The ubiquitous bright red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps are perhaps the most visible novelty items related to Donald Trump’s presidency.
Often worn by die-hard supporters, the MAGA caps are a fixture at Trump rallies. His campaign team says sales of the hat have raised millions of dollars.
The caps are part of a booming novelty and souvenirs market that’s driven by demand for modern and innovative items.
But there’s also a niche market of novelty items that the president would not love.
Take the candles sold by entrepreneurs Kate and J.D. Dobson. While candles might not be a cutting-edge product, the ones produced by the St. Louis couple couldn’t be more topical. The scented candles have a political twist — a current bestseller is the Impeachment candle, which smells of peach and mint.
“We are always looking for ways we can make a candle that is fun to make and that people will want to buy,” says J.D., “but also, with the political ones, that help us express something we believe in politically.
J.D., who once worked for a Republican senator on Capitol Hill, considers himself a conservative, but does not support Trump.
Other popular politically themed candles include the tropically scented Obama candle, a nod to the former president’s birthplace of Hawaii; the orange-flavored Joe Biden, an ode to the sports drink favored by the former vice president and current presidential candidate; and the Justin Trudeau, which blends the aroma of chai tea (“because he drinks tea”) with maple (“because of Canada.”)
The only other modern-day Republican in the mix is the Ronald Reagan candle, which gives off the scent of jellybeans, a favorite treat of the late president.
Kate says the gift messages on the Impeachment candle suggest most are being purchased for people who support impeachment. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a demand for pro-Trump candles.
“We get asked all the time by people who want to give a Trump candle to their pro-Trump uncle,” J.D. says. “And so, they ask us if we can do a version that isn’t critical of Trump. And we don’t, because this is our job, but it is also a way for us to express our political views.”
California-based apparel company Boredwalk sells an “Impeach 45” design, along with other clothing featuring anti-Trump messages. On its website, the company is described as specializing in on-trend original designs.
Matt Snow, who co-founded Boredwalk with his wife, Meredith, says the intent is not to anger or alienate Trump’s supporters.
“As individual citizens, we’re at least being honest with how we view the world that we live in and our current level of political discourse, but we’re not necessarily trying to antagonize people,” Matt says.
Unsurprisingly, impeachment-themed products don’t sit well with some supporters of the president.
“I really feel sorry for the people who are so angry and hateful that they have lost any real perspective,” Virginia resident Amel Smith told VOA via text.
Smith, who describes himself as a technology consultant and retired marine, believes congressional Democrats are wasting taxpayer dollars by pursuing impeachment.
“When I see these types of things, it just reminds me how desperate the Democrats really are,” Smith said. “They continue to show their anger and hatred of our duly elected president by wasting time and money on products like these.”
In addition to the Trump-themed messages, Boredwalk sells a variety of progressive-minded designs.
“It’s not an unusual situation for artists to make political statements,” Meredith says. “Matt and I are artists living in Los Angeles. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anybody that we lean left.”
There is one politically themed novelty candle that Kate Dobson wishes she could create.
“If we can come up with a candle that brings everyone together across the divide, I mean, we would definitely want to do that,” Kate says. “From a business perspective, and as a citizen of the country, I would like to do that.”