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 (2016–18).

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


Actual Emergencies Come And Go, But Federal Emergency Declarations Endure

by David Davenportvia Washington Examiner
Tuesday, January 8, 2019

As President Trump considers whether to declare a national state of emergency to build his border wall, few Americans realize they have lived under nearly 30 states of national emergency for most of their lives. Emergencies come and go, but emergency declarations remain. The oldest national emergency still on the books was declared by President Jimmy Carter during the Iran crisis 40 years ago. There are presently national "emergencies" covering everything from vessels in Cuba to democratic processes in Zimbabwe, from exports to cyberwarfare and narcotics trafficking.

Analysis and Commentary

Popular Vote Power Play

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Democrats are frustrated that they have lost the presidency in the Electoral College twice in the 21st century. But instead of amending the Constitution, they are going to courts and state legislatures. Four lawsuits claim that votes for the losing candidate in a winner-take-all electoral vote are not counted equally as required by the 14th Amendment. Of course all the votes are counted at the state level, as the Constitution provides, so this should be a losing argument, but these days who knows?

Analysis and Commentary

Davenport: The Grinch That Ate Christmas

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Thursday, December 20, 2018
It happens every year. People who do not understand the First Amendment of the Constitution launch legal attacks on Christmas.
Analysis and Commentary

Obamacare Remains An Unsettled Law, And Will Continue To Be

by David Davenportvia Washington Examiner
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Have you noticed that some laws seem to settle the matter in question while others do not? Some expected Republican President Dwight Eisenhower to reverse Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt’s sweeping New Deal initiatives, including Social Security, but he did not. President Richard Nixon accepted his predecessor President Lyndon Johnson’s vast expansion of the welfare state with Medicare and his war on poverty.


Democrats Are Making The Same Mistake Politicians Have Made For Decades

by David Davenport mentioning David Bradyvia Washington Examiner
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

It’s such a classic mistake that it’s difficult to understand why politicians keep making it. They win an election and proceed to overplay their so-called mandate, setting themselves up for failure and positioning their opponents for a rebound. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both did it, and now Democrats are taking their turn after winning a majority in the House of Representatives (while Republicans still hold the Senate and the White House).


Bypassing The Constitution Wasn't Enough — Popular Vote Fanatics Resort To Lawsuits To Get Their Way

by David Davenportvia Washington Examiner
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

One of America’s oldest colleges is under legal attack. No, I don’t mean Harvard University and the lawsuit over its admissions policies. The Electoral College is under attack, facing lawsuits filed in four separate federal courts this year, while also the subject of a stealth attack in state legislatures across the country. 


States Are Experimenting With Voting Systems — Some Work Better Than Others

by David Davenportvia Washington Examiner
Monday, November 12, 2018

Although the 2018 elections were held last week, the madness continues. As it was in the 2000 presidential election, Florida is once again embroiled in recounts for both its gubernatorial and Senate races, accompanied by allegations of lost and stolen ballots and lawsuits.

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A Chevron Revolution In The Supreme Court?

by David Davenportvia Defining Ideas
Friday, October 26, 2018

A new book proposes a rollback of the administrative state.

Analysis and Commentary

What’s At Stake In The 2018 Elections

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Thursday, October 25, 2018

435 House and 33 Senate seats. 36 governorships. 6,665 state offices and tens of thousands of local ones. And you ask what’s at stake in the 2018 elections?


Trump: A Presidency Perpetually In Search Of A 'Better Deal'

by David Davenportvia Washington Examiner
Thursday, October 25, 2018

President Franklin Roosevelt had his “New Deal” and Harry Truman his “Fair Deal,” both of which were anchored in philosophical ideas about American domestic and economic policy. As we near the end of two years of Trump’s presidency, it seems fair to characterize his non-philosophical approach to governing as a continuous search for a “better deal.”