I spent yesterday at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit. The highlight for me was probably getting to see Vice President Joe Biden, who showed up at Cobo Hall about halfway trough the day to rile up the gay, abortion-loving base of the Democratic party. There were a number of noteworthy moments… like when, after praising all of us in the audience for our selflessness, Biden acknowledged that many of us were probably “horses’ tails”… but the one that’s getting the most play in the press came toward end, when the Vice President’s comments were interrupted by Latino activists chanting, “Stop deporting our families.” Biden, to his credit, agreed with them. In fact, he suggested that we applaud them, going on to say, “(Immigrants) are not the problem.” Quite the contrary, he said, immigrants are actually what makes our nation great. “They fuel our dynamism,” the Vice President said, before moving on say that whites of European ancestry will soon no longer be in the majority in America. That, he added, was not necessarily a bad thing.
Personally, I’m surprised that he took the stage. Given all that happened yesterday morning, with Russia-backed rebels shooting a passenger plane out of the sky in the Ukraine and the Israelis initiating a ground war in Gaza, I thought that the White House would politely suggest to Biden that he stand down, given his history of speaking truthfully off the cuff… But apparently they figured that he couldn’t make matters any worse that they already were.
Speaking of Biden’s well documented tendency to wander off script, he talked quite a while about his now famous comments on Meet the Press, where he got in front of the White House on the subject of marriage equality, saying that he supported same-sex marriage. To hear Biden tell it, Obama wasn’t mad. Upon arriving back in the White House, he said, the President hugged him and told him never to change.
While I liked much of hat he had to say, I was more interested in just watching how he presented it. I find politicians fascinating. After forty-some years in politics, it’s all muscle memory. He drifts. He jumps around. And, when he occasionally hits on something that resonates with the crowd, he pounces on it. His volume rises exponentially, and he repeats whatever phrase it was, to really drive it home. It’s like watching someone paddling around in the ocean on a surfboard, looking for a good wave to ride to shore on.
Of all the things he said, the only thing I think he might get heat for his is comment about how we, the Progressives, are well positioned to “bend history,” and change the American narrative. “This is one of those moments that people get a chance to bend history just a little bit,” he said. “And there are fundamental changes taking place.” We’ve reached an “inflection point” he said. We’re at a point where we could pull the steering wheel to 15-degrees .to the left and permanently change the course of history.
update: Here’s the video that I shot. It’s not compete, but it should give you as idea as to the content of Biden’s speech.