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


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.

Analysis and Commentary

Congress Needs To Step Up Its Game

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Monday, May 22, 2017

While everyone was evaluating Donald Trump at 100 days, we also should have been grading Congress. With significantly lower approval ratings than the president, Congress has done very little.

Analysis and Commentary

Why Congress At 100 Days Is Less Popular And Effective Than Trump

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

There’s been a lot of talk about President Trump’s low poll ratings (40% in the latest Gallup Poll, 46% in Rasmussen) and his underwhelming performance in the first hundred days. But few seem to have noticed that the one body even less popular (34% favorable according to the Pew Research Center and only 24% at CNN/ORC) and effective is the United States Congress.


There Is A Trump Doctrine: America First

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Thursday, April 27, 2017

For journalists and academics searching to find a Trump Doctrine in foreign policy, it’s right in front of you. It’s called: America First.

Analysis and Commentary

Trump’s First Hundred Days: Doing What He Promised

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Since Franklin Roosevelt, presidents have been evaluated at the end of a hundred days.  Donald Trump drafted his own report card in a campaign speech last fall, saying what he would do in his first hundred days.

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Rugged Individualism

by David Davenport, Gordon Lloydvia Hoover Digest
Monday, April 24, 2017

Two of the gravest threats to this distinctively American value: nanny states and helicopter parents. 

Analysis and Commentary

Why Hasn’t International Law Stopped Chemical Weapons In Syria?

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Where is international law when you need it? The Syrian government has again used chemical weapons on its own people, despite signing the international convention banning chemical weapons as well as a specific agreement to destroy them.