Have you ever loved a public official as much as you love Joe Biden?
I’m talking not only about the way you come to love a politician and their ideals — Barack Obama when he was still just Hope and Change, say, or Bernie Sanders, whose true believers are still shouting, still taping their mouths shut, still weeping in the crowd — but about the way you love a person. Where does Biden rank on your personal would-get-a-beer-with scale (even though he doesn’t drink alcohol)? Is the vice president in would-pick-up-from-the-airport-at-4-a.m. territory? Would accompany on a road trip across the country? Would invite to Thanksgiving dinner? Would ask for a walk down the aisle?
But seriously: Biden crushed it at the third night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention on Wednesday. Of course he crushed it. He walked out to the Rocky theme (in Philadelphia, no less). He called Michelle Obama “kid.” He dismissed Donald Trump’s promises as “malarkey.” He made Ashley Judd cry. He got the audience to launch what might have been the first truly successful, on-rhythm cheer of the convention: On a night that saw disgruntled Bernie supporters fail to get “No more war” going and a chorus of Broadway stars step on a “Love trumps hate” chant until it blended into “love-Trump-love-Trump-love-Trump,” it was Biden’s declaration that Trump “doesn’t have a clue about the middle class” that got the whole Wells Fargo Center going. Not! A! Clue! Not! A! Clue! Biden cocked his head. “You’ve got it.”
We ate it up. Consider that The Onion went into overdrive as he prepared to take the stage: “Biden: ‘You Can Hide Weed In Your Mom’s Wheelchair.’” “Biden Busted In DNC Parking Lot Selling Bootleg ‘I’m With Her’ T-Shirts.” “Biden Chokes Up While Describing Hardworking Americans Who Can Only Afford Shitty Ditch Weed.” “Biden Fact: He and Obama have a post-presidency timeshare on South Padre Island, though the president doesn’t know about it yet.”
“I love you,” Biden told us Wednesday from behind the lectern. He continued, painting a picture of Trump as a danger to the America that Biden has helped build over his 43 years in national public office, 36 of them in the U.S. Senate.
Joe Biden is a meme, and a great one. He is the subject of what might be the most beloved thing on all of Twitter: the Liquid Swords tweet, which is so notorious that when the internet seized upon Virginia Senator Tim Kaine’s pleasant blandness shortly after Biden departed, parodies began to emerge. People couldn’t resist making the comparison:
Biden is perpetually skipping around social media: slipping on those famous glasses, whipping off his scarf, eating ice cream, pointing when he should wave, and pouting while looking out of an Oval Office window. He’s the aviator-sheathed, semi-gone-rogue vice president, bucking Obama’s straight-laced orders to pursue his own weird, delightful passions: Wu-Tang Clan, muscle cars, commuter trains. He is America’s dirty uncle, its grandpa who slips you a flask. That persona has been abetted by his gaffes, his inability to keep himself from hobnobbing with reporters, and his winking, flirty whispers and shit-eating grins.
What’s amazing is that Biden was able once again to conjure up this character on an occasion even he described as bittersweet. This convention, after all, could have been his; the “Joe” and “Scranton” signs the DNC staff passed out before his address might have dotted the campaign trail had he decided to give it a go. Instead, Philadelphia will likely be a capstone on his more than four decades in public office.
Biden’s not done yet: He has said that he’ll continue to work in some capacity on the White House’s Cancer Moonshot initiative. But in January, at age 74, Biden will become what he hasn’t been since the 1970s — a private citizen.
On Wednesday, as Twitter provided various imaginings of what the rest of his evening would entail (Señor Frog’s figured heavily), Biden looked anything but morose as he walked away from what will be among his last prominent speeches. He hammed it up, as always, miming shock and delight at seeing his wife, Jill, who had introduced him minutes before, waiting for him at the back of the stage.
I’m sure he’ll have somewhere to go this Thanksgiving, his last at the Naval Observatory. But Joe, if you need an invite, all you have to do is let the internet know.