Kyle Charland loves Joe Biden.
“When they call him Uncle Joe, that’s like the perfect thing because you feel like you know him even though you don’t,” he said.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Charland, a 35-year-old from Royal Oak, Michigan, temporarily had to go on unemployment when he couldn’t go to his job in retail. But even that didn’t stop him from donating to Biden.
“Even though I was on unemployment for a while, I was able to afford to give a little bit. But now that I’m back to work, I donate every week, and every time they text me, I’ve been donating too,” he said.
Plenty has been written about how Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, may have an enthusiasm problem. An ABC/Washington Post poll from August found that 44% percent of adults supporting Biden say they’re enthusiastic about supporting him, compared to 56% for Trump.
But true Biden super fans like Charland do exist. They’ve started up online booster networks, written him letters and named their dog after him. They don’t just want to beat Donald Trump ― they want Biden to be the next president.
“I wear Biden head to toe every day when I’m not at work,” said Charland, who also took the week off of work to watch the Democratic convention in August. “I have a hat. I have a mask. I have about six shirts. In my car ― I just bought a flag for it. I call it the Bidenmobile. I have bumper stickers on the back. So if I’m not working, I have a Biden uniform that I go out in every day. ... I get to meet a lot of people, like at the grocery store, and talk to them about Biden. It’s really cool.”
There’s no doubt that Trump inspires a fierce devotion in some of his most hardcore supporters. The worry among some Democrats is that his base will turn out while Democrats ― many of whom supported other candidates in the primary ― may sit home, unexcited and uninspired.
Popular progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) made an appeal to her supporters on social media recently, telling them not to stay home just because Biden isn’t their favorite.
“November is about survival. Voting for Joe Biden is no longer about whether you agree with him. It’s a vote to let our democracy live another day,” she said.
Many Biden super fans are frustrated by the narrative that Democrats are holding their nose and voting for the former vice president, and they’re doing what they can to turn people around them into supporters.
“I don’t see that. I feel like that’s a big narrative in the media, but when I have conversations with my friends, with my family members ― when they get to know Joe, they’re really excited about him because he’s a real person. He’s gone through a lot of the same struggles that we’ve gone through,” said Daniela Ferrera, 22, a Miami resident who was born in Cuba and came to the United States in 2001.
Ferrera and her boyfriend have been Biden supporters all along in the 2020 campaign. She grew up as a Republican but remembers having respect for him back when he was vice president. She said her support for him really solidified after seeing him deal with the death of his son, Beau, who passed away from brain cancer in 2015.
“It really hit home as someone that has had family members pass because of cancer,” Ferrera said. “Seeing how he is just such a warm and empathetic person and someone that has genuine care for other people and seeing that public display of grief. I really thought that that showed a different side of Joe Biden, his more human side.”
Ferrera is the co-founder of Cubanos con Biden, a Facebook group with 13,000 members. At the first Democratic primary debate in June, which took place in Miami, Ferrera and some of her friends borrowed a friend’s ice cream truck and, with their own money, gave out free ice cream that they called “Joe Cones.”
“People absolutely loved it and they ate it up,” she said. “We even had Trump supporters that came over to get some Joe Cones, which was super super awesome.”
It’s common to find Biden supporters who have connected to him after hearing his life story.
Ellie Boyle is 17 (but will be able to vote in this year’s election) and lives in Bowling Green, Ohio. She first started liking Biden when she was in eighth grade, as a big fan of the show “Parks and Recreation” ― where the main character is also obsessed with the former vice president. As she became more interested in politics, she also began to get more interested in Biden and enjoyed the many memes during the Obama years. Biden stickers made their way on to her water bottle and computer.
In April 2018, she decided to write Biden a letter. She told him about how her dad had cancer and how she admired what he was doing with his “cancer moonshot.” She never expected a response back and was shocked when, four months later, she received one.
“It was like the second day of school. I was getting the mail because I’m the first one home. And I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ I called my dad. And he said, ‘I’m teaching a class.’ And I’m like, ‘Dad, Joe wrote back to me!’ I was freaking out. I called everyone I knew. To have that personal touch like that ― he took time out of his day to like write people back ― that was what got me hooked,” recalled Boyle.
A few months later, at an American Cancer Society event in Washington, D.C., Boyle and her father actually got the chance to meet Biden backstage before his speech. Boyle talked to him first, separately, recalling that Biden empathized with her about having a family member with cancer. And then he spoke to both of them about the relationship between fathers and daughters.
“He gave me a challenge coin and he kind of joked like, ‘The next time I see you, whoever forgets theirs, you have to buy the other one a Coke,’” she said.
Since then, Boyle has written to Biden one other time ― and once again received a response.
During the primary, Biden and his moderate message struggled to attract the support of younger voters who were drawn more to some of his progressive challengers. But during the Obama administration, Biden was a fixture in political pop culture. The satirical publication The Onion portrayed him as a lovable, charming ― yet slightly embarrassing ― Uncle Joe. His signature aviators were widely covered. There was even a meme of Biden removing his scarf.
Chris Schmidt, 26, from Perkasie, Pennsylvania, is a newer Biden super fan. In the primary, he actually supported Pete Buttigieg as the nominee, saying that it was inspiring to see a fellow member of the LGBTQ community running for president. He became interested in Biden after Buttigieg quickly endorsed the former vice president.
“I’m definitely a Pete super fan, but through this whole process and seeing how compassionate and empathetic Joe Biden is, that’s what makes me a super fan for Joe Biden is the empathy,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt started Joe & Kamala’s Soul Squad Content Team, a team of graphic designers, artists and others who create art to help the Democratic ticket online. The focus, Schmidt said, is on positive content.
“For a really long time, I was thinking we can’t just be sharing messaging that is against the current president,” he said. “That’s not going to get us as far as we want. So the whole point of the Soul Squad creation team is to create content that’s pro-Joe and Kamala and gets people kind of excited in that way about both of them as candidates.”
Amanda Linton has been a Biden fan for much longer. Demonstrating her super fan status, she noted that her dog’s name is Zac Biden Linton.
As someone who dealt with domestic violence about 12 or 13 years ago, Linton, 42, knew about Biden through his work on the issue, both in the Obama administration and the Senate.
“At the time, it was kind of hard dealing with it on your own,” she said. “But to know that Biden was there, that he had done stuff even earlier than that, when it was the good ol’ boys club and they never did stuff for women. I wanted somebody that I knew had women staff before it was even popular to do that.”
Linton traveled to multiple states ― including Iowa, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania ― to campaign for Biden during the primary. She had a get-out-the-vote event at her house in Woodbridge, Virginia. While she had volunteered a bit for Hillary Clinton, she’s never been as involved in a campaign as she is with Biden’s.
“At the risk of sounding corny, I know that ‘the soul of the nation’ is his slogan, but I really feel that this is his time,” added Stacey Munro, 51, from Palm Springs, California. “There couldn’t be a starker contrast between the person who is now occupying the Oval Office and Biden, from everything from empathy, to compassion, to kindness, to experience, to competency. And I’m very excited.”
One of Munro’s favorite pieces of Biden campaign paraphernalia is a face mask. But, in true super fan fashion, she’s not going to take it out of the packaging.
“I do have a Biden mask that I ordered, but I will not use it,” she said. “I will keep it in its packaging because it’s going to be a collector’s item due to the fact that it’s a mask in this pandemic and because ― knock on wood ― Biden will be the next president.”