I’m the kind of person who rushes home from yoga to watch the Democratic debates. On my way out the door last night, my teacher said, “Remember to keep your heart soft when you’re listening to politics.” Ten minutes later, my zen was obliterated as the Dems picked and pawed at each other over health care reform. My yoga-softened heart quickly withered to cold, bitter stone. And I know I’m not the only one who feels intensely stressed about politics. So how do people who want to be politically aware self soothe? Pictures of dogs watching debates, obviously.
During the presidential debates in 2016, Scott Detrow, a journalist who covers the 2020 presidential election for NPR, started asking his Twitter followers to send him pictures of their dogs. “More dog pics, please,” he tweeted as he covered the event. Suddenly #debatedogs was born.
“On debate nights, I’ve got a side passion project and that is #debatedogs,” Detrow said this morning on the NPR Politics Podcast. “This actually started in 2016 during the general election debates, when they were really grim and really toxic." For the sake of a little joy, he asked Tweeters to post images of their dogs' "reactions" to the debates. Political hounds from all over tweeted doggo pics to Detrow along with their punny political commentary.
Look, cute animal pics are not going to save our dwindling democracy, but #debatedogs is definitely forming a community of folks who are sticking with the discomfort and want a bit of levity with their democratic ideals. Hundreds of people tweet at Detrow during the debates, and when he forgot about the hashtag during the first Democratic debate this year, fans reminded him. It seems like folks are really committed to this sweet way to bond and stay engaged in times of political distress.
Watching people argue is stressful, and it’s especially stressful when the arguments of strangers will have a measurable impact on your life. #Debatedogs is like having a publicly accessible emotional support animal.