Election 2020: A Panoramic View of America’s Decisive Election

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Course Details

Live meetings will also be attended by Stanford undergraduates, graduate students, and Continuing Studies students. In addition to attending the weekly online lectures, our high school students are invited to attend three additional meetings with the course instructors. These discussions, which are tailored for high school students, will further explore foundational civics topics.
Live Online Lectures
September 21–November 16, 2020
(9) Mondays, 5:30–7:00 pm PT
Supplemental Class Meetings
Time: 6:00–7:00 pm PT

Dates: September 23,
October 21, and November 18
Grade Level
Grades 9–12

Registration Now Closed

Registration closed on Friday, September 18. Thank you for your interest in this course! To receive information about future opportunities with Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies, please join our mailing list.

Course Description

We are living in extraordinary times. The historic convergence of social, economic, and public health challenges has profoundly impacted the lives of millions of Americans. In the midst of great uncertainty, the 2020 US presidential election will be perhaps the most important in our lifetimes. Will Donald J. Trump win reelection amid high unemployment, deep political polarization, and the COVID-19 pandemic that has upended life as we know it? Or will Joe Biden and a team of Democrats prevail? We will assemble a wide range of expert speakers—including preeminent political, business, foreign policy, and academic leaders—to explore these questions (and more) as we seek to cultivate a broad and informed view of this pivotal election.

Each week, the course will examine major issues at stake for the country. Anticipated topics include: the nation’s coronavirus response; widening inequality across America; racial violence and nationwide protests; the role of technology and media in the election; the state of our economy; the Supreme Court and the rule of law; education policy; climate change; foreign policy; and voting rights.

Confirmed Guest Speakers

  • Cory Booker, US Senator from New Jersey
  • Bruce Cain, Charles E. Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences, Stanford; Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and the Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford; Director, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford
  • Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States
  • Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Emeritus, Stanford; Founding President, Learning Policy Institute; President, California State Board of Education
  • Jody Freeman, Director, Environmental and Energy Law Program, Harvard; Former Counselor for Energy and Climate Change, Obama Administration
  • Benjamin L. Ginsberg, Partner, Jones Day; Former National Counsel to Mitt Romney's Presidential Campaigns; Former National Counsel to the Bush-Cheney Presidential Campaign; Former Counsel to the Republican National Committee
  • Vanita Gupta, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Former Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Obama Administration
  • John L. Hennessy, Shriram Family Director, Knight-Hennessy Scholars; President of Stanford University (2000-2016)
  • David M. Kennedy, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History, Emeritus, Stanford
  • John B. King, Jr., Former Secretary of Education, Obama Administration; President and CEO, The Education Trust
  • Ruth Marcus, Political Commentator; Journalist, The Washington Post
  • Michael McFaul, Director, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies, Department of Political Science, Stanford; Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford
  • Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies, Middlebury College; Co-Founder and Senior Advisor of climate campaign group 350.org; Author of The End of Nature
  • Mark McKinnon, Political Advisor; Reform Advocate; Media Columnist; Television Producer; Former Chief Media Advisor to George W. Bush's Presidential Campaign
  • Nathaniel Persily, Co-Director, Stanford Cyber Policy Center; James B. McClatchy Professor of Law, Stanford; Former Senior Research Director for the Bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration
  • David Plouffe, Political Strategist; Campaign Manager to the 2008 Presidential Campaign of President Barack Obama
  • Sean F. Reardon, Professor of Poverty and Inequality in Education; Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research; Professor, by courtesy, of Sociology, Stanford
  • Susan Rice, Policy Advisor; 24th US National Security Advisor (Obama Administration); 27th US Ambassador to the United Nations (Obama Administration); 12th Assistant Secretary of State of African Affairs (Clinton Administration)
  • Adam Schiff, US Representative for California's 28th Congressional District
  • Steve Schmidt, Communications and Public Affairs Strategist; Senior Campaign Strategist and Advisor to the 2008 Presidential Campaign of Senator John McCain
  • Theodore M. Shaw, Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights, University of North Carolina School of Law
  • Margaret Spellings, Former Secretary of Education, George W. Bush Administration; President and CEO, Texas 2036
  • Kara Swisher, Technology Business Journalist; Opinion Writer, The New York Times; Co-Founder, Recode
  • Tom Steyer, Former Presidential Candidate; Philanthropist
  • Andrew Yang, Former Presidential Candidate; Entrepreneur

Course Instructors

Pamela Karlan
Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law; Co-Director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, Stanford Law School

Pamela Karlan is one of the nation’s leading experts on voting and the political process and has served as a commissioner on the California Fair Political Practices Commission, an assistant counsel and cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice. She was a law clerk to the late Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. Karlan is the co-author of casebooks on constitutional law, constitutional litigation, and the law of democracy. She received a JD from Yale.

James Steyer 
Founder and CEO, Common Sense Media; Adjunct Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Education

Jim Steyer is the founder and CEO of the nation's leading children's media and child advocacy organization, Common Sense Media. For more than thirty years, Professor Steyer has also taught popular courses on civil rights, civil liberties, and children and education issues at Stanford. He has received a number of teaching honors, including the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is the author of The Other Parent: The Inside Story of the Media’s Effect on Our Children (2003), Talking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age (2012), and the upcoming book Which Side of History: How Technology is Reshaping Democracy and Our Lives (2020).