5 Very Weird Pieces of Merch from Past Elections
August 17, 2021
As we wind down another election cycle, now is the perfect time to reflect on political campaign merch. Everyone knows a good T-shirt can shift the perception of a candidate, but I want to take some time to look at the stranger bits and bobs sold in the name of politics.
‘Chillary’ Clinton’s Beer Koozie
One thing that’s become fashionable in recent election cycles is creating this mythos of approachability around candidates. It seems like everyone in the race promotes themselves as “someone you’d want to grab a drink with.”
This is, of course, pretty weird. Voters aren’t choosing who is the coolest hang, after all. And everything about this koozie is trying a bit too hard.
Hillary Clinton is a former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State. None of those positions are very “chill.” They might require an ability to keep cool under pressure, and a number of other positive qualities, but I don’t think that’s what her handlers were going for here.
John Delaney’s Memory Eraser
Remember when former US Representative for Maryland John Delaney ran for president? Yeah, me neither. Delaney was one of the earliest candidates to join the running for the 2020 election and yet couldn’t poll above 2%. Talk about a forgettable campaign! Which makes this particular piece of merch particularly funny.
Sure, a challenger wants to appeal to people who think the incumbent’s time in office is best forgotten. But isn’t the point to learn from history, or else we’re doomed to repeat it?
Also, is it just me or are erasers super easy to lose? I don’t think I’ve used a single one more than a few times before forgetting it somewhere. And who still uses pencil, aside from students (many of whom aren’t of voting age)? It’s hard to wrap my mind around how anyone thought this would be a helpful piece of campaign merch.
Beto O’Rourke’s Patch
Getting heavy Sonic Youth vibes from that one (or maybe they just need a tuner). With so much punk-rock built into his lifestyle, it makes sense that he’d embrace it as his presidential campaign’s aesthetic, too. And this “Beto For America” patch fits right into that.
It’s a nice enough looking patch. The design would even look good on a shirt. But who is this patch for? My guess is that it’s for the aging punks who still want to bust out their patched-up denim jacket every now and then. Everybody knows the modern-day punks were all endorsing Bernie.
Jeb Bush’s Guacamole Bowl
Bush the Younger (Youngest?) is a bona fide Guacamole Man. Much was made of his purportedly secret recipe (which was subsequently revealed on NPR, and not all that different from traditional recipes). So it only stands to reason that the former Florida governor would sell a molcajete during his campaign, right?
It seems like a strange fit in any candidate’s collection of campaign merch, no matter how much they like guacamole. The bowl itself is little more than a mortar and pestle you might otherwise find at your local cookware outlet, and a plastic one at that. Authentic molcajetes are typically made out of stone. There’s no “Jeb!” branding, either, though that would only serve to make it more tacky, anyway. When you add the hefty $75 price tag to it, it’s hard to see how anyone thought this would bring about anything other than ridicule.
William Harrison’s Log Cabin Oil Lamp
This sounds like something out of a ClickHole article, but it’s real. Aside from being the shortest-serving president ever (remember to dress for the weather, kids), Harrison should be remembered for having some weird merch. When his opponent Martin Van Buren alleged that Harrison would rather “sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin,” Harrison’s team didn’t flinch.
Instead, they used the log cabin as a symbol for Harrison’s campaign, resulting in the selling of a wide variety of log cabin-themed merchandise. Whig Party supporters even went so far as to build log cabins to sell all of the log cabin stuff in.
In many respects, this changed the nature of campaigning for political office forever. Gimmicky though it was, Harrison’s embrace of the log cabin was a genius way to turn a would-be insult into something people could rally around in a positive way.
It may have seemed strange at the time to take kindly to an insult like that, let alone make an oil lamp about it. But the risk paid off. Harrison won the election, didn’t wear a hat or coat to his inauguration where he gave an 8,000+ word speech in the wind and rain, and died 31 days later. This oil lamp is probably the perfect monument to all that weirdness.
About the Author
Kyle Greco is the resident writer at RushOrderTees, where he blends word nerdery with his love for T-shirts. A graduate of The College of New Jersey, he is interested in exploring the intersection of clothing and culture. In his spare time, he makes music, builds guitars, and cooks with his wife. He enjoys hot dogs, sports, and collecting too many hats.