Despite their lofty rhetoric and intricate parliamentary maneuvering, political conventions aren't exactly dignified affairs. Designed in part to energize and mobilize a party's base, conventions are like the mutant offspring of a corporate board meeting and an Evel Knievel stunt show.
For proof, look no further than the array of buttons, shirts, and miscellaneous merchandise on display at this year's Republican National Convention in Cleveland. While much of what's available is fairly standard political gear ("Make America Great Again" hats, newly minted "Trump/Pence" logo shirts, etc.), Donald Trump's bombastic campaign rhetoric, coupled with the red-hot hatred for Hillary Clinton felt by many Republicans for decades, has helped push RNC swag to a whole new, wholly offensive level, where sexism, body-shaming, and sheer nastiness abounds.
T-shirt game at RNC: still room for improvement pic.twitter.com/Mov1VmISGm
— Martin Gelin (@M_Gelin) July 17, 2016
At least one person took the call one step further, eschewing kiosk-bought shirts for a homemade mannequin, complete with prison jumpsuit.
Nevertheless, at least these shirts referred to Hillary by name. Plenty of other merch opted for vulgarity, instead.
Some buttons are very keen on reminding people which set of genitals the candidates possess.
— Elizabeth Plank (@feministabulous) July 18, 2016
Or to think of the candidates when putting their own genitals to use:
Not that this particularly nasty streak of paraphernalia—particularly the sort aimed at Hillary Clinton—is unique to the RNC, or even this election. These “KFC Hillary Special” buttons have been around since at least 2013, with rumor-debunking site Snopes tracing the “joke” back to 1993, when Clinton became First Lady.
Ultimately, the people selling this sort of merch aren’t necessarily motivated by political animus (although the ones buying it sure are) so much as they’re simply giving people what they want.
A few weeks before the RNC began, online retailer Sam Costantino told Time magazine that his Hillary items—particularly the more overtly gendered ones—are almost 100 times more popular than the rest of his stock. Venders selling pro-Trump gear have shared a similar sentiment, as well; for many, it’s simply a question of supply and demand.
And in an election where Donald Trump has demolished the boundaries of appropriate behavior for a major-party candidate, it seems clear that at the RNC, Hillary-hate remains a bestseller.