Charles Franklin “Peepaw” Beaverson passed away on Nov. 2, Election Day, at the age of 74.
He had worked at Campbell Chain/Apex Tools for 45 years until his retirement. He belonged to the Kreutz Creek VFW and enjoyed attending the monthly cruise nights held by the Motor Menders Rod and Custom Car Club at the Markets at Shrewsbury. He had two daughters, two grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
At the end of his obituary, after his family suggests memorial contributions to Great Rewards Ministries in Red Lion, was this:
To those who haven’t been paying attention — or as one veteran Republican ad maker told the Associated Press, have been “living in a cave” — it might seem cryptic. Who is Brandon? And where is he going?
Those in on it know what it means. “Let’s Go Brandon” has become conservative code, a kind of not-so-secret handshake, for another three-word phrase: “F--- Joe Biden.” Why it was in Beaverson's obituary is not known. His family declined to discuss it.
How Let's Go Brandon started
These two phrases – one shrouded in code and the other bluntly obscene – have proliferated in our political landscape. Flags emblazoned with "F--- Biden" and yard signs bearing "Let's Go Brandon" have appeared around York County.
Both phrases have become part of the political lexicon. U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, a Florida Republican, “ended an Oct. 21 House floor speech with a fist pump and the phrase ‘Let’s go, Brandon!,” the AP reported. Another Republican House member wore a face mask emblazoned with the phrase. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s press secretary have promoted it.
Former President Donald Trump has also embraced the phrase, but with a caveat. Trump was speaking at his Mar-a-Lago resort this week when the crowd broke out in a “Let’s Go Brandon!” chant, Page Six reported. Trump responded, “I still like the first phrase better, somehow more accurate.”
“Let’s Go Brandon!” has spread beyond Washington. A Southwest pilot greeted passengers on a flight from Houston to Albuquerque with the phrase, drawing gasps, according to an AP reporter on the flight. A plane towing a massive “Let’s Go Brandon” banner flew over the stadium during last weekend’s Georgia-Missouri football game.
In York County, “Let’s Go Brandon” briefly appeared on the sign at the entrance to Perrydell Farm and Dairy, a family-run dairy south of York. Responding to a Facebook post announcing the dairy’s Daylight Saving Hours, a debate broke out among commenters, some of whom pledged to boycott Perrydell because of the sign while others vowed support for “triggering the Karens."
Perrydell did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the sign.
How Let’s Go Brandon” came to be a stand-in for F--- Joe Biden can be traced to an incident at the Oct. 2 NASCAR Xfinity Series race in Talladega, Alabama. An NBC reporter was doing a live interview with the driver who won the race, Brandon Brown, when the crowd broke out in a chant of “F--- Joe Biden,” which went out over live TV. The reporter suggested that the crowd was chanting “Let’s go, Brandon” instead.
And the phrase took off.
'I didn't want to put the whole word out there'
There are those, in addition to the former president, who prefer the unfiltered phrase, flying flags emblazoned with it.
One such example is along Route 74 south of Red Lion. The flags, mounted on a fence running perpendicular to the highway, do not spell out the phrase; the middle letters, u and c, have been replaced with an American flag.
The man who posted the flags, Ricky Hagy, a 54-year-old maintenance technician, said he put the flags up “as a protest against the fake mandate for the jab,” an anti-vaccine sentiment, and to protest what he believes was a “fraudulent election” in 2020.
Hagy wasn’t always a political person. Until 2016, he didn’t pay politics much mind. Then Trump came along. “When Trump ran, I liked what I was hearing,” he said. “He was straightforward.” He cast the first vote in his life in 2016 for Trump and he voted for a second Trump term last year.
One of his neighbors to the south flew flags that proclaimed, “F--- Joe Biden.” He wished to express the sentiment that “the whole country is going downhill,” but he chose what he believed was a more appropriate design, the one with the American flag wedged between an F and a K.
“I didn’t want to put the whole word out there,” Hagy said. “People are smart enough to figure it out without spelling it out.”
Founded in incivility
Uncivil political discourse is not new. The country, it could be said, was founded on incivility.
The founders themselves weren’t above employing incivility to achieve their political goals. Alexander Hamilton, in a letter describing President John Adams' “Public Conduct and Character,” described the president as “an inept politician who was a burden to the party he helped create and hope(d) to lead.” Harsh words and insults exacerbated the acrimonious relationship between Hamilton and Aaron Burr to the point that the men settled their disagreement via a duel.
Another founder, John Quincy Adams, inferred that Andrew Jackson’s wife was a woman of “low repute.” Jackson countered, suggesting that Adams caused his wife’s death.
In 1856, during a contentious debate in the U.S. House of Representatives over whether to admit Kansas to the Union as a free or slave state, U.S. Rep. Preston Brooks, a South Carolina Democrat, objected so strongly to Republican Sen. Charles Sumner’s abolitionist speech that he severely beat Sumner with his walking stick. Another debate over Kansas statehood consisted mostly of insults, leading to a melee in the House chamber that ended only after one congressman tore off another’s toupee.
Modern examples of uncivil behavior in the halls of Congress include one representative shouting "You lie" during one of President Barack Obama's State of the Union speeches and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tearing up a copy of Trump's speech during the 2020 State of the Union speech.
"The founders, perhaps better than any other generation, were acutely aware of the political risk of incivility," Maurizio Valsania, a professor of American history at Italy's Universita di Torino, wrote in The Conversation in November 2020. "Washington, Adams, Jefferson and the others knew history by heart. They looked back at the tyrants and all the reckless commanders of the past, like Attila or Caligula. They knew that brash leaders such as these could, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, burst asunder “all the ligaments of duty & affection."
The more offensive, the higher the rewards
Sarah Sobieraj, who chairs the sociology department at Tufts University and serves as a faculty associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, has been studying incivility in American politics for more than a decade. In 2011, she and a colleague, political science professor Jeffrey M. Berry, published a paper titled “From Incivility to Outrage: Political Discourse in Blogs, Talk Radio, and Cable News.” They expanded on the paper, publishing a book on the subject, “The Outrage Industry,” in 2014.
It started while she was researching the relationship between activists and journalists, finding that activists’ views were often underrepresented in the media. That got her interested in how some voices, those expressing extreme and offensive opinions, were over-amplified on cable news, talk radio and the internet. Her conclusion? It made money.
“There’s always been that sort of speech and talk,” she said. “What's different is the landscape of the media environment makes it unusually profitable to speak that way.”
When the media was dominated by the three national television networks, they strove to air “the least objectionable material” to capture the widest possible audience. With the advent of cable news and the internet, though, it turned out that objectionable speech is profitable, marketed to splintered audiences more receptive to it, whether it be on Fox News, MSNBC or on social media.
“Social media creates new spaces for us to behave this way,” Sobieraj said. “The more offensive the speech, the more outrageous, the higher the reward in likes, retweets and whatnot.”
Trump did not invent incivility, she said, but his rhetoric did exacerbate it. Every time he uttered something offensive – an example being his reference to “s---hole” countries – it encourages that kind of rhetoric, Sobieraj said. “There’s a bandwagon effect,” she said.
And it's not just a conservative phenomena. During the Trump years, some of those opposed to Trump displayed "F--- Trump" bumper stickers and window decals, one showing Calvin of "Calvin and Hobbes" fame urinating on the word "Trump." From protesters wearing "pussy hats" to shame Trump to activists who harassed members of the Trump administration as they tried to dine in restaurants to commentators who repeatedly referred to Trump as a liar, liberals have also played the outrage game.
But, according to Sobieraj and Berry, there is an imbalance. In their paper, they concluded, "We also show that while outrage tactics are largely the same for liberal and conservative media, conservative media use significantly more outrage speech than liberal media."
Sobieraj said, “There was a time when we were able to see people who disagreed with us as simply that: people who disagreed with us. Now, we see people who disagree with us as fundamentally bad people. It’s us vs. them, the good guys vs. the bad guys.”
That adds to the cultural shift about what constitutes acceptable political speech.
“Twenty years ago, people who expressed extreme and uncivil views were seen as irrational or unstable,” she said. “Now, it is part and parcel of our political environment.”
Columnist/reporter Mike Argento has been a Daily Record staffer since 1982. Reach him at 717-771-2046 or at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Let's Go Brandon and vulgar anti-Biden signs spread across York County