The Rich and Disturbing History of American Political Demagoguery

Author Michael Signer talks about Donald Trump, demagoguery and the American government.

By Emily DonahueJuly 20, 2015 2:27 pm|

Former Texas Governor and 2016 republican presidential candidate Rick Perry recently confronted Donald Trump’s own 2016 presidential campaign.

Perry called it an act of Trumpism, which he defined as “a toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense.”

Michael Signer wrote a book on demagoguery, “Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies.” He’s also commented on various news sites about the topic. Signer spoke with the Standard about demagoguery and its relation to the current political race for the presidency.

On the creation of demagogues:

“Demagogues are kind of a creature of democracy. When you start introducing mass politics, there will always be opportunists that will arrive in the democracy.”

On the definition of a demagogue:

“They have the ability to create waves of kind of mass emotion. They use that emotion for political benefit. They posture as a man of the people and the fourth and most important rule is they threaten to kind of break established rules of governance.”

On redefining demagoguery:

“Demagogues, I think, [arose] because of a combination of ambition and shamelessness. Demagogues have always been nipped in the bud by constitutionalism, by a culture where people think very carefully about how they want to give power to politicians.”
Michael Signer’s new book, “Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father,” looks at the life of the fourth president, the impact he had on American government and some of the biggest issues he faced while in office.