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 was a visiting fellow at the Ashbrook Center working on civic education from 2016 to 2018.

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

He has coauthored three books with his colleague Gordon Lloyd: How Public Policy Became War (2019), Rugged Individualism: Dead or Alive? (2017), and The New Deal and Modern American Conservatism: A Defining Rivalry (2013). These 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

Analysis and Commentary

Not All Free Speech Is Constitutionally Protected

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Thursday, October 19, 2017

NFL players kneeling to protest the national anthem isn’t going away. Two owners say their players must stand; now the Commissioner wants a rule requiring all NFL players to stand. Vice President Pence famously walked out on the protest.


The Culture War's Latest Battlefront: The 1st Versus The 14th Amendments

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The culture wars of recent decades have largely pitted a growing secularization of America against its more traditional Christian culture. The secular left has sought to push religion out of the public square—whether from schools, or over public monuments, or in public expressions (coins, pledges, holidays). Meanwhile the religious right has pushed back, becoming a major political and legal force. The culture wars are a series of battles in elections, legislatures, executive offices and the courts.


The Myth That All 'Free Speech' Is Constitutionally Protected

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Monday, October 2, 2017

We live in a litigious society, ready to make a federal case out of all kinds of slights and indignities.  We are also quick to claim broad constitutional rights, asserting that whatever we do in the name of religion or anything we say is protected by the First Amendment’s freedoms of religion or speech.  But let’s be clear about this:  a professional athlete taking a knee during the national anthem is not engaged in constitutionally protected free speech.

Analysis and Commentary

Donald Trump's Constitution

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Friday, September 15, 2017

Donald Trump has a love/hate relationship with the Constitution. He loves it in theory, but in practice it limits his presidential power.


States Flexing Their Power, Just As Our Founders Intended

by David Davenport, Lenny Mendoncavia San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, September 14, 2017

What is the state of our republic today? If you look at the dark clouds over Washington, D.C., where both presidential and congressional job approval ratings have been at or near record lows, you would say “not so good.” But if you look further, you may see states, cities and individuals gathering the energy to check and balance the power of Washington — just as the Founders intended.


Free Speech Under Threat

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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


A Silver Lining In The Cloud Of Controversy

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Wednesday, September 6, 2017

President Trump’s approval numbers are low and controversies are high, nevertheless some good things are happening in our democratic system.

Analysis and Commentary

California’s Bully Federalism

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Saturday, September 2, 2017

California’s travel ban, forbidding the expenditure of state money to travel to states that have policies they don’t like, is what I call “bully federalism.”

Analysis and Commentary

Win Or Lose, The ACA Has Federalized Health Care

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

No matter how the efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare turn out, I’m sorry to say that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act has federalized health care forever.


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.