Sexist Campaign Swag Complicates Family Tradition

Nov 8, 2017

A lot of people collect things, and in Paul Sherman’s family, that thing is campaign memorabilia. Paul’s new book is called “Look Away: Documenting Crude and Sexist Items From the Trump Campaign Trail.” It includes several pictures from rallies in Georgia. We recently caught up with three members of the Sherman family.

Paul Sherman has been amassing campaign memorabilia for 40 years. He started with his father, going out on election nights to get signs at polling booths and buttons from headquarters. Now, Paul Sherman is pushing 50, and his daughters carry on the family tradition.

Lila Sherman is eight years old. She said: “One of my favorites in my collection is ‘Soccer players for Hillary,’ because I’m a soccer player. From my dad's collection, I like one that's at my grandfather's house. It's a little elephant.”

Nora Sherman, 10, estimates that she has 60 buttons in her own collection, paltry compared to her dad’s haul.   

“I've got thousands and thousands of buttons, and bumper stickers, and signs, you name it,” said Paul.  “If it's sort of political, I've got it. Political memorabilia goes back to the very founding of our country. In the first inauguration of George Washington, people sewed on 'GW’ buttons to their coats. There was just a tremendous amount of campaign buttons during Jimmy Carter’s years. The big grin or peanuts, and then Ronald Reagan wearing a cowboy hat, or Obama with hope, or ‘I like Ike’ or the Teddy Bear for Theodore Roosevelt.”  

But something changed in 2016.

“I noticed the Trump material [had] just blatant sexist words. The worst words that you could imagine were printed on signs, sold on buttons.”

For the Trump stuff, I would often have to hide it. I would put it on a top shelf. I put it in a drawer and try to shield it from them.

“I would come back from a rally and [my daughters] would say, ‘Hey, what did you get?’ And from any other rally, I could show them…But for the Trump stuff I would often have to hide it. I would put it on a top shelf. I would put it in a drawer and try to shield it from them. And at times sometimes I would have them in my office and I would literally say, ‘Look away, don't look!’

Paul says he brought Nora, then 9 years old, to a Trump rally during the final weekend before the 2016 election.

“As we were leaving, I saw a vendor right on the very edge of this 4-H County Fairgrounds, selling a shirt that said ‘Trump: Grab ‘em by the P---y.’ And it spelled it out. I had never seen that before and I thought, ‘Where are we?’ That, you know, a day before we're going to the election, at a 4-H county fairground in Leesburg Virginia, with one of the national presidential candidates just having finished his speech, and they're selling shirts that say ‘Trump: Grab ‘em by the P---y.’ And it just kind of struck me: something's broken. This is just not right. I actually shielded that from my daughter. She didn't see it,” Paul said.

Nora has her own aspirations for political office. “I want to be the president,” she said.

Lila is determined to grow her memorabilia collection, and keep it clean. “I want to have a big collection like my dad,” she said. "And my collection doesn’t have as many bad words in it. It’s more like a friendly collection with just pictures. And it goes back pretty far.”

Look Away: Documenting Crude and Sexist Items From The Trump Campaign Trail,” is available on Amazon.