President Donald Trump's campaign store recently enacted a war against cities banning non-biodegradable straws, selling their own plastic options for people frustrated by the disintegration of paper straws. It was all part of a strategy to add more grievances to the Trump base to be angry about and a way for Trump to make money on over-priced MAGA swag.
The campaign has pushed out T-Shirts and hats trying to force the president's nicknames for Democrats to catch on. As Politico reported, there are "Pencil-Neck Adam Schiff" shirts, attacking the chair of the House Intelligence Committee using an insult crafted by singer/songwriter Freddie Blassie in 1975. While nerd culture has taken off in the tech boom, among gamers and science lovers, in Trump world, the president is bringing the high school clique-wars between jocks and nerds to the adult world of politics.
The MAGA store is selling merch that mocks former President Barack Obama and other famous Democrats, while trying to create a subculture to bully liberal turtle lovers.
Trump Straws already SOLD OUT Should have stocked up while I had the chance! #BanLibPaperStraws https://t.co/GDhpKDX6qK— Elizabeth Harrington (@Elizabeth Harrington)1563564137.0
Trump's campaign has made nearly $500,000 in sales off of selling a package of 10 plastic straws for $15. A site called "School Outfitters" sells 50 straws for $1.99.
But it isn't just about the merch, once someone purchases their over-priced, Trump-branded straw, they become part of the fundraising solicitation movement.
“I think something Trump has always understood very clearly is how to tap into a cultural moment or zeitgeist and leverage it to his advantage,” Democratic strategist Tara McGowan told Politico. “So for him, taking a relatively new thing in the world that most people hate (paper straws) and leveraging it to both make a political statement and raise [hundreds of thousands] of dollars by selling plastic straws is both brilliant and sinister.”
Democrats haven't found a way to jump on branding a set of metal straws people can keep in their cars or carry in purses to save fish and wildlife and cut down on plastic.
But Trump has been leading the merch battle for a long time. Since the beginning, when he promoted his MAGA hats, the campaign has options available for rally-goers to peruse as they wait for the president to arrive. It wasn't until recently, however, they began to capitalize off of conservative outrage and backlash.
"During last year’s NFL season, the Trump campaign began selling 'Stand Up for America' football jerseys," Politico reported. "The American flag-embroidered outfits were designed to tap into attention surrounding Trump’s criticism of football players who kneeled during the national anthem."
There's a full collection of "no collusion" Russia investigation-themed merch. There are hats, t-shirts, mugs, and more proclaiming Trump's favorite phrases like "WITCH HUNT" and "total exoneration." By contrast, Democrats haven't thought of selling MAGA merch with KGB seals or Russian Soviet army fur hats (called ushankas) with MAGA embroidery.
“We kind of let the news cycle pop," said Trump's digital director Gary Coby, "and when we have an idea around it, we just go.”
“I think the president’s the world’s most famous human being, what he says and does makes news and you can draft off of whatever he’s talking about,” he added.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) opted for merch quoting her attack on former Vice President Joe Biden for bussing, but her store is missing the opportunity to have merchandise attacking Trump. In fact, all Democratic candidates are.
Trump's campaign said that more than half of the people who bought the $15 package of straws were new to the campaign's list. It also prompted other Republicans to jump on the bandwagon with their own ideas. The National Senatorial Committee rushed a "Betsy Ross Flag Shirt" with their logos on it. They scored over $500,000 in four days.
“It’s almost guerilla marketing,” said Marco Rubio's 2016 digital director Eric Wilson. “What you’re seeing is the president using his bully pulpit and then the campaign being nimble enough to capitalize on it.”