Branding the New Deal: Dumcombe and Teal

Branding the New Deal: Dumcombe and Teal

Please join us Monday, October 26th as we continue our series on Symbols, Branding and Persuasion with an exploration of branding in the context of electoral and legislative politics. We’ll start with a presentation by media theorist Stephen Duncombe, author of Dream: Reimagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy and the forthcoming Branding the New Deal. Afterward Jessica Teal, design manager for the Obama 2008 presidential campaign will join Duncombe for a conversation via video skype.

Like it or not, propaganda and mass persuasion are part of modern democratic politics. Many progressives today have an adverse reaction to propaganda: ours is a politics based in reason and rationality, not symbols and fantasy. Given our last administration’s fondness for selling fantasies as reality, this aversion to branding, marketing and propaganda is understandable. But it is also naïve. Mass persuasion is a necessary part of democratic politics, the real issue is what ethics it embodies and which values it expresses.

Looking critically at how the Roosevelt Administration tried to “brand” the New Deal and how the Obama campaign leveraged principles of marketing and advertising gives us an opportunity to think about different models of political persuasion.

Monday, October 26, 7:30pm (free /by donation)
84 Havemeyer Street, at Metropolitan Ave

Brooklyn NY 11211

Live-streamed for remote participants at

The ideological task of the New Deal was immense. The Roosevelt Administration not only had to convince the American public (and an often reluctant Congress) that their solutions to the Depression were the correct ones, but they also needed to change the very ways that Americans had thought about government and citizenship, transforming a weak and fundamentally conservative federal government that, ideally, protected individual freedoms into an extensive and assertive national welfare state that, ideally, guaranteed rights and services to its population. This was nothing less than what contemporary philosopher Jacques Rancière calls a “re-distribution of the sensible.”  In this effort the Roosevelt Administration mobilized culture: From the NRA Eagle to FDR’s own Fireside Chats, from haunting FSA photographs of dustbowl refugees to the idealized visions of America in WPA murals, from the handcrafted beauty of the Timberline Lodge to Woody Guthrie singing odes to hydroelectric power.

Stephen Duncombe is an Associate Professor at the Gallatin School of New York University where he teaches the history and politics of media. He is the author of Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy and Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Underground Culture, and the editor of the Cultural Resistance Reader, among other books. He also writes on the intersection of culture and politics for a range of scholarly and popular publications, from the cerebral, The Nation, to the prurient, Playboy. Duncombe is a life-long political activist, co-founding a community based advocacy group in the Lower East Side of  Manhattan and working as an organizer for the NYC chapter of the international direct action group, Reclaim the Streets.  Currently, he is a Research Associate at the Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology in New York City where he helped organize “The College of Tactical Culture” and is engaged in an ongoing investigation into the efficacy of political art. He is currently working on a book on the art of propaganda during the New Deal.


Jessica Teal served as Design Manager for the Obama for America 2008 presidential campaign during which she oversaw the visual design and development of all web and print materials for the campaign. This included the official campaign website and microsites, web/email-based fundraising campaign graphics, state and constituency literature, large-scale signage and event materials, and special projects. Before working on Obama ’08, Jess was the Lead Designer for Blue State Digital and provided visual design and usability expertise for various clients. Jess has also pioneered ground-breaking design at Big Communications, the National Gallery of Art, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Office of the Clerk in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is currently the Creative Director at Fission Strategy, a boutique consulting firm that brings web 2.0 and social media strategic counsel to non-profits, specializing in online advocacy, marketing, and communications.



October 26, 2009

Want to keep up with Not An Alternative?