Joe Biden is a politician, and he's been one for nearly his entire adult life. He was elected to the Senate when he was 29. He's served in public office ever since. He is practiced in the art of telling people what they want to hear, in backroom dealings, in eliding certain truths in pursuit of power and his personal political objectives.
But goddammit if I can't help loving the guy.
Now, though, I'm starting to think he might be the man for our time.
One of the primary critiques of President Obama's personal style (notwithstanding the one about his pigmentation that doesn't get spoken of at cocktail parties but runs as a constant thread through a certain strain of the discourse) is his arms-length dealings with Congress. He's aloof. He doesn't reach out to leaders in either party. He's not practiced in the dark arts of Washington influence.
As a consequence of this and a variety of other factors, America's two primary political parties are as far apart from one another as they've ever been, according to a 2014 Pew Research study and many longtime observers of the U.S. political scene.
Enter Joe Biden, a consummate Washington insider, and a man with longstanding and long-nurtured relationships in all corners of our political world. Biden is warm and authentic where Hillary Clinton is cold and poll-driven. Biden's experienced both internationally and domestically where Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and most of the others in the GOP clown car fail. Biden's a serious leader where Donald Trump is a circus act. And Biden's deeply, painfully, fully human, flawed and imperfect. This is a man that connects with people in a way that it seems many voters are craving.
Take a look at these clips from Biden's recent appearance on Stephen Colbert's Late Show (seriously, though, watch these - regardless of your political views, it's remarkable television: raw, open, emotional, moving):
Is that a performance? Of course. Could any other national leader have that same conversation and not sound like the phoniest of grasping actors? Not in a million years.
Empathy and authenticity aren't necessarily prerequisites for success in national politics. But for an electorate writ large that measures candidates by how much we'd like to have a beer with them, and at a time when a candidate that can make a real argument about experience in collaborating across the political chasm has a distinctly differentiated value proposition, Biden's bona fides would seem to make him the man of the hour.
C'mon, Joe. Do it for America.