunded NASCAR team owned by his father. And while that win – his first career victory – was huge, the team has long struggled for sponsorship and existing partners have not been marketing the driver since the slogan.
What does 'Let's Go Brandon' mean?
It's a direct insult to Biden. But its hidden G-rated camouflage has sparked others to use the saying more than the original expletive-laced chant at the NASCAR crowd. It's far less polarizing than "(Expletive) Joe Biden."
When the president visited a construction site in suburban Chicago last month to promote his vaccinate-or-test mandate, protesters turned to the phrase. Last week, Biden’s motorcade drove past a “Let’s Go Brandon” banner as the president passed through Plainfield, New Jersey.
A viral video from a Southwest flight from Houston to Albuquerque showed the pilot signing off his greeting over the public address system with the phrase. Audible gasps from some passengers were heard.
Who has used the Biden insult?
Posey's Oct. 21 speech on the house floor was most notable because he was criticizing Biden while using it. He ended his speech by saying Americans want Democrats "to help put America back where you found it and leave it the hell alone. Let's go, Brandon!"
In conjunction with Posey and Abbott, South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan wore a “Let’s Go Brandon” face mask at the Capitol last week. Cruz posed with a “Let’s Go Brandon” sign at the World Series. McConnell’s press secretary retweeted a photo of the phrase on a construction sign in Virginia.
The Trump campaign joined the masses, too, now selling T-shirts for "Let's Go Brandon."
Who's OK and not OK with it?
Veteran GOP ad maker Jim Innocenzi had no issues with the coded phrase. “Unless you are living in a cave, you know what it means,” he said. “But it’s done with a little bit of a class. And if you object and are taking it too seriously, go away.”
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are against it. And Southwest said in a statement after its pilot used the phrase that the airline “takes pride in providing a welcoming, comfortable, and respectful environment” and that “behavior from any individual that is divisive or offensive is not condoned.”
There's even a song about it
Billboard reported last week that the artist Loza Alexander vaulted into the Hot 100 with the Oct. 30 debut song "Let's Go Brandon." The song is NSFW.
Some of the lyrics include: "That's what they get for treatin' us like we in Squid Games. Green light, mandate like he's insane. These times, people wakin' up to e'ything. Go Brandon, but we all know what the sayin' mean."
Has this happened to presidents before?
Overwhelmingly, yes. Grover Cleveland faced chants of “Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa?” in the 1880s, one of the earliest examples. 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.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What does Let’s Go Brandon mean? Breaking down the Joe Biden insult