The 2020 Democratic primary is underway and candidates need money. They’ll take donations, sure. But selling merchandise fundraises while raising public awareness of a candidate with totebags and t-shirts.
Aside from raising much-needed cash, campaign merchandise tells us a lot. T-shirts and buttons and stickers are tangible (and wearable) personifications of their candidates and what their campaign stands for. Sometimes the metaphors seem too perfect to be real. But since most of the merchandise is hacky, at the very least it gives us something to roast.
O’Rourke’s campaign merchandise is…good? Bad? No one really knows for sure. But it certainly personifies his vague centrism—black and white, dull yet engaging, really wants you to know his name is Beto. The design is clean albeit boring, much like the man himself.
We’ve covered Warren’s punny pet accessories already. Turns out the rest of her merch is just as corny and innocuous. The highlight is her “best president money can’t buy” t-shirt, referencing her pledge not to accept big money donations. Like Warren herself, the merch highlights some good policies, but is a little too wordy to inspire.
Sanders went back to the well, repurposing his “Bernie” tee and “Feel the Bern” stickers from 2016. He’s also thrown in some new tops emphasizing his policy goals. You can almost hear his exaggerated Brooklyn accent extending the “all” and the end of each sentence as he repeats himself over and over.
Harris’ campaign logo and color scheme call back to Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to run for president in a major party. And her “for the people” slogan seems to hearken toward her criminal justice background. It’s unique and differentiating enough to distract us from the fact that it might not be very good.
Biden hasn’t officially declared his candidacy yet but his website’s shop is holdover from his old political life. And boy, is it Boomer-level corny. He predictably references the sunglasses meme from his vice presidency, as well as “malarkey,” inexplicably one of his favorite words. But just like Biden, it doesn’t take us beyond the friendly uncle internet caricature he thinks will deliver him the nomination.
Booker is the most milquetoast candidate on the ballot, and his merch reflects fundamental dullness. The red/white/blue/black color scheme feels odd, and “Cory” in all caps doesn’t exactly pop. This feels like a rush job.
“Amy for America” is catchy and alliterative, making for a decent slogan. But the design is brutally simple and the colors are spiritless as hell. Klobuchar’s merch looks like the stuff your overbearing boss would design and demand you wear at the company picnic she forced you to attend. In other words, it’s perfect.
Castro is also going with his first name, and he definitely wants to you see there’s an accent in it. It’s even morphed into a torch’s flame. The overall designs are clean, but his hairline wasn’t made for a side-profile t-shirt.