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The crowd moves as one multi-headed groupie, waving our cell phones and shouting, “Joe!” I’m standing on my tiptoes, aiming my phone in the general direction of the familiar gray head that’s making us swoon.
Sounds like the scene of a Jagger sighting, right? Wrong. It’s the swarm on election eve at George Mason University, and the man making millennials and baby boomers alike go star-crazy is Vice President Joe Biden.
“He’s, right there!” the guy next to me tells his girlfriend. “He just moved to the left!” says an unidentified teenaged voice from behind. We take five collective steps to the left, leaning in so he’ll pick one of us next.
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At nearly six feet tall and in possession of an experienced reporter’s chutzpah, I get many shots of Biden, just a few feet away. He’s plunging a navy blue cuffed arm into the crowd at a rate of five-to-seven reaches per minute, grabbing cell phones, smiling cheek-to-cheek with stranger after stranger, and snapping selfies like a kid at a Queen Bey concert.
Everyone gets their phones back and no one is throwing elbows to get to the front. We’re here with our friend Joe—the Veep from the working-class neighborhood in Scranton—so nobody’s going to pull a jerk move on his watch. Biden manages to take upwards of three dozen money shots before doling out as many hugs and handshakes, then waving and walking off, his Secret Service entourage flanking him but never lifting an aggressive finger.
The rally itself was heartening and galvanizing, everything an election-eve gathering should be. Tim Kaine talked about Hillary Clinton’s commitment to the environment, her work with the Children’s Defense Fund, the glass ceiling she’s shattering, her climate initiatives, the original Obamacare when it was still dubbed Clintoncare, and many more boilerplate talking points that were no less inspiring for their repetition. But it is this mini after-party, this easy access to Biden, this firsthand witnessing of America’s Uncle Joe that turns a standard rally into a study in how to be exceedingly powerful and entirely human at the same time.
The banners and signs flying at the rally read “Love Trumps Hate.” Joe, by hugging it out with us and saying “cheese” over-and-over again for our Twitter feeds and Instagram threads, walks that walk right beside us.