Scranton in our hearts: Joe Biden may be leaving us, but his memory will stay forever

Joe Biden was the vice president we needed from 2009 to 2017

By Matthew Rozsa

Published January 2, 2017 11:00AM (EST)

 Reuters/Carlos Barria
Reuters/Carlos Barria

Democrats are going to miss President Obama when he leaves office next month. But the leader of the country has often taken a back seat to his partner and second-in-command, Joe Biden, who won over Americans' hearts over the past eight years.

Here are some of the best Joe Biden moments, which will make us all realize just why we'll miss him.

10. The Obama-Biden bromance

When Barack Obama selected Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate in 2008, he did so because the six-term senator would add some much-needed experience to Obama's résumé. By the 2012 election, however, the Obama-Biden relationship had blossomed into a genuine friendship, one that has been dutifully chronicled in photographs plastered all over the Internet.

9. He's a meme machine.

No discussion of Biden's vice presidency is complete without the Obama-Biden memes that have spread like wildfire. But from the man parodied in The Onion to his love of ice cream, Biden has shown he's meme-worthy.

8. He introduced Lady Gaga at the Oscars

It's easy to get caught up in Biden's remarkable pop cultural currency — after all, Obama was supposed to be the cool one, not him — but Biden's introduction for Lady Gaga at the 2016 Oscars is remarkable because of what he said, not where he said it. As he introduced the idiosyncratic singer so she could perform "Til It Happens to You," a song she co-wrote with Diane Warren for the documentary "The Hunting Ground," Biden made it clear that Americans need to raise awareness about the importance of consent and reducing the amount of sexual assaults on college campuses.

7. He guest-starred on "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit"

Like his introduction for Lady Gaga at the Oscars, Biden's appearance on "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" wasn't merely about making a cameo appearance. Instead he used it to draw attention to the backlog of rape kits in American police departments, an ongoing issue that Biden has focused on throughout his political career.

6. He allowed himself to be vulnerable with Stephen Colbert

When Biden appeared on Stephen Colbert's show in September 2015, he used the opportunity to do more than merely toss cold water on the possibility that he would run for president in 2016. He also offered some words of wisdom on the pain of grief and how individuals who wish to be effective public servants need to be realistic about its impact on their ability to do their job. "I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless, number one, they know exactly why they would want to be president," Biden said. "Two, they can look at the folks out there and say, ‘I promise you have my whole heart, my whole soul, energy, and my passion to do this.’ And I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there. I’m being completely honest."

5. He appeared on the series finale of "Parks and Rec"

As anyone who watches "Parks and Rec" knows, there was an ongoing joke about how series protagonist Leslie Knope had a deep crush on Vice President Joe Biden. While other politicians might have been insulted, Biden took the humor in stride and was willing to guest star on the show — including, as the above tweet indicated, in the series finale.

4. He helped turn around Obama's reelection fortunes in 2012

While not many people remember this now, the most worrisome moment for Obama's reelection campaign in 2012 was the plunge he saw in the polls after a dismal performance against Mitt Romney during their first presidential debate. Although the president would improve on the following two occasions, there were concerns that he would suffer so badly in the polls that it would be too late for him to recover. Fortunately, Biden turned in such an impressive performance in his match-up against Paul Ryan that it helped blunt the downward trend, giving his boss time to recover.

3. He was the unsung hero of the 2009 Recovery Act

Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman makes this point so well that it's worth quoting in full:

"He was in charge of implementing the Recovery Act, which was one of the administration’s great unsung successes. It involved a huge amount of work and coordination, and by every account Biden performed exceptionally well at it. Just the fact that they managed to distribute over three-quarters of a trillion dollars without any major scandals of graft or theft was an extraordinary accomplishment."

2. He endorsed same-sex marriage before Obama did

While Obama has the distinction of being the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage, it seems like he may have needed a little public prodding from his veep. It all started in April 2012 when Biden told The Human Rights Campaign's Chad Griffin that "things are changing so rapidly, it’s going to become a political liability in the near term for an individual to say, 'I oppose gay marriage.' Mark my words." Two weeks later, Biden declared his support for marriage equality on national television — and three days after that, Obama followed suit. All a mere three years before Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriage legal throughout the nation.

1. He's been eerily prescient on foreign policy

Same-sex marriage isn't the only issue where Biden has been ahead of the curve. In 2009, Biden challenged the excessive military spending on Afghanistan compared to Pakistan, where most of Al Qaeda was at that point. In 2006, before he even became vice president, Biden warned that Iraq might get divided along sectarian lines and suggested a plan that would accommodate Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. As indicated by the rise of ISIL and the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan (which Hillary Clinton later claimed Biden was "skeptical" of), Biden's insights were often on the mark.

Biden's successor, Mike Pence, will likely play a major role in the administration of his inexperienced commander-in-chief, but he'll have a very high bar to live up to in Americans' hearts.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa