Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida and probable Presidential aspirant, recently signed a set of bills banning the mandating of COVID vaccines by schools and businesses.

That he did so in the town of Brandon, population 100K and nearly a 5 hour drive from the state capital, was rather clearly a poke at President Joe Biden. As many know, the phrase “Lets Go Brandon” has become a proxy for the more vulgar “Fuck Joe Biden,” thanks to a bit of absurdity after a NASCAR race at Talladega. The winner, Brandon Brown, was being interviewed by NBC reporter Kelli Stavast. The crowd at the speedway was throatily chanting “Fuck Joe Biden,” loudly enough for the chant to be heard not only by Brandon and Stavast, but by the television audience.

Stavast, for reasons we can speculate and surmise, informed the racer and the television audience that the chant was “Let’s Go Brandon,” even though it’s clear as day even to these tired ears, through the data compression of television broadcast and Youtube streaming, what was really being chanted.

Stavast’s farcical deflection earned praise from some on the Left, but that was washed away by the tidal wave of mockery. “Let’s Go Brandon” has gone beyond viral, with memes, merchandise, and #LGB raging all over the political landscape.

The Left is, understandably, not-so-quietly seething about this, either forgetting or willfully ignoring the countless ‘Fuck Trumps’ it hurled about. And, lest some suggest that Trump was so unique as to elicit such scorn, who remembers “Bushitler?” I do.

“Let’s Go Brandon” is an insult evolved into a troll. It serves both to voice contempt for the President and his actions and to mock the mainstream media that’s been carrying the Left’s water for far too long and to the great detriment of the country.

Some find the chant, and trolling in general, unseemly in those who are elected to lead us. It’s juvenile, it’s not statesmanlike, it carries none of the sobriety or gravitas that we would like to see in those who represent the nation or parts of it.

And, some deem it a product of societal breakdown.

Two counterpoints to this.

First, trolling works. Fact is, there is a big chunk of the electorate that wants this sort of behavior, because it’s a thumb in the eye to those who look upon them with comtempt. It works as a vote-motivator. It works as an attention-grabber. It works as an instigation, because the other team falls for it, often trying to respond in kind. Trump proved he was a better troller than all his primary opponents and than just about every Democrat, and countless voters love him for it. Some may sneer at such, but every vote counts the same.

Second, it’s nothing new. Nor is it uncommon.

It’s not statesmanlike, very obviously, and in a more sober universe wouldn’t be part of a political landscape, but it always has been. Just as all the other publicity stunts, photo-ops, baby-kisses, postures, stemwinder speeches, hot rhetoric, sound bites, campaign slogans, and on and on.

A look back across recent political history offers us countless examples of insults and trolls:

“I lose all patience when I think of a bastard brat of a Scotch peddler.” – John Adams about Alexander Hamilton.

“No more backbone than a chocolate eclair.” – Teddy Roosevelt about President McKinley.

“Bill Clinton’s foreign policy experience is pretty much confined to having had breakfast once at the International House of Pancakes.” – Pat Buchanan.

“He’s like a shiver waiting for a spine.” – Australian PM Paul Keating about John Hewson.

“People might cite George Bush as proof that you can be totally impervious to the effects of Harvard and Yale education.” – Barney Frank.

“She probably thinks Sinai is the plural of sinus.” – MP Jonathan Aitken about Margaret Thatcher.

“He’s thin as piss on a hot rock.” – Senator William Jenner about NY Governor William Harriman.

“Ronald Reagan doesn’t dye his hair, he’s just prematurely orange.” – Gerald Ford about Ronald Reagan.

“He’s a nice guy, but he played too much football with his helmet off. LBJ about Gerald Ford.

“[A]s thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.” – Abe Lincoln about a Stephen Douglas opinion.

“A retail mind in a wholesale business.” – David Lloyd George about Neville Chamberlain.

“He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” – Ann Richards about George W. Bush.

“I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” – Ronald Reagan on Walter Mondale.

“That dark, designing, sordid, ambitious, vain, proud, arrogant and vindictive knave.” – Revolutionary War general Charles Lee about George Washington.

“Don’t be so humble, you’re not that great.” – Golda Meir about Moshe Dayan.

“Hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” – Thomas Jefferson (perhaps apocryphally) about John Adams.

“God forgive me for the vile thought, but I cannot help thinking of a monkey just put into breeches when I see him betray such evident marks of self-conceit.” – Senator William Maclay about John Adams.

And then there’s Winston Churchill:

“An empty cab pulled up to Downing Street. Clement Attlee got out.

“A sheep in sheep’s clothing.” – also about Attlee.

“A modest man, who has much to be modest about” – again about Attlee.

“I wish Stanley Baldwin no ill, but it would have been much better if he had never lived.

“My dear, you are ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be ugly.” – after Bessie Braddock accused him of being drunk.

“Tell him I can only deal with one sh-t at a time!” – after being interrupted while on the toilet by the Lord Privy Seal.

“What can you do with a man who looks like a female llama surprised when bathing?” – about Charles de Gaulle.

“We know that he has, more than any other man, the gift of compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought.” – about Ramsay MacDonald.

This isn’t limited to recent history, either. The ancient Roman politicians flung insults at each other with wild abandon, as did the ancient Greeks. While it was usually physically dangerous to insult a king in olden times, many of them retained “fools” to speak unpleasant truths via wit, thus serving to keep them grounded and curtail excessive self-importance.

Trolling and insults serve to do the same. They remind us that the people we empower to run the government we’ve consented are not of higher station, nor deserving of special station, nor justified in any demand of immunity from our disdain and mockery. They also serve to keep the premise of politics itself grounded. Governance is vitally important, but it’s undeserving of glorification. A healthy disrespect for our leaders – respect the office, not the man – keeps us from being too deferential to their whims. After all, they are no better (and often worse) than us.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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