The 2020 Democrative primary has been policy-heavy, with candidates going deep into the weeds of Medicare for All, progressive taxation and more. Debating details has been great for voters eager to learn how candidates want to govern. But often it’s made for messages too complex to fit on a t-shirt or tote bag.
The 2020 Democratic primary merchandise market is also volatile. Throughout the primaries, candidates have expanded their campaign stores from a few shirt options to several pages worth of apparel, accessories, bumper stickers and lawn signs. It’s mostly as bad as political merchandise typically is. But there are a few hidden gems if you know where to look.
Biden’s merchandise sports an odd JOE logo, with the “e” fashioned to resemble stripes from an American flag. It takes a second to remember the logo represents Biden and not a patriotic coffee company. With his deep-pocket donor support, Biden’s positioned to go the distance this campaign season. That’s reflected in his store: he has a Joe shirt and a button for every state as well as a collection of buttons. Surprisingly and thankfully, nothing in his store uses the word “malarkey.”
Best Item: “We Want Joe” pride button. This is a nice design, even if no one actually wants Joe.
Worst Item: “Ridin’ With Biden” tee. It’s a decent rhyme but given how sluggishly Biden’s performing on the campaign trail, it feels a little depressing.
Sanders always keeps things simple. His “Bernie” branding hasn’t changed since 2016. And for good reason. Like his campaign messaging, it’s consistent, repetitive and effective.
Best Item: Black “Bernie” crewneck sweater. Clean design and casual colorway. Wear it to your next Antifa meeting or family dinner where you tell everyone how wrong they are about everything.
Worst Item: “Barks for Bernie” dog collar. Political pet collars are corny—no one wants to look at your cute cat or dog and think about how awful our politics are. But Bernie’s might be the corniest of all.
Warren’s merch has expanded to include dog and embroidery designs. And you know what? That’s okay. We once described her catalogue as corny and innocuous, and not much has changed in that regard.
Best Item: Warren scarf. Who doesn’t love a good scarf? Warren’s is nice. It’s clean and classy. Plus it’s limited edition, so you’d better grab one before she drops out.
Worst Item: Pinky Promise tee. As cornball as it gets. But like the shirt says, maybe making corny merch is just what girls do.
Say what you want about Buttigieg, but he’s branded himself well. “Mayor Pete” is catchy if infuriating, and his all-caps “PETE” wordmark is nicely designed. One can only imagine he had plenty of expensive, bread price-fixing quality consulting help.
Best Item: “Pete 2020” baseball tee. Baseball tees are criminally underrated.
Yang’s merchandise catalogue is pretty well put together. He’s gone hard on his “MATH” branding and offers up a shirt that’s just a quote about how marijuana criminalization is racist. It’s bare bones, but like Yang’s campaign, it’s unique and becomes less annoying the more you pay attention to it.
Best Item: Retro 1992 Andrew Yang tee. This shirt is unironically cool. More candidates should do this and make their campaign rallies look like lame basement shows.
Worst Item: “Not Left, Not Right” socks. I get the idea of Yang trying to appeal to politically disaffected folks. But the fact that socks are interchangeable between feet ruins the joke.
Klobuchar’s merch leans heavily into the middle America aesthetic, playing up her Minnesota roots and recipes—literally. It screams try-hard and still probably isn’t enough to get noticed. Maybe whoever designed this stuff was too much of a realist.
Best Item: “Amy for America” ice scraper. This is probably the most functional item offered by any candidate. Nobody wants to buy ice scrapers from senators, but still.
Worst Item: “I won’t go for things…” bumper sticker. Amy’s team got a little too clever with this one. She won’t go for things because they sound good on a bumper sticker, but she’ll put that on a bumper sticker? If you can figure out how that makes sense you probably also totally get why The New York Times half endorsed her.
Steyer’s made up for lost time by creating the vastest collection of bumper stickers in the history of presidential campaigns. You have to admire the bravado of a guy branding himself “TOM” when nobody really knows who he is.
Best Item: “New Hampsha for Tom” tee. Steyer has shirts styled for every state, and they’re all dumb. But the New Hampshire one pokes fun at the New England accent and actively mispronounces his name. And that’s more than enough to win me over.
Worst Item: Tartan bandana. Apparently Tartan is Steyer’s thing. Totally relatable.
Bloomberg entered the race late too, and his store looks as quickly thrown together as his campaign. The former New York mayor’s merch is completely devoid of personality, and no matter how hard he tries, he’ll never be “Mike.”
Best Item: “Vote” tote. Of all the clunky, impersonable items in Bloomberg’s shop, this tote is the least offensive. Plus the “Mike 2020” logo is on the opposite side and might be easy to cover up with a patch or something (maybe Steyer’s bandana?).
Worst Item: “All Isn’t Well” tee. Bloomberg is worth nearly $60 billion and he couldn’t pay someone to think of a better slogan than this. All isn’t well? Who speaks like this? This shirt would be approximately 10,000 times better if it just said “Things Are Bad” in all caps. I’m not even gonna charge him for that one. Get it done, MIKE.