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POL 60 — What Ails Democracy and How to Fix It

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Feb 2—Mar 9
Time: 5:00—6:30 pm (PT) 
Refund Deadline: Feb 4
Unit: 0
Grade Restriction: NGR only; no credit/letter grade
Tuition: $315
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
Live Online(About Formats)
5:00—6:30 pm (PT) 
Feb 2—Mar 9
6 weeks
Refund Date
Feb 4
0 Unit
Grade Restriction
NGR only; no credit/letter grade
Whatever their politics, most Americans (and independent experts) think American democracy is declining, if not in crisis. Majorities in both parties are dissatisfied with the way democracy is working, and growing numbers are willing to use or condone violence. Norms of mutual tolerance and trust are fraying.

In this course, we will explore what ails American democracy and what can be done to fix it. We will begin by tracing the rise of a core factor underlying our democratic woes—partisan polarization, which not only obstructs bipartisan compromise in the Congress but also divides the country into virtually tribal lines of identity division. Then we will move to related topics: How do racial divisions and injustices intersect with partisan divides, and how does this affect voting rights and other foundations of democracy? How can we achieve a more racially just and inclusive democracy? How are social media and “truth decay” (the declining relevance of objective facts) aggravating our plight, and how can social media become less toxic for democracy? How do our democratic designs—including the structure of the American presidency and the method we use to elect members of Congress—undermine the effectiveness of American democracy, and how might we reform these institutions? How might methods of democratic deliberation reduce our partisan divisions and identify possibilities for cooperation and compromise across party lines? Larry Diamond, a leading scholar in the field of democracy studies, will be joined by six Stanford colleagues to explore these and other timely questions.

LARRY DIAMOND, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Professor, by courtesy, of Political Science and Sociology, Stanford

Larry Diamond’s research focuses on democratic trends and conditions around the world and on policies and reforms to defend and advance democracy. He has received the Dinkelspiel, Lyman, and Cuthbertson awards for exceptional contributions to Stanford, and he is also a past faculty director of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford. In 2004, he served in Baghdad as a senior advisor on governance to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. He is the author of seven books, including The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World, the editor or co-editor of fifty books, and a founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy.

JAMES S. FISHKIN, Janet M. Peck Professor of International Communication, Professor of Communication and Professor, by courtesy, of Political Science; Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy, Stanford

James S. Fishkin is the author of Democracy When the People Are Thinking, When the People Speak, and many other books. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and Visiting Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge. He launched Deliberative Polling in 1988.

HAKEEM JEFFERSON, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Faculty Affiliate, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and Stanford Center for American Democracy, Stanford

Hakeem Jefferson’s research focuses primarily on the role identity plays in structuring political attitudes and behaviors in the US. He is working on a book project focused on Black Americans’ attitudes toward punitive social policies that target members of their racial group. He received a PhD in political science from the University of Michigan.

DIDI KUO, Senior Research Scholar and Associate Director for Research, Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, Stanford

Didi Kuo studies comparative politics, with a focus on democratization, corruption and clientelism, political parties and institutions, and political reform. Her recent work examines changes to party organization, and the impact these changes have on the ability of governments to address challenges posed by global capitalism. She is the author of Clientelism, Capitalism, and Democracy. She received a PhD in political science from Harvard.

TERRY M. MOE, William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford

Terry M. Moe has written extensively on the presidency, public bureaucracy, and political institutions. He is co-author with William Howell of Presidents, Populism, and the Crisis of Democracy. He received a PhD in political science from the University of Minnesota.

NATE PERSILY, James B. McClatchy Professor of Law, Stanford Law School and Co-Director, Stanford Cyber Policy Center, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford

Nate Persily is an expert on the law of democracy, focusing on issues such as voting rights, redistricting, campaign finance, and political party regulation. His most recent work examines the challenges new digital technologies pose to democracy and the policy interventions from governments and platforms that might address those challenges. He received a PhD in political science from UC Berkeley.

ALICE SIU, Associate Director, Center for Deliberative Democracy, Stanford

Alice Siu received a PhD in communication from Stanford, with a focus on political communication, deliberative democracy, and public opinion, and an MA in political science from Stanford. She studies what happens inside deliberation, such as examining the effects of socioeconomic class in deliberation, the quality of deliberation, and the quality of arguments in deliberation.