David Davenport

Research Fellow

David Davenport is a research fellow specializing in international law and treaties, constitutional federalism, and American politics and law.

Davenport is the former president of Pepperdine University (1985–2000). Under his leadership, the university experienced significant growth in quality and reputation. Davenport cofounded Common Sense California and the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership. He also served on the board of California Forward, a major bipartisan reform group, and was a member of Governor Schwarzenegger’s California Performance Review Commission. He is also a visiting fellow at the Ashbrook Center (2016–17).

His work on policy appears in a number of places, including a regular column at Forbes.com and regular radio commentaries on the Salem Radio Network and Townhall.com.

He has coauthored two books with his colleague Gordon Lloyd:  Rugged Individualism:  Dead or Alive? (2017) and The New Deal and Modern American Conservatism:  A Defining Rivalry (2013).  Both books offer distinctive ways of understanding both the current and the historic debates between progressives and conservatives.  

Davenport has also contributed chapters to Hoover books on values in a free society and legal threats to American values and has authored articles in Policy Review on “The New Diplomacy” and “The Politics of Literacy.” Davenport is a popular public speaker, having served for several years as a world affairs lecturer for Crystal Cruises.

Davenport earned a BA with distinction in international relations from Stanford University and a JD from the University of Kansas’s School of Law, where he was elected to Order of the Coif and earned national and international awards in moot court competitions.

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Recent Commentary


The Unintended Good Consequences Of Donald Trump's Presidency

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Monday, August 21, 2017

With much of the country wringing its hands over Donald Trump, allow me to be the bearer of some good news:  Several good things are happening to the American system of government as a result of his presidency.  Admittedly, I am turning to the somewhat perverse law of unintended consequences to find these, but systems are retooling to protect themselves from President Trump and the result could be very healthy, both now and in the long run.

John McCain

One Small Step For A Man, One Giant Leap For The Senate: McCain The Statesman Over Trump The Closer

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The drama was palpable. Senator John McCain, long known as a maverick, was flying to Washington, D.C. with his recently diagnosed cancer to cast what could be the deciding vote in the Republicans’ effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, this time with a scaled-down “skinny repeal.” The vote would be close and it was 1:30 AM when it finally played out, when McCain surprised most with his visible thumb down.


Free Speech

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Friday, July 14, 2017

This summer, Commentary magazine published a forum on the question: Is free speech under threat in the United States?


Win Or Lose, The Affordable Care Act Has Federalized Health Care Forever

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Thursday, July 13, 2017

Writing about President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” of the 1960s, which triggered an avalanche of new federal programs, political scientist James Q. Wilson rightly said that one thing LBJ accomplished was lowering the “legitimacy barrier” to federal action.

Analysis and Commentary

The Future Of Freedom

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Thursday, June 29, 2017

A new survey by the Fund for American Studies reminds us that millennials do not understand economics. The same group that does not know basic civics—such as who their senator is or whether Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court—also doesn’t get how free markets work.


California's Bully Federalism: Travel Ban Seeks To Impose Its Policies On Other States

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Federalism—the idea that it matters which level (federal, state, local) and which branch (legislative, executive, judicial) of government should act on a matter--is a funny thing. Philosophically conservatives love it since they hate big federal bureaucracies. Liberals like it less since they adore federal mandates.


New Legislative Virus Spreads: Hide The Bill, Don't Read It, Fill In The Blanks Later

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A dangerous legislative virus is spreading from one health care bill to the next. Call it “hide the ball” or “spare us the details.” A legislative contagion by any other name would smell as foul.


Climate Change Reversal Reminds Us: We Live In A Roller Coaster Executive Order World

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Friday, June 2, 2017

One reason the Trump era seems a bit disorienting is that Washington, DC has become a roller coaster executive order world. With Congress unable to accomplish much of anything, presidents simply forge ahead on their own. A frustrated President Barack Obama, who could not get the legislation he wanted through Congress, set the tone for this when he said, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone, and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward…”


Trump Is Captaining A Federal Ghost Ship—But Is That Good News Or Bad News?

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Friday, May 26, 2017

Four months in, the Trump administration has failed to submit nominees for 80% of government positions requiring Senate confirmation. This is no way to run a federal government.


Tax Reform Should Not Increase The National Debt

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

One more dilemma for our leaders in Washington is that we desperately need tax reform, but we can’t afford to increase the national debt.