Elect Us, Not Them: The History of Political Advertising Part 2

American University

Leonard Steinhorn is a professor of communication and affiliate professor of history at American University, where he has twice been named Faculty Member of the Year. He currently serves as a political analyst for CBS News in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy, and co-author of By the Color of Our Skin: The Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race, books that have generated widespread discussion and debate. Professor Steinhorn’s writings have been featured in several publications, including the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Salon, Politico, and Huffington Post, and he has served as an on-air historian for documentaries on CNN and The History Channel.




Prepare to like Ike, sing “High Hopes” with Sinatra, hear LBJ tell us “we must either love each other, or we must die,” watch the handiwork of Roger Ailes, wake up with “Morning In America,” identify with “The Man From Hope,” and see how candidate Barack Obama inspired the viral videos that now dominate our media ecosystem. We will explore the cultural values embedded in these ads, the role of celebrity in American politics, the way political consultants manipulate images, and the way negative advertising uses psychology, emotion, and visual cues to get into our heads. Professor Steinhorn’s class will combine American history, contemporary politics, and political psychology, and take you on a fun, nostalgic ride through the jingles and images that define our recent past.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Has political advertising been good or bad for our democracy?
  1. Do negative ads poison our politics? Or … do negative ads provide valuable information? Or … would you say that negative and positive ads are no different because they both use emotional and psychological techniques to manipulate us?
  1. If you watched hours of political ads, do you think you would get a realistic or distorted view of our country?
  1. Which ads from this lecture did you like the most? Which did you find most troubling?




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