- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

People are looking for the lighter side of politics at memorabilia shops around the District.

Items such as “Flush the Johns” toilet paper and dog toys that urge customers to “Let the Pets Decide” seem to be tickling the funny bones of consumers more than in past years.

“We’re looking for the funny stuff, the stuff that makes fun of the candidates,” Seattle resident Carin Quigley said as she perused displays in the Made in America store at Union Station.

Mrs. Quigley, 45, who was vacationing with her family on Tuesday, said her disappointment with the candidates has led her to look for the humor in the upcoming election.

Jim Warlick, owner of the Political Americana store on Pennsylvania Avenue, said Mrs. Quigley isn’t alone.

Unlike in past years, he said, political buttons that make fun of the candidates are outselling merchandise emblazoned with the faces or names of the candidates.

Anti-Bush merchandise as well as “Knockout Kerry” and “Battling Bush” punching bags have been top sellers at Made in America stores at Union Station and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Mort Berkowitz, owner of the New York-based company Bold Concepts, said the tongue-in-cheek political buttons his company produces reflect the tone of the political campaigns this year.

“I think the two respective camps and their followers are more acerbic,” Mr. Berkowitz said.

Jim Marshall, 41, stopped at Union Station’s Made in America store yesterday to look for political items with a sarcastic bent for his teenage son.

“This is right up my son’s alley,” Mr. Marshall said while examining a “Bush Again?” bumper sticker reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s painting, “The Scream.”

Nancy Tady of Taylor Ridge, Ill., picked up toilet paper with the same graphic for her son. Although Mrs. Tady, 57, and her husband are supporters of President Bush, their 36-year-old son doesn’t share their political leanings.

“We can’t change his mind,” she said.

Some customers have put party preferences aside and taken in all angles of the political humor. Robert Swaim, sales clerk at Reagan Airport’s Made in America store, said it is not uncommon for customers to buy Republican as well as Democratic items.

“We’ve had some people come in and buy a little bit of both,” Mr. Swaim said.

He conceded, however, that Bush memorabilia seems to be selling faster than Kerry gear these days.

“Right now, I’d say Bush is a little bit ahead, but not by much,” Mr. Swaim said.

Mr. Warlick said the sales trend seems to mirror national polls showing that Mr. Bush has pulled slightly ahead of Democratic Sen. John Kerry. And although much of the memorabilia this year has a humorous slant, Mr. Warlick said many customers are using these lighthearted items to express strong political convictions.

“I’ve never seen this visceral feeling both ways,” Mr. Warlick said.

Fred McWane, 63, knew just what he was looking for when he stopped at Political Americana on Tuesday. A systems administrator for Lynchburg Financial Services, Mr. McWane took a break from a nearby conference to express his political bent.

By stocking up on Bush buttons and a “Don’t Blame Me … I voted Republican” bumper sticker, Mr. McWane found the perfect way to informally campaign for the president.

“I kind of wear my opinions on my sleeves,” Mr. McWane said.

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