The best campaign swag of 2018
I deeply regret not buying the Jeb Bush guacamole bowl in 2015.
Sure, that would have meant spending $75 for the "guaca bowle" — which was reportedly just a regular guacamole bowl with a $40 markup. But this is the kind of campaign swag I wish I had now, due both to its sheer silliness and as a reminder of Jeb's endearingly pathetic campaign. Imagine hosting a dinner party and surprising your guests by breaking out the ol' guaca bowle. Now that's a conversation starter.
But it doesn't take spending a small fortune on a lame guacamole bowl to become a prescient collector of political paraphernalia. Even the most benign campaign swag is worth holding onto after the election is over. For one, there is always the chance that today's House candidates become tomorrow's Senate candidates or even presidential nominees, and all of a sudden your 2006 "Ned Lamont for Senate" gear gets a new life. For another, if a candidate makes history, their pin or lawn sign could potentially soar in value in the coming years. And then there are always the weirdos — the guaca bowles you need to hold onto because how can you not?
Swag, like politics, is all about the long game, so don't donate that shirt just yet. Here is the 2018 gear most likely to become a collector's item tomorrow.
The Stacey Abrams pin
What makes it worth saving: The bid at making history
Cost: $4 for two
Georgia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, will vie on Tuesday to become the first black woman to ever be elected as head of a U.S. state. Although she only has a 1 in 3 chance against her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, Abrams' pins will be worth holding onto either way because she is also the first black woman to even be nominated by a major party for governor.
The Scott Walker signed baseball cards
What makes it worth saving: The goofiness factor
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is on the cusp of losing to his Democratic challenger, Tony Evers. But sometimes a losing candidate's swag can turn out to be just as worth holding onto as a winning candidate's. That is especially true when the swag is weird — who among us doesn't wish they owned Rand Paul's bag toss game and Beats headphone skins? While Walker's baseball card doesn't at first appear to be as goofy as Paul's swag, you just need to take a second look: Walker is wearing a Milwaukee Brewers' jersey, but the card says he's ... on Team Forward? And if he really is on a National League team, then surely he can't be the team's "designated reformer." Imagine the kick you'll get out of this when you stumble on it in, oh, 2035, assuming we all survive until then. You can use it as a bookmark in the meantime.
The Marilyn Minter "resist" shirt
What makes it worth saving: The rarity
Marilyn Minter is one of the most interesting and provocative American artists working today (her fabulous photographs of Lady Gaga were recently included in The New York Times Magazine). In 2017, she famously erected a "Resist" flag in Manhattan during President Trump's visit to the city, only to have it promptly taken down. As part of Swing Left's efforts to induce a Democratic wave in 2018, she is offering 300 signed, limited edition shirts featuring the same red, white, and blue "resist" design as on her flag. While Swing Left's shirt isn't connected to a particular candidate, it is a neat summation of the stakes for Democrats in 2018. In addition to the value of Minter's art and signature, this shirt will go down memorializing the left's efforts to push back on Trump, whether ultimately successful or not.
The "Beto for Senate" yard sign
What makes it worth saving: The iconic graphic
Cost: $4 for two
Democrat Beto O'Rourke's popularity in the deep red state of Texas isn't the only eye-popping thing about his Senate campaign. While most political candidates rely heavily on a red, white, and blue color palette, O'Rourke's team has rolled out bold and distinctive black-and-white Whataburger-like graphics, which have quickly become synonymous with the candidate's no-frills, first-name-basis campaign. Importantly, the logo avoids the associations of both blue and red, implying that O'Rourke is a new kind of candidate, an outsider who can't be nailed down. While there is already early talk of O'Rourke running for an even higher office if he is defeated in Texas on Tuesday, his logo will go down as a game-changing political graphic, like Barack Obama's rising sun, Barry Goldwater's influential arrow, or the disarmingly adorable elephant of the Republican Party.
The Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez classic T-shirt
What makes it worth saving: The promise of what's to come
Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned the world by beating 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D) in New York's 14th Congressional District primary in June. Now a lock for the seat, Ocasio-Cortez will enter the House as a 29-year-old with star power. While she has a lot to prove, there are excited rumblings about what her future might hold. Although it's one thing to run an aggressively progressive campaign in the heart of New York City, and a whole other to win over an entire city, state, or country, Ocasio-Cortez has all the markings of someone who could potentially go far. Hey, you never know — that "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez NY-14" shirt might one day be a way of signaling, I was with her way before it was cool.
The "I'm With Mitt" T-shirt
What makes it worth saving: Add it to your Mitt shirt collection
If you're a longtime collector of political memorabilia, there is a very good chance this is not the only Mitt Romney shirt you own. Hey, look at it this way — it might not even be the last Mitt shirt you have the opportunity to buy. Might as well snap this up now to add to the collection.
Marsha Blackburn's beer koozie
What makes it worth saving: Come on. Look at it.
For a $10 donation to Blackburn's Republican senatorial campaign in Tennessee, these beer koozies actually seem like a relatively good deal for a small-time collector. They're certainly the weirdest thing you can take away from the 2018 midterms. What's more, if Blackburn wins — as she is expected to — you can boast that you own the beer koozie of the first woman ever elected to Senate from Tennessee.
Ilhan Omar for Congress T-shirt
What makes it worth saving: The symbol of a turning point
It is not just political collectors who will want to pick up a shirt promoting Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar. Anyone interested in the feminist history being made in the 2018 election — which has a historic number of women running for office — will want to grab this T-shirt as well. Along with unopposed Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib, former Somali refugee Omar is set to become one of the two first Muslim women to ever join Congress. Her shirt is representative of the shift in political representatives in the last major election of the 2010s; The New York Times reports that the number of white male House, Senate, and gubernatorial candidates is the lowest its been in four elections. It's not just Democratic women who are running, either — two states are poised to elect their first female senators, and Kristi Noem could be South Dakota's first woman governor. Want a shirt more encompassing of all the diverse women running for office in 2018? "She Should Run" shirts are available here.
Franklin for Sherrod
What makes it worth saving: Getting to explain this to everyone who looks at it funny over the next decade
If you don't live in Ohio and haven't seen Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D) ads, you might not be familiar with his dog, Franklin. The "Manager of Morale" of the Brown campaign, Franklin appears in an ad spot promoting Brown's efforts to stop tainted dog treats from killing pups across Ohio. As one political strategist rightly told The Columbus Dispatch, "puppies seems like a bipartisan priority everyone can get behind." In addition to being "union made," this mug is the only campaign swag I'm aware of that features the candidate's pet on it. There should definitely be more, even if your clueless coworkers might wonder if you're trying to elect a dog named Sherrod Brown to Senate.
#MarchForOurLives QR code hoodie
What makes it worth saving: What could possibly be more emblematic of 2018?
Vote-rolling became a thing in 2018, but perhaps even more emblematic of the insane political climate we're living in are these March for Our Lives hoodies, which contain a QR code in the American flag that takes you to the voter registration page. The hoodies are the perfect, if depressing, accessory for teens who are not yet of age to vote, but want to promote gun control measures to the adults in their lives after the shooting in Parkland that left 17 students and teachers dead earlier this year. The hoodie will one day be a relic of a dark period in American history, but perhaps with the benefit of hindsight it will also be a symbol of hope — that a generation of politically engaged young people has since come of age and set about changing the world. There is perhaps no cooler benefit of political memorabilia than that.