Got a bag of anti-George Bush buttons in a box of books a week or so ago, and showed them around as another sign of the passage of time.
“Pity they’re not worth anything,” noted one witness.
People say these things to me. “Why?” I demanded.
She shrugged. “There must be millions of ‘em.”
Every candidate worthy of the name hopes to generate lots of buzz, both pro and con. Most of the political memorabilia that comes into the Book Fair is of the “I’m Wonderful” variety rather than the “My Opponent is a Brat” type. And, contrary to what you might think, the general demand for candidates gone by just hasn’t been all that profit-generating. I’m STILL trying to sell a shoebox of McGovern/Shriver bumper stickers, but no one seems to care. You’d have thought they’d at least buy the McGovern/Eagleton stuff. (You remember: George McGovern vowed that personal revelations about his running mate would not budge him and that he stood behind Tom Eagleton 1000%. A week later Eagleton was replaced on the ticket by Sargeant Shriver. Part of my early political education, that. That and Richard Nixon announcing he was positively not going to resign.)
Over the years I’ve had flyers for Curtis D. MacDougall, whose rallying cry in the days of VietNam was PfP (Politics for Peace), a piece for Robert Merriam (the first Republican defeated by Richard J. Daley for Mayor of Chicago), a memo pad urging everyone to back Ed Vrdolyak in the next primary, a button promoting Barack Obama for State Senator (I hear that worked out okay), and even, all but in tatters, a big folded red, white, and blue paper banner for the presidential hopes of William McKinley and Garret Hobart. (They won in 1896 but both men died in office, Hobart in 1899 from a heart attack, McKinley assassinated in 1901.)
We even had a little flyer issued during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, asking all right-minded individuals to join a peaceful rally in Grant Park. I understand that did NOT turn out so well.
This by no means exhausts the election material that comes in regularly to the Book Fair. (If I’d saved all the Gus Hall for president flyers over the years, I’d have a boxful. But he was more persistent than most.) The piece I recollect best was a business card boosting the father of one of my regular donors for alderman. It fell out of a book the donor had brought me. He’d never mentioned his father was an alderman (you wouldn’t, would you) but I figured I had to do the right and proper thing with the card.
I called him up and sold it back to him.