Back in Charlotte for the holidays, I was out on a walk when I noticed my parents’ neighbor’s truck. It’s a big truck. White, newish, plastered with bumper stickers in dense but ordered rows — mostly political, some football-related. Among many others was “Mean Tweets 2024” and “Let’s Go Brandon.”
This, from a purportedly serious man. A grown-up by most senses of the word, likely born in the 1950s. A man with grown children of his own, a respectable career, two bowls of water by his mailbox for passing dogs and a nativity set in the front yard.
I stopped and stared for a moment, wondering, how did we get here?
I don’t mean the polarization. How did we reach this level of absurdity, where ”serious people” are comfortable putting thinly veiled ”F--- Joe Biden bumper stickers on their trucks, like a group of 12-year-old boys snickering over walkie-talkies because surely Mom and Dad don’t know that word really means penis.
For those unfamiliar with “Let’s Go Brandon,” it’s a viral slogan that’s coded criticism of President Joe Biden. It started when an NBC Sports reporter suggested fans at an Oct. 2 Talladega race were chanting “Let’s Go Brandon” during an interview with NASCAR driver Brandon Brown. They weren’t. They were actually chanting “F--- Joe Biden.”
It’s all just so juvenile. So pathetic.
But as I found myself thinking more about it, trying to find an historical parallel for this intersection of creeping illiberalism and giant oversized red shoes, it struck me how dangerous this moment in time really is.
Because every minute spent shaking one’s head at the latest display of self-debasement by the GOP is a minute not spent on the insidious machinations behind the veil. Save for a few notable exceptions — who are currently being driven out of the party with pitchforks and tiki torches — in 2022 Republicanism is Trumpism.
And Trumpism is Steve Bannon trying to “kill the Biden presidency in the crib.”
Trumpism is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who initially said Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s (Jan. 6) attack on Congress by mob rioters,” later reversing course and claiming the emperor’s robe actually was quite regal.
Trumpism is nearly every Republican congressman and congresswoman falling in line behind the Big Lie of election fraud. And Trumpism is the man himself saying the quiet part out loud just last week when speaking about the voting rights bill: “…Republicans will never be elected again if that happens, if that passes.”
“Let’s Go Brandon” isn’t just another silly, immature bumper sticker. It’s the latest shiny object in the GOP’s culture war quiver to distract from the truly nefarious, anti-democratic process at work. A process that seeks to limit access to voting, cast doubt on our electoral process and potentially upend the American experiment because their guy lost.
So please, acknowledge the absurdity, the puerile silliness of it all. Then, look right past it to see what they hope you’re missing.
Peter Horn is a Charlotte native and a southern ex-pat for the greater part of the last decade. He currently lives in San Francisco and works as an investor and freelance writer.