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


Trump's First Hundred Days: His Policy Batting Average Is Surprisingly High

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Monday, April 17, 2017

Pundits and professors will be issuing grades soon for Donald Trump’s first hundred days (officially April 29). As federal judge Danny Boggs has said, while policy-makers are in the arena covered with sweat and blood, the academics watch safely from their ivory towers, coming onto the battlefield later to shoot the wounded.


What's So New About The Nuclear Option? It's Been Radioactive For Decades

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Put on your hazmat suits and rush to your fallout shelters, Democrats warn, because Senate Republicans are about to launch the “nuclear option.” That is the term used to describe changing the vote requirement from the filibuster-stopping sixty votes in the Senate to requiring only fifty-one votes to confirm a US Supreme Court justice. But excuse me while I yawn and roll over for a snooze.

hoover portrait
Analysis and Commentary

Herbert Hoover: Resourceful On Policy, Removed On Politics

by David Davenportvia Library of Law and Liberty
Monday, March 27, 2017

Imagine a highly successful businessman choosing the presidency of the United States for his first political race. Running as an outsider, he campaigned like no other, defeated the politicians, and won the office. As President-elect, he held court in a suite of rooms at a fancy hotel, vetting prospective cabinet members. 


Health Care Reform: The System Actually Worked

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Saturday, March 25, 2017

While conservatives and Republicans join in choral lament over their inability to repeal and replace Obamacare in the first 64 days of the Trump administration, allow me to sound a different and slightly positive note: the governance system actually worked, or at least lurched in that direction.

Analysis and Commentary

Young People Robbed Of Individualism

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

America used to be a land of “rugged individualism.” People came to this country so that the key decisions about their lives would no longer be made by kings and queens, or the church, or their social class, but rather for themselves. Individual freedom was promised by the Declaration of Independence and protected by the Constitution.

Analysis and Commentary

Bad News From The Index Of Economic Freedom

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Monday, March 20, 2017

The 2017 Index of Economic Freedom has been released and it contains some bad news for Americans. The U.S. dropped 6 positions in the ranking of economic freedom around the world to #17, its lowest level since these studies have been published. While most nations of the world increased their economic freedom, the U.S. saw a significant decline, rated now not “free” but only “mostly free.”

Analysis and Commentary

Trump’s Budget Asks: What Should Government Do?

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Friday, March 17, 2017

President Donald Trump’s first budget proposes some big changes. A much higher commitment to national defense is at the top of the list and, in order to fund that, less foreign aid, government regulation, and federal subsidies for research and the arts.


Donald Trump's Budget Raises A Question Of The Ages: What Should Government Do (And Not Do)?

by David Davenportvia Forbes
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

With Donald Trump busy tweeting about everything from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “The Celebrity Apprentice” to whether President Obama tapped his telephones, it may be difficult to imagine that he is deeply engaged in any important questions of political philosophy. But, alas, there is at least one: the age-old question of what government should do and not do.

Analysis and Commentary

Donald Trump Rediscovers Franklin Roosevelt’s Forgotten Man—Or Is It Someone Else?

by David Davenport, Gordon Lloydvia History News Network
Sunday, February 19, 2017

With many uncertainties about Trumpism, one thing we know for sure: Donald Trump’s key constituency is “the forgotten men and women.” His first tweet as president-elect promised that “the forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again.” Indeed, the forgotten men and women were recurring characters in a flurry of campaign speeches he gave just before the election, the people who “built our country,” he said, the “middle class.”


Religious Liberty Questions Are In The Courts And Agencies

by David Davenportvia Townhall
Friday, February 17, 2017

Some churches took heart when President Trump said he would work to do away with the Johnson Amendment, part of the tax code that prohibits churches from endorsing political candidates.