Erik Henriksen

Writer and editor for hire, with work at the Portland Mercury, StarTrek.com, The Stranger, Tor.com, WIRED, and more.

Mar. 2, 2020
Published on: Portland Mercury
9 min read
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AMERICA! Our land of dreams and of promise, of sprawling vistas and magnificent inspiration! Also a place where presidential candidates are basically legally required to hawk a bunch of crappy merch that no one needs! Let's take a journey—together—through the finest crappy merch that the 2020 election has to offer, and maybe—just maybe—we'll learn a little something about liberty, justice, and...

Are you fucking kidding me? I just wrote this and Mayor Pete dropped out? God-fucking-dammit. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's great he dropped out! But I just wrote, like, four whole sentences about him. Maybe if I just cross something out it'll still work.

PETE BUTTIGIEG

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Pete 2020 Knit Socks, $14, store.peteforamerica.com

When he's not hanging out on Wikipedia, your least-favorite kid from the high school debate team is was trying to smug his way into the Oval Office. Help him out by rocking this cool "Rules of the Road" T-shirt!

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Rules of the Road Tee, $27, store.peteforamerica.com

On the upside, at least someone convinced him to leave off "Smarm." On the downside: C'mon, Pete! Everyone knows there's only one rule of the road.*

*Ass, gas, or grass—no one rides for free

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG

Sure, Bloomberg's unasked-for candidacy is yet another horrifying example of America's plummeting descent into a plutocratic dystopia of fire and screams, but at least Bloomberg sells his stuff for CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP because for him, money has ceased to have any meaning! Don't you dare sleep on this screamin' deal for his "Protect Trans Rights" shirt—just $22.25! Cheap! Never mind that just last year Bloomberg referred to trans people as "he, she, or it" and "some guy in a dress." That's beside the point! $22.25! Cheap!

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Protect Trans Rights T-shirt, $22.25, shop.mikebloomberg.com

Bloomberg is also selling these excruciatingly unpleasant matches:

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You're Fired Matchbox (Pack of Two!), $3.50, shop.mikebloomberg.com

Now, on one part of his site, Bloomberg is selling those for $3.50 (cheap!), but on another part of his site, he'll just... send you some for free? (Money! Has ceased! To have! Any meaning!) I'm neither an economist nor a mathematician—and I'd never suggest that these matches would be perfect for lighting molotov cocktails when we rise up and revolt against our capitalist vampire overlords who buy presidencies—but Bloomberg is reportedly worth $60 billion! That means if he's losing $3.50 every time he gives these matches away, only 17,142,857,143 of us have to request some to bankrupt him. C'mon, gang! We can do it!

BERNIE SANDERS

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Bernie's Back Mug, $18, store.berniesanders.com

Welcome to the Bernie Sanders store, where democratic socialism meets shameless capitalism! There's plenty of merch that's still emblazoned with "Feel the Bern" (heavy sigh), presumably because it's left over from 2016, but Bernie's also selling a mug that looks like a carton of "Bernie's Back" ice cream, with "hot cinnamon ice cream," a "chocolate disc on top," and a "butter toffee backbone going down the middle."

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store.berniesanders.com

Did someone put way too much time into this? They certainly did.

The chocolate disc represents all the wealth that has risen to the top 1%. The backbone represents Bernie's steadfast determination to un-rig our economy. And the hot cinnamon is our political revolution holding politicians' feet to the fire to make America work for working people of all races and genders.

Reading that is like listening to one of Bernie's speeches: I violently agree with each of the sentiments expressed, yet by the end of it, somehow feel exhausted and deflated and—

Oh. There's... more.

Eating instructions: Take back of soup spoon, whack the big chocolate disc into pieces. Then mix them around to spread the wealth. The butter toffee backbone is too strong to whack. So just work around it. That's what they're gonna have to do in Washington once Bernie's elected.

You know, I'm starting to suspect that this might not be about ice cream. I'm also starting to suspect that voicing the slightest criticism of anything even remotely related to Bernie—even ice cream that does its best to ruin ice cream—will summon a slathering, furious army of self-righteous shit trolls. Democracy!

AMY KLOBUCHAR

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Amy for America Ice Scraper, $10, store.amyklobuchar.com

In every debate, Amy Klobuchar is relentlessly intent on convincing people that she has a sense of humor, which, of course, is what genuinely funny people have to do. But if Amy's so funny, why won't sell even a single salad comb? She's just leaving money on the table, and I can't imagine her Uncle Dick would approve.

That said, Klobuchar does sell an ice scraper ($10) and a hot dish recipe printed on a hand towel ($12), two items that are exceedingly practical and exceedingly uninspiring. Weird how that worked out.

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Amy's Hotdish Recipe Tea Towel, $12, store.amyklobuchar.com

ELIZABETH WARREN

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Billionaire Tears Mug, $25, shop.elizabethwarren.com

Does the best candidate in the race also have the best merch? Sort of! Unfortunately, much of that merch is accompanied by just a touch of a sensation that will be familiar to Warren supporters:

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While I am a fan of Warren's "Billionaire Tears" mug ($25) (Tom Steyer's silently weeping into one right this second), and while I think the "Warren has a plan for that!" day planner ($15) is legitimately charming, I strongly object to her "Bailey for First Dog" handkerchief, available in either red or blue.

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Bailey for First Dog Handkerchief, $18, shop.elizabethwarren.com

This is not because I don't love Bailey (Bailey is a dog, therefore I love him with all my heart) but because it is my deeply held belief that dogs—especially if they are as high-profile as Bailey—should generally decline to be associated with either the Crips or the Bloods.

JOE BIDEN

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Cup of Joe, $15, store.joebiden.com

Once America's cool uncle and now America's occasionally mildly rambunctious grandpa, Joe Biden might not be the best candidate in this entirely too big Democratic field, but still: Would I buy two of those giant foam hands that they sell at basketball games if they were shaped like Joe's finger guns and came with Biden-approved aviators? Goddamn right I would! So of course Biden isn't selling those things; instead, he has a coffee mug (because his name is Joe, you see) and tote bag featuring a phrase that makes me angry every time I think about it.

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Totes for Joe tote bag, $30, store.joebiden.com

DONALD TRUMP

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Trump-Pence 2020 Beach Towel, $65, shop.donaldjtrump.com

I was going to leave Trump out of this, because I am better than history, but alas, the Trump store is really something, offering—among other delights—a "Baby Lives Matter" onesie ($18), "Space Force" bumper stickers ($5), and, "because liberal paper straws don't work," plastic Trump straws ($15). Annnnyways, I'm just going to leave this here, without any comment whatsoever, and then we can all move on to making jokes about Tulsi Gabbard.

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Cops for Trump Tee, $25, shop.donaldjtrump.com

TULSI GABBARD

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No War with Iran T-shirt, $24.99, shop.tulsi2020.com

Tulsi Gabbard—who, presumably, is holding out hope that she'll soon benefit from a massive influx of those wildly passionate Tom Steyer mega-fans—has a campaign store that's rather spartan, perhaps because every time someone buys one of her "No War with Iran" shirts, she has to go out to the garage and spray paint it. HOWEVER, credit where credit is due: When The New York Times publishes a story about your weird campaign and this is how it starts—

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—and then the story goes on to call out "the unusual array of Americans who cannot seem to get enough of her," it's pretty baller to steal the Times' headline typeface for this soft unisex T-shirt.

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"Unusual American" for Tulsi T-shirt, $24.99, shop.tulsi2020.com

Even more baller? Having your husband model it for the internet while you tweet at the queen of warmongers!

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shop.tulsi2020.com

That's just good marketing, and I applaud it. In conclusion, please email Senator Kamala Harris if you would like a warehouse full of shirts.

Voting is more important than any of this stupid stuff. Register to vote now, and learn about the issues most important to Portlanders.