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.
Since our first list, more candidates have entered the race and become relevant for one reason or another. We’ve moved those candidates to the top for this update. We also left out a bunch of the irrelevant candidates, figuring that they don’t need us punching down at their undoubtedly horrendous merchandise. Apologies in advance if Seth Moulton becomes president.
After months of speculation, Biden officially announced his candidacy and unveiled this…interesting logo. The “E” in Joe is meant to evoke the American flag’s stripes, but the result doesn’t even look like a letter and makes us wonder who JO is. Ultimately, it’s not that much worse than Biden’s pre-announcement merch. But throw in his corny tote bags and that weird onesie and it’s more than fair to say, as Splinter did, that Biden’s merch sucks shit.
Mayor Pete was absent from our initial list, and since then he’s “skyrocketed” up the polls (to third), introduced customizable logos and sold out of some shirts. The phonetic pronunciation tee is a little lame, but the overall design of those and his “PETE” shirts are pretty clean. There’s surely some smarmy midwestern values explanation for the off-white (called “sand” on the website), but we can’t deny it looks pretty good. Just keep these “Pete’s Got Heart” shirts as far away from us as possible.
Yang is leaning into his youth appeal, doubling down on “math” as the center of his campaign. He’s also got a “secure the bag” tote and a weird looking bitmoji version of himself on shirts and buttons. His flag stripe logo isn’t as blunderous as Biden’s, but still makes you do a double take to figure out if that’s actually a “Y.” Will Yang Gangers use their universal basic income to buy this crap?
Something about these t-shirts are a bit flat, much like the candidate herself. The 2020 shirts feel rushed, while the “Brave Wins” weirdly echoes the Planet Hollywood logo and comes off more quirky than inspiring. Gillibrand still gets points for originality though, both in color scheme and design choices. It’s just not obvious those choices are very good.
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 good policy, but is overshadowed by other candidates for reasons we just can’t seem to understand (sexism).
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.
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.