Mr. Vice President The Legacy of Joseph R. Biden Jr.—So Far
As the nation welcomes our own Joe Biden into the country’s second most important office, we celebrate the aspects of life and work that have made him one of the country’s longest-serving senators: family man, party leader, crime fighter, civil rights champion, scholar of the Constitution and foreign policy expert. Delawareans now wait to see the new ways in which Joe will make us proud.


After 39 years in politics, Joe Biden is the man counted on to deliver votes for his state Democrats. “He’s the best when it comes to party politics, the guy really knows what he’s doing,” says Democratic National Committeeman Rhett Ruggerio. “When he talks, people listen.”

“He helps other candidates run for office, including Tom Carper,” says Claire DeMatteis, who spent 10 years on Biden’s staff. “He’s helped resolve disputes if the party wasn’t on the same page. He has the power and the charisma to pull people together. He is the top of the ticket.”

As Biden becomes vice president this month, he also becomes a huge cog for the National Democratic Party. Though his career in the Senate paints him a big-time policy leader, he has respectfully shunned the role of party cheerleader.

“It’s sort of like the minister’s wife. If she doesn’t sing in the choir, she’s not interested in church music. If she does sing in the choir, she’s trying to change church music,” says Jim Soles, University of Delaware professor emeritus of political science. “I think that’s the way with major political figures as well.

“I think you can certainly say Joe has always been helpful to the Democratic Party. I don’t think that Joe has ever tried to move the Democratic Party toward particular candidates or issues. I think that is because Joe’s respectful of the party’s role.”

Biden might not be a party reformer in the mold of Howard Dean, mainly because he likes to let his strong Democratic values—fighting for the middle class, women’s rights and civil rights—do the talking. “His leadership nationally is in his policy, not in these politics with a capital P,” DeMatteis says.

As Biden told The New Yorker in October: “I’ve been able to influence the direction of the Democratic Party on foreign policy. And I’ve been relatively—presumptuous to say—relatively successful legislatively in the Senate, being able to win a lot of Republican friends, and being able to cross the aisle.”

So will Vice President Biden play the game in order to strengthen his party?

“I think Joe Biden will carry an awful lot of water for the president,” Soles says. “He’s going to be a person that has the president’s ear and progress the president’s program. Once you’re there, you still have to maintain your base, the national party.” —Matt Amis