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The Good, Bad, And Ugly Among 2020 Campaign Merchandise

Bernie Sanders campaign fanny pack

After looking over the campaign items the 2020 Democratic hopefuls are offering to dedicated voters, you can understand their fundraising challenges.

In the movie “National Treasure,” Nicholas Cage’s character, Ben Gates, bonds with the worker at the National Archives, Abigail Chase, over her collection of George Washington campaign buttons. The desire for those rare items reflects a broader hunger that exists for campaign paraphernalia, a competitive historical marketplace.

But the swollen field of Democratic hopefuls offers few of the items coveted by collectors — unless you envision a time when glass cases are erected to display tote bags from elections past. With such a crowded lineup, you would think some original or interesting items would have emerged. Instead, we see mostly commonality in the options (everyone has mugs, hats, and LGBT pride gear), with a few puzzling options thrown into the mix.

So below is a buying guide for your 2020 election collection (all purchases tax-deductible!).

Donald Trump

The president has some of the more unique items of all the candidates (swimwear?), but one of the better might be a jab at the competition. The troll master in chief has a line of reusable plastic straws, laser-etched with his name.

Liberal paper straws don’t work,” says the promotional copy.STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP and buy your pack of recyclable straws today.”

When this merchandise was announced, the left, who had been warning others not to take Trump’s bait, promptly flipped out.

Bernie Sanders

The elder statesman who is vying to retain a hip and cool quotient with the millennials is doing so — by selling fanny packs. (Although, I have it on good authority that these are “super hip” these days, so what do I know?)

Many of Bernie’s products tout his government giveaway programs — “College For All,” “Medicare For All,” etc. He offers a fluid-containment vessel that also proclaims “Water For All,” so those who have been politically prevented from obtaining water know who to vote for.Bernie Sanders Campaign Merchandise

Joe Biden

The former vice president was late in his arrival to the campaign, but has made enough of a splash to lead in the polls — no thanks to his marketing team, however. Biden’s campaign graphics have been problematic.

For instance, beyond just the clunky logo designs, in one instance his team managed to transpose zeros with the letter “O” when including “2020” (as in “2O2O”). I could not resist the “Cup O’Joe” coffee mug. One other odd design choice was thinking Biden’s aviator-style sunglasses preference is enough of a trademark. With no other indicator of his campaign, these cups resemble something from the Target summer line of drinkware.

Joe Biden Merchandise

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete is one of many candidates who has eschewed the customary red-white-and-blue motif, a wise attempt to be distinguished in the crowd. He has taken on the color scheme of the University of Notre Dame, located in his hometown.

The pronunciation of his surname has been a sticking point among people following the race, so the campaign has a line of products to help in the cause, going with a phonetic graphics style.

Pete Buttigieg boot edge edge hat

Cory Booker

While nearly every candidate offers gay-pride products, many also include the pastel scheme of trans pride. The pale blue and pink do not make for the clearest of graphics. For instance, on quick glance, Booker’s “Justice For All” insignia comes off resembling “Jussie.” I’m not sure he wants to invite that comparison.

Cory Booker Justice For All shirt

Kirsten Gillibrand

Another common product found in the campaign stores is a baby onesie. This product is a curiosity for a couple of reasons, namely, the voting age of the wearer.

Another issue arises because, as with Gillibrand, these tiny onesies are not usually large enough to display the candidate’s name prominently. Of course, the worst problem is the poor optics involved in baby gear from candidates who are enthusiastically pro-abortion.

Kirsten Gillibrand onesie

Elizabeth Warren 

Warren is very much committed to the “She Persisted” theme in the gear she’s selling. She even offers a branded cat collar that says — I swear — “purrr-sist.”

You’ll recall back about New Year’s Day when Warren attempted to tap into the Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez method of generating buzz with viral videos. Warren made a cringe-inducing livestream in which she tried vainly to appear casual while drinking a beer, and the internet ridiculed her in the wake.

So maybe having a branded beer pint glass is a bad idea, inviting voters to call back that moment. (Also, did the Democrats not demonize Brett Kavanaugh over beer swilling?)

Elizabeth Warren Persist cat collar

Kamala Harris

While she doesn’t included anything really landmark or embarrassing in her product line, you might find one puzzling offering among Sen. Kamala Harris’s campaign gear. Amid her product line is an option to buy a “Watch-Party Kit” for the Democratic debates. This kit includes her branded T-shirt, some vinyl stickers, and a yard sign, all for $55.

The issue? If you buy these items individually, the total is cheaper. It is enough to make you question her economic policies. Additionally, she prices her T-shirts $2 to $3 higher for 2XL and 3XL sizes. The fat-shaming is really triggering.

Kamala Harris watch party kit

Julián Castro

As the former mayor of San Antonio, one of Castro’s traits is that — in a field of candidates desperate to show off their ability to speak Spanish — the Latino from Texas is not fluent in the language. This raises a number of “preguntas” regarding the items for sale that feature Spanish text.   

Julian Castro campaign merchandise

Jay Inslee

Most of the Democratic hopefuls are trying to distinguish themselves with pet projects they would be identified with in the public eye. For Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, it is the environment, and he basically slaps you in the face with his cause.

For instance, think of the amount of discussions that grind to a halt when someone wears a hat with the conversation starter, “We Need A #ClimateDebate Now.” Inslee has also gone the toddler route by selling a children’s book that he wrote. It tells the story of an elf named Elvis, who is upset to learn his home is losing the snow on its roof, and the icicles that hang down from it.

Maybe illustrating the plight with the loss of things homeowners consider a threat to their homes is a mixed message?

Jay Inslee hat and elf book

John Delaney

While his logo may resemble a local car rental agency, the congressman has one of the more varied online stores, offering a number of curious items: golf balls, a gum eraser, and a deck of playing cards featuring Trump as the joker.

Props to Delaney, though, for going with the drinking theme. Branded bottle openers, stemless wine glasses, and beer koozies are up for sale. The Federal Election Commission may want to look into Delaney encouraging voter fraud, however, with his Vote-Chill-Vote checklist.

John Delaney drink beer campaign merchandise

Steve Bullock

One other potable addition comes courtesy of Steve Bullock. He is running on a platform pledging “A Fair Shot For Everyone.” It only makes sense then that he is selling shot glasses. Yet the use of “fair” makes me think we will not be getting the top-shelf bourbon.

Steve Bullock a fair shot glass

Amy Klobuchar

The Minnesota legislator has a rather uninspiring line of goods, made all the more unimpressive by the fact she has no consistent theme. She offers items in green, some in blue, and some white using both colors, along with rainbow pride items. With her advanced negative press, consider how much better it could have been if she sold combs or salad forks.

Amy Klobuchar campaign merchandise sticker

Andrew Yang

The candidate promising largesse for us all has a very basic assortment of items, including one questionable addition: his branded tote bag. (Seriously, are these really desired?) I am unclear exactly what “Secure The Bag” means, but more curious is that the billionaire who promises to pay us $1,000 is charging significantly higher for his bag than are all other candidates.

Andrew Yang Secure the Bag tote