The Atlantic Politics Daily: Pet Issues

Political pets can be tied up in complicated ways with public perception of the politician. Plus: Meet the Bernie bros turned Liz lads.

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Today in Politics

(Brian Snyder / Reuters)

The Democrats running for president may be done playing nice. But for the candidates’ dogs, the competition may be even more ruff (sorry). The enthusiasm with which candidates trot out their animals seems to reveal an underlying assumption that American voters care as much about policy as pets.

Public reaction to the Obama family’s dogs, Bo and Sunny, seems to suggest pets can be tied up in complicated ways with perception of the politician: For instance, according to one famous study from 2012, “racially resentful” voters were more likely to have unfavorable views of Portuguese water dogs during the Obama presidency.

Breaking with tradition, President Donald Trump is the first president in nearly a century without a canine in the White House. But the 2020 Democrats looking to defeat him next year are all about their doggos.

Elizabeth Warren, the senator, must battle other heavyweights Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders , but Bailey Warren, her 1-year-old golden retriever, is the runaway top dog in the Pet Primary. According to a Politico report, the most viewed Instagram video from the senator since her campaign launch isn’t some policy-laden stump speech or even her early announcement video, but a clip of her returning home to a pup embrace.

@FirstDogBailey has over 20,000 followers who come along for updates such as “likes long walks, belly rubs, and financial regulations that hold billionaires and corporations accountable.”

Warren isn’t the only candidate parlaying her pupper into a campaign gambit. Beto O’Rourke launched his 2020 run with a gauzy Vanity Fair cover where he’s flanked by his family’s black lab, Artemis. (“You can call me #DOTUS,” proclaims the bio for Artemis’s Twitter account, @First_Dog_USA. )

Jill and Joe Biden adopted a rescue dog last November. And a whole host of other candidates—from Pete Buttigieg to Tim Ryan—pictures of their own pets (Buddy and Truman for the Buttigieg family; the aptly named Buckeye and Bear for Ryan’s family).

By showcasing their pets, candidates are perhaps trying to paint themselves as something more than out-of-reach politicians who talk at you about tax rates, health insurance, and electability (whatever that means).

But one frontrunner doesn’t want to participate in the doggie circus: “If you want somebody who’s going to talk about their cooking, their dog, their wardrobe, travel habits, or favorite books,” an adviser told the New York Times this summer, “Bernie Sanders is not your candidate.”

—Saahil Desai


Climate activist Greta Thunberg meets former President Barack Obama’s fist in the air with her fist.

The climate activist Greta Thunberg bumps fists with former President Barack Obama during her visit to Washington, D.C. (Obama Foundation / Handout via Reuters)

What Else We’re Watching

“She’s everything Bernie is—but a bit more electable.” (Paul Sancya / AP)

Meet the Bernie bros turned Liz lads: Unlike 2016, there is more than one progressive candidate in the 2020 Democratic primary—and for some progressives, Senator Elizabeth Warren is championing a gentler, more electable version of progressivism than Bernie Sanders, Elaine Godfrey reports.

Congress should be able to confirm the national security adviser: That’s what a former Pentagon speechwriter argues, as President Donald Trump chooses the record fourth national security adviser of his first term (Robert O’Brien, replacing John Bolton.) There’s precedent for Congress reviewing the president’s picks for appointed positions, John Gans writes, and that congressional scrutiny would ensure ideologues don’t sink a president’s national-security team.

Corey was in the House: If you missed the former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, Russell Berman sums it up: He came to mock Democrats, crack jokes, and show his loyalty to Trump. Meanwhile, he’s reportedly eyeing a Senate run in New Hampshire.

Our Reporters Are Also Reading

21st-Century Breakup: Inside the Divorce Rattling Silicon Valley and Democratic Politics. (Gabriel Debenedetti, New York magazine) (Paywall)

‣ ‘Feel Free to Leak This’: Inside the Pelosi-Nadler Impeachment Schism (Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle, and John Bresnahan, Politico)

Fox News Has No Pride Whatsoever (Erik Wemple, The Washington Post) (Paywall)

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. It’s written by our associate politics editor, Saahil Desai, and our politics fellow, Christian Paz. It was edited by Shan Wang.

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