october 10, 2012 by camille hayes
I’ve been looking forward to the Vice Presidential debate ever since Paul Ryan’s candidacy was announced, because I fully expect that Joe Biden is going to eat that smirking plutocrat for lunch. The media narrative of Biden as America’s Daffy Uncle belies the accomplished legislator and ass-kicking partisan he really is. But so much the better; low expectations, plus Ryan’s entirely undeserved reputation as a policy wonk can only work to Old Uncle Joe’s benefit. He will smile genially, wave to the crowd, then rip Paul Ryan a new one. I cannot wait. I heart Joe.
I haven’t always felt this way; Joe and I have a complicated history, dating back to the day in 1991 when I first became aware of the then-Senator from Delaware. In fact, the anniversary of that day, which I remember because it was a turning point in my feminist consciousness and also because I am a nerd, is the very date that the upcoming debate will take place: October 11th. Coincidence?!? Well, yes, but I know I’ll be thinking about 1991 as I watch Biden v. Ryan on Thursday, and about how far Joe and I have come since that fateful first day of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings.
In case you don’t remember—and seriously, why would you—Biden was then the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a.k.a., the group of seemingly unhinged old sexists who treated Hill so appallingly during the proceedings. Biden wasn’t responsible for the worst of the contempt heaped on Hill that week (you’re still on my list, Orrin Hatch) but it was his committee and he lost control of it. He would have been well within bounds at any point to say “Why don’t you guys maybe stop being total dicks?” but instead we got his leading question to Thomas about whether Hill was “fabricating.” In the end, Biden voted against Thomas’s nomination, but it was too late; I could never forgive him. Or so I thought.
Flash forward to 1994, when the groundbreaking Violence Against Women Act was signed into law, authored by one Sen. Biden. (In lieu of flowers, Joe Biden will be sending American women a massive piece of federal legislation. Sorry we didn’t believe you about sexual harassment!) I muttered Nice move, Joe, but I’m still pissed. Never forget!, etc. But the truth was, he was already winning me over. He just seemed so sincere, so genuinely concerned about women’s safety, not to mention that he was obviously an extremely good politician, persuading anti-feminist GOPers to sign onto VAWA in astonishing numbers. (He sold it as a tough-on-crime bill; it was really quite smart.)
By the time of Biden’s 2008 presidential run, I had been working in the domestic violence field for three years, had seen firsthand the community programs that VAWA funds, and was totally prepared to love him. Which I DID. I mean, he was never going to get the nomination, but do you remember him in the primaries? So charming! So quippy! And fast on his feet, plus he was in the Senate for almost as long as Paul Ryan has been alive, so don’t expect Junior’s slick, substance-free “it’s too complicated for me to explain” bullshit to get any traction. Because if there’s one thing I know about my Joe, it’s that he doesn’t suffer fools. Give ‘em hell, sweetheart! And happy anniversary.