See Related: Susan Estrich
I missed the national moment that was Brandon. Blame it on work. If your head has been similarly buried in the sand, the Brandon moment involved a NASCAR audience yelling, "F--- Joe Biden," which the anchor clumsily translated as, "Let's go, Brandon" as she was interviewing the race winner, named Brandon. The moment inspired a rap song called "Let's Go Brandon."
I asked my son to play the clip for me, and he started fidgeting with the computer. "This is hard," he said, which, to the normal person on a computer, means, "This is virtually impossible to find." My son is a genius in this regard, and he found it, even though YouTube and the other usual suspects had taken it down for "misinformation."
I did not ask to see the clip because of any interest in car racing. My much greater interest is in politics. And free speech. And especially free political speech.
The fact that an audience of mostly working people have that much anger toward President Joe Biden was more interesting to me than all of the talking heads who babble in the background of political shows, something I plead guilty of doing for 30 years or so.
The chattering class doesn't go to NASCAR. Those are working people, the ones Biden says he's standing up for. So, why are they so furious at a man who has, since his inauguration (and often before), been mostly invisible?
There was never a day during the Trump administration that the president didn't give all of us with space to fill something to write about.
Biden? As my grandmother might have said, "What's to hate?"
Biden doesn't do daily press conferences; he doesn't call in to TV shows; he doesn't tweet all day and night with comments on anything and everything. I'm sure he talks on the phone and goes to meetings, or meetings come to him, and he gets briefed on this and that, but on a daily basis, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what it is that Biden did that day that could possibly bring a NASCAR audience to its feet. And as for the vice president, who has been more invisible than the president, she's even less popular than he is.
There is, certainly, an air of insecurity that is surrounding the economy. On the one hand, we keep being told about jobs going wanting. People are spending money, but there is a feverish air about it as we all struggle to understand how the supply chain could suddenly collapse after holding strong through so much of this pandemic. And then there's the pandemic itself, which was supposed to be over and instead has turned into another wedge issue in the ugly politics of Smackdown, which has replaced Gotcha as the game of choice.
And Joe Biden?
I'm disappointed, not angry. Biden has failed to convince the folks watching that NASCAR race that he cares about people like them. Even though I think he does. Former President Donald Trump managed to convince those people that he cared about them. Even though I don't think he does. Trump grew up rich. Biden didn't. If you had a beer with Trump, he'd never stop talking about himself. If you had one with Biden, he'd ask all about your family.
So, what's going on? We won't find out by labeling the chants "misinformation" and taking them down from YouTube. If the government were to censor those images, we would rightly claim it was violating the First Amendment. YouTube is a private company, but its control of the national bulletin board — like control of public space — raises questions as to whether it is performing a "public function" and thus should be subject to the First Amendment. Calling speech you don't like "misinformation" does not make it so.
Susan Estrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.