(Photo: Illustration: Damon Dahlen/HuffPost; Photos: Getty)
On Thursday night, the spiciest thing on the internet (at least in political circles) was Joe Biden. You read that right. Joe. Biden.
With its Twitter account, the White House went after the Republican lawmakers criticizing the president’s decision to forgive student loan debt, pointing out with brutal precision the times that they, too, had government loans forgiven.
Democrats were thrilled to see this new feisty attitude from the Biden administration.
“Hey, WH staff, just so you know, if you’re going to continue to drag these hypocrites with clear and hard-hitting messaging, you run a serious risk of surging enthusiasm, electoral success, and continued improvements to the lives of millions of Americans,” author Scott Lynch tweeted.
It also played into “Dark Brandon,” a new meme beloved by Democrats on social media.
“Dark Brandon has the password to the White House Twitter account,” tweeted Dan Pfeiffer, a former top aide to President Barack Obama.
Over the past month or so, liberals have inverted conservatives’ derogatory “Let’s Go Brandon” chant to inventa type of Biden fan fiction where the oldest president in U.S. history is a badass superhero, smiting Republicans and passing legislation for the greater good.
Whether consciously or not, Biden fed the Brandon memesters during a press conference Wednesday. As he exited the room, a reporter asked him whether loan forgiveness was fair to people who’d paid their debts.
Biden paused at the door and said, “Is it fair to people who in fact do not own a multi-billion-dollar business if they see one of these guys give them all a tax break? Is that fair? What do you think?” Then he left.
The next day, Biden was in Maryland for a campaign rally. “The survival of our planet is on the ballot,” he told the crowd.
“This Dark Brandon Biden can energize the Democratic Party and rally folks for the elections. Need this bold energy to fight and actively attack MAGA Republicans and their destructive policies. If you don’t say it, people don’t hear it. More please,” tweeted writer and political pundit Wajahat Ali.
All summer, Biden’s domestic policy agenda seemed to lay in shambles with inflation going crazy. Aides fretted that he was too old. He caught COVID-19, recovered, and then tested positive again. He fell off his bike.
Then gas prices started coming down, and Congress passed some major legislation. It began with a bipartisan gun control bill, continued with a bipartisan bill boosting domestic computer chip makers, and culminated with the Inflation Reduction Act, a fulfillment of longstanding Democratic goals for more green energy and cheaper prescription drugs.
Biden had not had much involvement in writing any of the bills, but once they landed on his desk, his hands-off approach seemed more wise than feckless.
Meanwhile, a right-wing Supreme Court gave states leeway to outlaw abortion, and Republicans rushed to defend former president Donald Trump for violating presidential records laws and hoarding classified documents.
These are events beyond Biden’s control, but he has been seizing his opportunity to highlight the contrast between himself and his political opponents. At the campaign rally in Maryland Thursday evening, he cited a poll showing “threats to democracy” had overtaken “cost of living” as the top issue concerning Americans. The survey also found majority support for the FBI investigation into Trump.
“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” Biden said. “It’s not just Trump. It’s the entire philosophy that underpins — I’m going to say something: It’s almost like semi-fascism, the way in which it deals.”
Even though he’d campaigned on it, Biden had been ambivalent about forgiving student debt throughout his presidency, but came around to the idea and forcefully defended it this week.
“I will never apologize for helping Americans working — working Americans and middle class, especially not to the same folks who voted for a $2 trillion tax cut that mainly benefitted the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations, that slowed the economy, didn’t do a hell of a lot for economic growth, and wasn’t paid for and racked up this enormous deficit,” Biden said Wednesday.
So far, Dark Brandon – as corny as it may be – seems to be oddly difficult for the right to respond to. Conservative media has been trying to make images portraying Biden as crazy and profligate, but the result has been the opposite, fueling more Dark Brandon memes and giving Biden a bit of an enthusiasm boost – or at least some online cred – for the moment.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.