The road to political popularity never did run smooth, and 2013 has definitely been no exception.
The government shut down, the healthcare website failed to stay up, and the NSA got their rocks off by snooping through our inboxes. But amidst all the uncertainty, there has been one bastion of political stability which has remained unshakeable all year round: photos of government officials’ pets on Twitter!
Indeed, if 2013 has been the year of the selfie, our elected leaders have put their own fluffy spin on things with the “pelfie” (yep, I went there), unabashedly pimping out their pets for cheap RTs.
“Politicians seem to have figured out that the internet runs on cute pet photos, and good for them,” says Laura Olin, who worked on Obama’s 2012 campaign. So let’s take a look back at the year that was in government dog pics, and crown 2013’s politi-pet champion.
Bo and Sunny Obama
It’s a double entry for the First Dogs of the White House, who have been spicing up the presidential feed with their fuzzy japes all year round.
While Teen Choice Award winning Bo had been doing a valiant job of manning the cuteness fort at Chez Obama since 2009, Sunny joined the crew in August, meaning that each pet pic now comes with a double dose of pelfie prowess. The pulling power of these pooches is certainly not to be underestimated, as Pet Lovers for Obama co-founder Jessi Langsen, who ran the page during last year’s presidential campaign, knows only too well: “Animals and the internet go hand in hand—they’re a topic more resistant to trolling than almost any other subject area a politician naturally covers. The page was a welcome relief from the vitriol posted elsewhere, and submissions kept pouring in well after Election Day.”
The dogs make regular appearances on the White House’s feed—sometimes with a little Instagram touch for good measure—and quite easily win in the RT stakes, with the average canine shot getting a whole lot more traction than tweets relating to any actual policies. Even kids are losing out in the Twitter cuteness rankings to the DOTUS, with a photo of Obama hugging pre-ks getting just a fraction of the buzz the dogs regularly stoke up. As the trailblazer of Twitter pelfies, Bo—we salute you.
Cali’s First Corgi Sutter Brown is heading up the West Coast’s contribution to four-legged social media fodder. But not content with the sporadic post or pelfie like his wet-nosed counterparts, Sutter has a series of accounts dedicated to him alone, where fans of the furry little chubster can keep a close eye on his daily movements. His reach is so wide, in fact, that a story in Sacramento’s News Review a few months back likened his fanbase as akin to that of Justin Bieber (seriously), and cited Sutter as a key part of his owner Gov. Jerry Brown’s success. And the canine’s string of accolades just keep on coming: he’s been branded a ‘force in California politics’ by Buzzfeed, and Langsen agrees that the 10-year-old mutt “stands out” from his pet peers.
Freya and Lola Osborne
Let us journey across the pond to Westminster, London, where Chancellor George Osborne marked 2013 by joining Twitter in a blaze of furry glory. His first attempt at pelfie-ing came in March, where he snapped an action shot of tabby cat Freya dashing out of the red budget box/makeshift cat litter tray. It’s no secret that Osborne doesn’t exactly top the popularity polls, but the hundreds of retweets his snap garnered backs Olin’s view that pet posts are “social media gold…a simple way for public figures to humanize themselves a little.” Keen to keep the (fur)ball rolling, Osborne recently enlisted the help of Lola, his new bichon-frise, for some winter pelfie action, once again valiantly trying to soften up his image. Although none of us can quite forget the literal Downing Street catfight of 2012 between Freya and the Prime Minister’s feline Larry, Osborne really has tried to pull it out of the bag this year, laying claim to the title of most diverse political pelfie-r for his multi-species tweets. Kudos.
It wouldn’t be right to look at the political pets of the year without an honorable mention for Larry, UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s cat. Though markedly absent from pelfie-land in 2013, he still managed to scratch his way into the social media sphere with perhaps the greatest scandal ever to hit the politi-pet world. The UK was rocked by allegations earlier this year that the PM doesn’t actually like Larry, and the had merely been enlisted as a furry tactic for political point-scoring and novelty bow-tie wearing. The revelations sent shockwaves through the social media sphere, prompting a campaign to #SaveLarry, ultimately resulting in the PM taking to Twitter to declare his ‘purr-fect’ friendship with the neglected feline. The wounds will of course take time to heal, but to ease the pain of having the Laz-meister’s face missing from our newsfeeds, we can still remember the good times through his parody account.
And the winner is…
While there were many strong contenders for the title, only one could reign victorious. In what was perhaps the greatest pet tweet of 2013, let us fondly remember this little nugget from the summer which perfectly combined the two ubiquitous factors required for social media success: animals, and a Mean Girls meme. It will be forever etched in our hearts and minds as the holy grail of all pelfie-dom, and is the undisputed winner of this year’s Politi-Pet trophy:
Well played, White House intern. Well played.