On the Media (OTM): ...how are the media to deal with Trump?
Michael Signer (MS): Not let him drive coverage toward areas that are purely self-serving. When I've watched a lot of interviews with him, these anchors have just let him run on and on. The real thing that needs to happen now is men and women of conscience who are in leadership positions in this country need to take this on squarely, not by lampooning him, not by playing into the entertainment shtick, but by calling Americans back to the basic values that are what we're proud of.
OTM: You say lampooning doesn't work?
MS: My study of demagogues shows that satire does not work. The rules in the normal state are that we value constitutional principles, we think about individuals in terms of who they are individually, not stereotypes. In Trump World, none of those things matter. So when you lampoon him or you satirize him or call him a clown or a carnival barker, none of that matters because they're showmen and they get how to agitate and connect with people in a way that ordinary mortals do not. So I think the thing is actually taking a demagogue seriously in their claims and educating the audience about how the demagogue's claims and what they're doing actually hurt the country. So that requires a slightly different approach. It doesn't begin in this squawk of outrage. It doesn't start with the temperament that the demagogue has initiated.
OTM: You have to take him soberly and seriously.
MS: And that's what the history of successful confrontations with demagogues has shown.
OTM: You are optimistic that the American people will overcome what you suggest could be an existential threat to the nation. Why? You're not going to invoke American exceptionalism, are you?
MS: Ohhh...I am. [laughter] I wasn't going to, but you got me. [chuckle] Demagogues thrive when we are cynical about truth. They start to deflate when we put faith back again in public reason. And if you look at the history, we have always prevailed. And it's not the checks and balances we have, although the Senate has played very roles and so have a lot of great leaders, but it's because the American people in the end always choose that demagogues are beneath them. And I honestly believe that's the process that is happening right now. But these conversations have to be part of it. When the New York Times did a front page article on Monday analyzing every one of the 95000 words that Trump had spoken in this campaign, showing that it was rife with division and deceit, that is important. The American people are smart. The Republican base is smart. And they can come to that decision on their own, but all Americans, all political leaders can help them make that decision. And I think that's where Trump, just like past demagogues, will ultimately fall.