A meme, pared of its particulars, is democracy making fun of itself. And during the eight years of the Obama presidency in the United States, there has been no public figure who has lent himself so readily to memery than Vice President Joe Biden. You can attribute that to a combination of factors—his genial, expressive face; his persona’s mixture of frankness and affability; the fact that he occupies an office that lends itself especially well to fan-fictional speculation; his general intolerance for malarkey—but they have resulted, all in all, in Biden becoming, in the worst way and also the best, a running joke.
One of the most common memes goes like this: Take a picture of Obama and Biden together—bonus points if Biden looks giddy, and even more if points if Obama looks reluctant. Add dialogue—usually something that will get at the idea of Biden being childlike and needy and mischievous, and of Obama, decades younger and yet much more the adult, keeping his vice president in check. Apply it to the State of the Union. Or, really, to anything.
The aftermath of the 2016 election has given that time-honored formula renewed life, as people who are disappointed with the outcome of the hard-fought contest have channeled their frustrations through Biden—and through, specifically, the elaborate revenge fantasies they have imagined on his behalf:
Joe: I'm going to ask Donald if he wants something to eat— Jill Biden (@JillBidenVeep) November 13, 2016
Barack: That's nice, Joe
Joe: And then I'm going to offer him knuckle sandwiches pic.twitter.com/xYJ0k2QTX6
Biden: Ok here's the plan: have you seen Home Alone— Male Thoughts (@SteveStfler) November 13, 2016
Obama: Joe, no
Biden: Just one booby trap
Obama: Joe pic.twitter.com/BgZ4lCoqg4
Biden: You know he needs an official gov't phone right? Imma give him a Note 7.— Tatiana King Jones (@TatianaKing) November 13, 2016
Obama: But Joe, don't those....
Biden: Exactly. pic.twitter.com/HFXzpSN9Kj
Biden: Hillary was saying they took the W's off the keyboards when Bush won!— Josh (@jbillinson) November 13, 2016
Obama: Joe put-
Biden: I TOOK THE T'S, THEY CAN ONLY TYPE RUMP pic.twitter.com/D6Vh7Zu429
biden: cmon you gotta print a fake birth certificate, put it in an envelope labeled "SECRET" and leave it in the oval office desk— jomny sun (@jonnysun) November 11, 2016
obama: joe pic.twitter.com/UTtv1JkE5o
Obama: Did you replace all the toiletries with travel size bottles?— Josh (@jbillinson) November 11, 2016
Biden: He's got tiny hands Barack, I want him to feel welcome here pic.twitter.com/e7NRIZ43Ww
Biden: I took a Staples red button & wrote "Nukes" on it— Crutnacker (@Crutnacker) November 13, 2016
Biden: Tweets to him in Russian when pressed pic.twitter.com/j7rdFd1tXs
Joe: Yes, that was me.— Aaron Paul (@aaronpaul_8) November 12, 2016
Obama: Please stop.
Joe: I will not stop. This room will smell so bad when he gets here.
Joe: Nope. pic.twitter.com/49WkhsUwvr
Biden: What if we paint the Mexican flag in the office— dan // pinned if unf (@tragecies) November 11, 2016
Obama: Joe, no
Biden: I already ordered the paint
Obama: Joe pic.twitter.com/mCCh6OPQRk
It’s democratized fan-fiction, basically: The Onion’s absurdist imaginings of “Diamond Joe,” only with this version of the vice president being, basically, an overgrown kid. And, as the best memes will do, all the jokes suggest something at once silly and profound: Over the weekend, they became an excuse for people both to wallow in their sadness and to transcend it. CNN offered “The 11 most soothing Joe Biden memes for a post-election America.” US Weekly announced that “Barack Obama, Joe Biden Memes Rule the Internet Post-Election.” The Huffington Post explained that “Joe Biden Trolls Trump In Bittersweet Post-Election Meme.” Mashable put it more bluntly: “Joe Biden plotting against Trump is the meme America needs.”
“America”—or at least, some significant portion of America—needed Joe because, in the persona they projected onto him, he channeled not just their thoughts about their new president, but also their feelings. Elections, after all, are not simply contests of policy, or dueling visions for the continuation of the American experiment. They are not merely intellectual. They are also personal. They are painful. They tap into, as we have seen, people’s baser instincts, their lizard brains. Campaigns assume, on some basic level, that adult people are immensely capable of behaving like children.
And there, in all that, is Joe Biden—a man in his 70s who has come to stand in for immaturity. A man whose team has lost, but who will, like many of his fellow Americans, take some solace in the fact that “I TOOK THE T'S, THEY CAN ONLY TYPE RUMP.”