Presentation Title
Of Demagogues, Statesmen, and Constitutionalism: Lessons for Democracy from the 2016 Election
Start Date
Start Time
End Time
Gibson 296

Special Event – Lecture Format
“Since its inception, democracy has faced threats from within.  Michael Signer’s books have addressed two different forms of this pathology.  Demagogue examines instances when the people choose  to cast their lot with a predatory mass leader or demagogue, who in turn can become tyrannical.  Becoming Madison examines the abandonment of responsibility by democratic leaders, exploring the career and thought of young James Madison, and his rivalry with Patrick Henry, as a case study in the statesmanship so central to constitutional democracy.  In his talk, Signer will address both the demagogue and the statesman’s relationship to democratic constitutionalism both in his work and as illuminated by the 2016 presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.”

Michael Signer is a lecturer at the University of Virginia, where he teaches in both the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics; Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, a triple-A bond rated city of nearly 50,000 frequently rated as one of America’s best places to live; and Managing Principal of Madison Law & Strategy Group, PLLC, where he practices corporate and regulatory law. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from U.C., Berkeley, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow; a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law; and a B.A. in politics, magna cum laude, from Princeton University. He previously served as counsel to Governor Mark Warner of Virginia, chief national security advisor to the 2008 John Edwards for President campaign, and senior policy advisor at the Center for American Progress. He was a 2009 candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia. He is the author of Demagogue: the Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies (Palgrave Macmillan 2009) and Becoming Madison: the Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father (PublicAffairs 2015).  His writing has appeared in The University of Richmond Law Review, Democracy & Society, Dissent, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, The Atlantic, The Washington Post,USA Today, and The New Republic. He has been interviewed by The New York Times¸ USA Today, NPR’s Morning Edition, MSNBC, Fox News, and the BBC.  He lives with his wife and twin boys in Charlottesville.