Raphael Warnock’s dog ads cut against white voters’ stereotypes of Black people
- December 15, 2020
- Michael Tesler, poli sci, explains in this piece for FiveThirtyEight
If he wins next month, Raphael Warnock may have his pet beagle to thank. So far, Warnock, the Democratic candidate in one of Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections, has aired two ads featuring his dog. In the first, he uses his cuddly canine to preempt negative GOP attacks against him — attacks that have tried to paint him as an ideological extremist and tie him to far-left Black activists. In the second ad, the pooch plays an even more prominent role, with Warnock walking his dog through a suburban neighborhood, poop bag in hand, while denouncing Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s “smear ads” against him.
“I think Georgians will see her ads for what they are — don’t you?” he asks as he throws the poop bag into the garbage. The beagle barks in agreement and licks his owner’s face.
These ads have been praised as cute, humorous and clever. And the two spots have gone viral, generating almost nine million views while Warnock’s dog–oriented tweets accumulated over half a million likes on Twitter in November. The campaign has even profited off the pooch by selling “Puppies for Warnock” merchandise. But some close observers of race and politics have noted that there is much more here than just an adorable electoral campaign. These ads, they argue, are carefully crafted attempts to neutralize racial stereotypes that work against Warnock in his bid to become Georgia’s first African American senator.
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