One of the most read opinion pieces in today’s Washington Post is this one by Paul Waldman titled “The Party of Thugs.” Needless to say, the party of thugs is the Republican Party. And the reason they are thugs is because they’ve adopted “Let’s go, Brandon” as a chant. If you’re not familiar with where this came from, the Post explained in a piece published Saturday:
In early October, a “F— Joe Biden!” cry broke out among the crowd at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway. Kelli Stavast, an NBC Sports reporter, was interviewing NASCAR driver Brandon Brown live on air at the time, and she quipped, “You can hear the chants from the crowd, ‘Let’s go Brandon!’ ”
Here’s what Waldman says about this chant:
Conservatives have now turned “Let’s go Brandon” into a meme, something they can repeat with a giggle in contexts where swearing is still considered inappropriate…
…while people may be painting signs and leading chants of “F— Joe Biden” (or “Let’s go Brandon”), Biden himself is almost incidental. This is a means for conservatives to communicate with one another, and what’s being communicated more than anything else is “I take pleasure in flouting norms of polite behavior.”
This is now considered by many to be the way you establish your conservative bona fides. Your commitment to low taxes or light regulations is not nearly enough; you have to show that you’re willing to be rude and crude…
They create a phony “issue” such as critical race theory, work to get people as enraged as possible, then when that rage erupts in threats and intimidation of school personnel and board members, they defend it and celebrate its potential to yield them political benefits.
I’m not sure how old Paul Waldman is. If I had to guess based on this piece I’d say under 20. Because his sudden aversion to crude language in politics seems fresh, as if this is something he’s never heard or dreamed of anyone doing before.
But for those of us who were around about 12 years ago during the Obama administration, you may recall the Tea Party or, as many on the left referred to them with a smirk, the tea baggers. At the time, many media outlets had no problem adopting this double entendre. Fox News explained it back in April 2009:
Teabagging, for those who don’t live in a frat house, refers to a sexual act involving part of the male genitalia and a second person’s face or mouth…
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper interspersed “teabagging” references with analyst David Gergen’s more staid commentary on how Republicans are still “searching for their voice.”
“It’s hard to talk when you’re teabagging,” Cooper explained. Gergen laughed, but Cooper kept a straight face.
MSNBC’s David Shuster weaved a tapestry of “Animal House” humor Monday as he filled in for Countdown host Keith Olbermann.
The protests, he explained, amount to “Teabagging day for the right wing and they are going nuts for it.”
But Rachel Maddow really set the bar on this. She and guest Ana Marie Cox used the word teabag more than 50 times in a 7-minute segment which was one long string of double entendre jokes.
Salon also wrote about the incessant mockery from the left and even tracked down how it got started:
Maddow’s colleague David Shuster, discussing the role former Rep. Dick Armey’s group Freedom Works has played in organizing the demonstrations, cracked, “if you are planning simultaneous tea bagging all around the country, you’re going to need a Dick Armey.” And, of course, the liberal blogs have been all over the gag. In fact, to read the blogs, and to watch MSNBC, you’d think the only people not in the joke were the conservatives themselves.
Truth be told, though, for the most part conservatives haven’t actually been using the words in such a way as to lend themselves to double entendre. With one or two exceptions, almost all of it has actually been coming from the left, which seems to have adopted the joke en masse during an earlier round of these protests back in February. After many hours of investigative journalism — the kind that makes you wish you’d just gone to law school instead — I think I’ve traced the meme’s birth back to February 27th, when blogs like Instaputz and Wonkette started using it independently of one another. They were inspired by a photo that the Washington Independent’s David Weigel shot of one protester carrying a sign that was, if you knew that second meaning, pretty funny: “Tea bag the liberal Dems before they tea bag you !!” (sic).
To be clear, Weigel did kick start the joke by calling that sign the best one he saw, but later, after it was reported that President Obama himself had used it, Weigel said he didn’t use “teabagger” because it was a ” grotesque sexual slur.”
Granted that was a while ago, but it’s not like the left didn’t deploy all sorts of harsh language against President Trump over the past four years (I guess Paul Waldman missed that too). Just do a Twitter search for “F**k Trump” or if you prefer for “Tuck Frump” and you’ll see lots of results from people on the left who were not fans.
As for the rage erupting at school board members, Waldman also seems to have forgotten how the Indivisible movement made a habit of confronting conservative members of Congress at town hall events which, not surprisingly, coincided with a lot of death threats. Police showed up to a town hall held by Rep. Tom Garrett after he received calls describing how the callers planned to murder his wife and family. In Tennessee, a woman was charged for running Rep. David Kustoff’s car off the road after one of his town hall events. And a man in Tucson was arrested for making threats against Rep. Martha McSally.
Then there was the shooting at the Alexandria baseball practice by a deranged Bernie Sanders fan. And the assault against Sen. Rand Paul (by a progressive neighbor who claimed the assault wasn’t political) and the arrest of a man who threatened to chop up Sen. Paul’s family with an ax. By 2018, the death threats were being focused on Sen. Susan Collins. The left was furious at her over her vote to confirm Justice Kavanaugh.
Of course bad language and even death threats go both ways, unfortunately, and that’s really the point. Arguing that “Let’s go, Brandon” is some sort of new low in our public discourse, one that shows Republicans are thuggish, overlooks a lot of similar smirking insults and bad language (and bad behavior) that emanated from the left over the past decade. If you want to call people making these insults thugs that’s your choice, but don’t pretend we’ve never seen anything like on the other side of the aisle because we have.