He an author, advocate, political theorist, and attorney. He is a Virginia Democratic activist and former candidate for lieutenant governor. A lecturer at the University of Virginia, he has worked for the Center for American Progress and with John Podesta on Barack Obama's State Department Transition Team.
He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Center for National Policy. He is a principal and former board member of the Truman National Security Project, and is Chair of the New Dominion Project PAC, a Virginia-based political action committee.
He is married to Emily Blout.
According to Michael Signer's personal website promoting his book "Becoming Madison," Signer writes:
- "As for everyone, my interests begin with my family. My grandfather was a Jeep mechanic for the Army on the European front in World War II and a lifetime member of the proofreaders’ union at the New York Times; he lost part of a finger in an industrial accident as a young man. My grandmother organized seamstresses on her factory floor in New York City and later worked as a secretary to Hannah Arendt at the New School. My parents are both journalists; my father was a reporter and editor at the Chicago Daily News and the Washington Post, and my mother was the president of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for Women.
- "I attended majority-minority public schools in Arlington, Virginia. I graduated from Princeton University with B.A. in Politics, magna cum laude, where I worked my way through school. My thesis advisor was the renowned political theorist George Kateb.
- "After graduation, I worked in finance for a short time, then turned to public service, working on the 1996 U.S. Senate campaign of Mark Warner and then as Legislative Assistant to then-Delegate Creigh Deeds. I traveled to Berkeley to begin a Ph.D. in political science with a concentration in political theory. I wrote my dissertation on the problem of demagogues in democratic theory and democratic government, connecting ancient Athens with contemporary America and figures such as Huey Long. I returned home and served as a White House Intern in Vice President Al Gore’s Domestic Policy Office, before completing the final year of my dissertation in my grandparents’ old New York apartment.
- "I also became increasingly involved in advocacy. In the spring of 2003, a racially motivated attack occurred on an African- and Asian-American undergraduate. In the wake of outrage that followed, I started an organization called the Coalition for Progress on Race, which organized the total campus response. We also successfully lobbied the administration to create the Center for the Study of Race and Law.
- "After graduation from UVA, I joined Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in Washington D.C., delaying my start to take a three-month assignment as Virginia Voter Protection Director for the John Kerry presidential campaign. After the campaign concluded, I founded an organization called New Electoral Reform Alliance, which successfully lobbied for several voting rights improvements.
- "At the same time, I became a founding member of a organization called the Truman National Security Project. I also became one of five founding bloggers at Democracy Arsenal, dedicated to progressive national security issues. The next year, I accepted an appointment as one of two counsels to Governor Warner in Richmond, where I advised the Governor on a range of regulatory and criminal issues, including death penalty appeals.
- "After the Governor’s term ended, I returned to Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in Washington. Then, an unusual call came: the John Edwards for President campaign was looking for a national security advisor. I took the job, attracted by the campaign’s focus on poverty, military strength, moral world leadership, and a responsible way out of Iraq.
- "I was recruited to the Center for American Progress to direct a project to advise the incoming administration on terrorism issues and to complete Demagogue. During that year, I also served as Senior Strategist to the upstart campaign for Congress of my friend Tom Perriello and joined an Obama campaign “red team” on national security issues that met in Madeline Albright’s offices. I was invited to speak on current events and national security by organizations in Germany and Italy and was a featured guest on the BBC’s series, Doha Debates, filmed in Qatar.
- "When both Obama and Perriello won, it sparked an interest in standing for public office myself. In February 2009, I launched both my campaign for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, and the book tour for Demagogue—on the same day! In a whirlwind campaign, I raised almost $500,000 and came in second out of five candidates, winning several major cities and the endorsements of five newspapers.
- "Today, I live with my wife Emily and twin boys in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I was recently elected to the City Council and unanimously selected by my colleagues as Mayor.
- "I continue to practice law. My clients include alternative investors, early-stage technology companies, government contractors, Fortune 500 companies, and artists and entertainment productions. I am a member of the Virginia and Washington, D.C. Bars.
- "I’m also a lecturer at the University of Virginia, where I teach a seminar titled “Leadership, Statesmanship, and Democracy” in the Politics Department and a seminar titled “Race, Policy, and the Past” in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
- "I’m equally at home riding my motorcycle, gardening, cooking for my wife and boys, arguing about politics with friends, devouring our local grass-fed hamburgers and barbecue, and running.