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Biden's Moment

The following is cross-posted from The American Prospect:

Ever since the vice president jumped the gun on gay marriage last week, "forcing" President Obama to make an announcement he'd already planned to make, the Dump Biden meme has come roaring back. But if anyone needed reminding why Biden makes an ideal complement to the cucumber-cool commander-in-chief--and some fretful Democrats do--the last two days should have pretty well clinched the case.

Playing his role as the president's minister of outreach to the white working class, the veep was dispatched to eastern Ohio, traditional Democratic territory where Obama floundered in 2008. Biden grabbed headlines again with his rip-snorting speech yesterday in Youngstown, excoriating the rich-guy politics of Mitt Romney and the Republicans with a pent-up and highly personalized anger. "They don't get us," he flat-out hollered. "They don't get who we are. My mother and father dreamed as much as any rich guy dreams." This time, it was conservatives who were fuming: This wasn't Obama's brand of "class warfare," which never actually sounds like a declaration of war. This was righteous fury. The real thing. From the gut.

And that, more than the fact that he comes from white working-class stock, is what makes Biden so valuable as Obama's teammate. He can think, like the boss, but he can also feel--he can't help it, in fact. In the most compelling defense of Biden's role in the gay-marriage episode, The New Yorker's George Packer compared it to LBJ's nudging of President Kennedy on civil rights in the heated summer of 1963. Some issues, Packer points out, are made "for politicians whose egos are not under tight rational control--who are, come heaven or hell, passionate." The same can be said for some political moments. And 2012, when Democrats need a populist message that resonates both intellectually (the president's forte) and emotionally (Biden's), is one of those moments.