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The Rise of Millennial Voters (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) March 20, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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A wave of change is coming in the 2018 and 2020 elections:  the rise of millennial voters.  In those elections, millennials, born between 1980-2000, will finally pass baby boomers as the largest voting generation.

What we know is that millennials hold different political views than their boomer parents.  They are more fearful, saying 4-1 that America is on the wrong track.  They believe less in political institutions such as Congress and the President.  They are more open to socialism, less committed to freedom. Seventy-one percent say we need a new political party.

What we don’t know is how many millennials will actually show up to vote.  So far, their voting percentage is low:  only half or less of eligible voters in 2016.

It seems likely that millennial concerns will change the conversation in future elections, but we’ll have to wait and see whether they actually vote and change the outcome.




Something There Is That Doesn’t Love A Tariff Wall (Forbes.com) March 8, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Donald Trump is enamored of walls.  First he wants to build a physical wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.  Now he wants to erect tariff walls, imposing a 25% tax on steel and 10% on aluminum coming into the country from abroad in order to protect higher priced American products and jobs.

But as Robert Frost wrote in his poem Mending Wall:  “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”  Frost added this further word of caution:  “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was likely to give offence.”  These are important questions that President Trump would do well to consider.

Trump’s philosophy seems to be that globalization is the problem and building walls is the solution.  If globalization has robbed Americans of jobs—and his strong showing in key rust belt and industrial states helped elect Trump—then we will prevent products from coming into America at a lesser cost and competing with American manufacturing.  His answer to Frost’s first question is that cheap products are what we want to keep out.  But to whom will he give offense?  Key allies and world powers that manufacture these products, but also American consumers who like to buy them and save money.  Building walls can be complicated.

History is not on the side of walls.  In one of the great speeches of the 20th century, President Ronald Reagan stood near the Berlin Wall, a key part of the Iron Curtain surrounding communist Eastern Europe, and famously said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”  Gorbachev did and the result was the beginning of the end of the Cold War and the reign of communism.  Other walls around the world, including the Great Wall of China or Hadrian’s Wall in England, are relics of history.  They no longer function to keep people in or out.

Nor has history judged economic walls kindly.  In fact, you would think Republicans might remember their own troubled history building trade walls during the Great Depression.  Senator Reed Smoot and Congressman Willis C. Hawley decided that adopting protectionist trade policies—placing tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods—would help protect the vulnerable American economy, and President Herbert Hoover agreed.  The net result:  other nations retaliated, more banks closed, and both the U.S. and global economies suffered further losses, exacerbating the Great Depression.

Today the global economy is highly interdependent, making trade walls even less likely to succeed.  People used to say that when the U.S. sneezes, the world economy catches a cold, but now with the hyperspeed of technology and communication, an economic event almost anywhere may trigger waves around the globe.  Already China and the European Union have said they will respond in kind to any trade war Mr. Trump chooses to launch.  The days of building an economic wall around any country are long past.

Not only are history and economics not on the side of Trump’s protectionist tariffs, but the U.S. Constitution is not either.  Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the “Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises,” which includes the power to establish tariffs.  In this case, President Trump is relying on a highly suspect delegation to the president from a 1962 Cold War law in cases of “national security.”  Clearly, President Trump’s assertion of this power is over something less than national security, as he wheels and deals with countries over tariffs and trade agreements.  This is yet one more case of the president overreaching through executive orders and powers to assert his will over Congress, several of whose leaders (even from his own party) have spoken out against the tariffs.

From time to time over its history, the U.S. has shown tendencies toward isolationism and Trump’s tariff wall is one more example of this.  As a commercial republic in a complex world economy, however, such tariffs no longer make sense, if they ever did.


To read the column at Forbes.com:



Five Reasons Why You Should Worry About The Federal Debt (Forbes.com) February 28, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Let’s face it:  For most of us, the federal debt is somewhere between a snoozer and an abstraction.  There are plenty more tangible and immediate problems to worry about.  Even if we did get stirred up about it, what can we do?  Isn’t the problem at one end or the other of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC—in Congress or the White House or both?

Rather than seeking to alarm you about how large the national debt is growing—which is an easy case to make—let me instead propose five reasons why you should be worried about the national debt, and why you should insist that our political leaders do something about it or face the worst catastrophe they can imagine—failing to be reelected.

First, your Social Security and Medicare entitlements are at risk if the federal debt continues to grow.  People argue that increased defense spending is to blame for the rise in the national debt, or the recent tax cut.  While both of those are factors, Hoover Institution economist John Cogan, author of a new book about federal entitlements (The High Cost of Good Intentions), notes that essentially all the rise in the federal debt since World War 2 can be laid at the feet of entitlement programs.  Entitlement spending, Cogan argues, has risen from 4% of GDP to 14% and now accounts for nearly two-thirds of all federal spending.  Since it will be almost impossible to cut federal spending and the national debt without touching expensive entitlements, your entitlements—especially if you are younger than the Baby Boomers—are very much at risk.

Second, an economic reckoning will come from the explosive growth in federal spending and debt.  No one really knows how much federal debt is too much.  Unfortunately some kind of major economic correction will be the signal that we have gone too far.  Other countries will quit buying our debt, or will discount it heavily.  The stock and bond markets will lose confidence in our reckless fiscal policy and send prices plunging.  We are creating our own bed of instability when the government spends a lot more than it takes in (nearly $1 trillion this year), and one day the bed will begin to collapse.

Third, spending today and putting it on the tab of the next generation is immoral.   Baby Boomers have already made a huge generational transfer of the costs of college, weighing their children down with decades of student debt.  Now we are also asking them to pay for our Social Security and Medicare benefits, along with the cost of our collapsing infrastructure and our national defense.  Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover of the 1920s understood that public debt was a moral question, but today it’s just a tool of economic policy.  It’s a way to open the faucet and try to get more bounce in the economy.  But the tab goes forward to our children in a way that is simply wrong.

Fourth, the growing debt increases the risk to our national defense.  Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently scolded senators in a hearing, sharing his concern that our federal spending “is threatening our ability to properly defend our nation, both in the short term and especially in the long term.”  Our present situation, Coats said, is “unsustainable” and represents a threat to both economic and national security.

Fifth, you should be concerned because the politicians are not.  Donald Trump promised to balance the federal budget in his campaign, and “relatively soon,” but he just keeps proposing more spending and tax cuts.  The Republicans haven’t met a defense budget they couldn’t increase and the Democrats insist on comparable increases in domestic spending.  Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gave us the understatement of the year when he said government spending is “not an issue we’re focused on right now.”

If you think you’re too young to worry about the federal debt, you’re precisely the one who should be worried.  As President Herbert Hoover wisely said, “Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt.”

To view the column at Forbes.com:


“The Lost Art of Political Compromise” (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) February 26, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
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Among many lost arts in Washington the most problematic is the lost art of compromise.

 The dictionary says compromise includes the root word “com” or together with the word promise:  We make promises by coming together.  America learned this early, with the Constitutional Convention full of compromises.

But now members of Congress vote not to find the best solution for the country but the best platform for their next election.   Democrats threatened to shut the entire government over dreamer immigrants, while Trump was willing to see a shutdown over his wall.  And so it goes, politicians standing firm on one issue or another which they believe will get them reelected, and the whole of the federal government is held hostage.

We need more politicians like Ronald Reagan, who told House Speaker Tip O’Neill, “I will take half a loaf today, but I will come back for the other half tomorrow.”



Millennials Could Change the Political Landscape–If they Vote, SF Chronicle February 23, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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In 2016, a political tsunami crashed on our shores with the outburst of populism and the election of Donald Trump. Now, less than two years later, we should prepare for two more big waves of change: the rise of Millennial voters and the passing from the scene of a generation of political leaders. Together they could produce a major transformation of our political landscape.

What we do know is that the political views of Millennials are very different from those of their Boomer parents. A Pew survey found that older voters are growing more conservative as younger voters become more liberal. According to a World Values Survey, for example, only 30 percent of voters born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, while 72 percent of Americans born before World War II find it essential. Millennials are broadly insecure and concerned about the future, with a recent poll by the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School showing 67 percent are fearful about America’s future, while 54 percent believe America is on the wrong track.

What we don’t know is whether Millennials are prepared to step up, vote and play an active role in political life. Voter turnout in the 2016 election is a cautionary tale: only half of eligible younger voters voted, compared with about two-thirds of older voters. Millennials are strongly negative about President Trump’s job performance, along with that of Congress, the Republican Party and, to some extent, the Democratic Party as well. An NBC News/Gen Forward poll showed that 71 percent of Millennials feel the political parties do such a bad job that they favor the creation of a third party. Herein lies the concern: Are Millennials so disillusioned about politics that they will not actively engage? “Will they continue to value community service over politics as they do now?”

With this generation’s deep concerns about their own job prospects, student debt, unaffordable housing and expensive health care, their liberalism aims in those directions. While society’s safety nets have been largely constructed with the aged in mind, Millennials will be interested in exploring greater stability for young people and families with children who, as Jacob Hacker, director of the Yale Institute for Social and Policy Studies, points out, “face the greatest risks.” Ironically, this leads them to resonate with two politicians in their 70s: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

In some yet uncertain ways, Millennials may also want to rethink government itself. Technology is their natural domain, and they will want government to be far more responsive. It seems likely that they will ultimately want to see government do more with less, as has been the case with businesses and nonprofits. Professor Dave Andersen, a political scientist at Iowa State University, sums it up this way: “The repeal and replacement of government writ large, I think, is a Millennial value right now.” My own students over the years have even wondered why we have state governments, seeing them increasingly as an unnecessary layer of middle management between the local and federal governments.

I recall a 97-year old man being interviewed, with the questioner reminding him he had seen a lot of change. “Yes,” he answered, “and I was opposed to every one of them.” Change is difficult, but it is likely to be the order of the day as our political landscape opens up to new voters and leaders.

Power to the States (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) January 31, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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One encouraging development is that power is leaving Washington, DC and heading to the states. Policy wonks call it devolution, I call it progress.

After 15 years of federalizing K-12 education, for example, Washington turned its back on No Child Left Behind and passed a bill returning power over schools to the states.  There’s no need for Washington to act, as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says, as a national school board.

There’s discussion in Congress that the states should not only manage the trees, plants and flowers in their territory, but wildlife as well, including endangered species.

Welfare reform may be the next big issue and any solution is likely to create a larger role for states. Only the marijuana laws are moving the other way, toward Washington.

It’s heartening that Washington may finally be reading the Tenth Amendment—that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution belong to the states or the people.  Not everything needs to be a federal case.

I’m David Davenport.


What Kind of Country Wants Media Stars for President? (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) January 29, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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Social media blew up when it appeared that Oprah Winfrey might run for president.  Think of it:  two billionaire media stars who had never held political office running for president. Only in America.

But the deeper question is why voters are turning in this direction?  Besides their obvious frustration with politicians, voters seem more interested in making statements than actually governing. We don’t know what policies Oprah might follow and, even after a year, Trump’s policy approach is still taking shape.  But they do make a statement.

A related problem is that the presidency is becoming all bully pulpit and no real leadership, all hat and no cattle as they say in Texas.  We want superheroes and action, not mature deliberation.  What passes for action in Washington these days is party-line votes and executive orders, not working through complex issues.

Citizens have duties, too, and we shouldn’t vote just to express frustration, but to guide the policy and governance of the nation.



Congress and the Lost Art of Compromise (Forbes.com) January 24, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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It is not difficult to identify “lost arts”—things we used to do but do not do any longer—in Washington, DC:  civility, bipartisanship, courage, just to name a few.  But one lost art underlies the others and has led to the inability of Congress to carry out its most basic responsibilities–pass a budget or keep the government open.  The most fundamental lost art of all is the lost art of compromise.

It is ironic that at the same time Congress was conferring its highest civilian honor on former Senator Bob Dole, a principled conservative who nevertheless practiced the art of compromise, we were preparing to shut down the federal government again (the 5th time since 1990) because we do not know how to compromise.  Even the author of “The Art of the Deal,” Donald Trump, apparently does not do deals any more.

But first let’s go back—to the dictionary and American history—before we come back to today.  Compromise includes the root “com” which means together and “promise.”  The idea is that we learn to make promises based upon agreement, or coming together.   Starting at the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787, our entire government is based on compromise.  We had the Connecticut compromise, for example, which was based on the novel idea that the government could be partly federal and partly state-based.  James Madison, recognized as the author of the Constitution, introduced several ideas that he could not get through the Convention, but which he compromised into something else.

Otto van Bismarck famously said, “Politics is the art of the possible.”  And so compromise seeks the “best possible” solution.  Not a perfect union but, as the preamble to the Constitution states, “a more perfect union.”  It is sometimes said that the enemy of the good is the best, but that is not our problem with compromise today.  No, we are unable to find the “best possible” solution because members of Congress have become almost entirely focused on positioning themselves and their party for the next election.  That has become the enemy of compromise.

So the Democrats would shut down the entire federal government over the Republicans’ failure to properly address DACA and dreamer immigrants.  And Trump would see the government shut down because he is not getting funding for his wall.  And so it goes—politicians stand firm on one relatively small principle, which they believe will get them reelected, and let the whole of the federal government be held hostage to that.  Senators who wanted to find a way out of the impasse had to gather in one tiny office because the whole apparatus of the Senate was lined up against the very idea of compromise.

Like most arts, it will not be easy to find compromise again.  At the most fundamental level, both voters and politicians alike will have to recover a commitment to governing, not just making statements.  Any so-called debate these days could be reduced to one-word positions:  The “Wall,” says Trump; yes but “DACA’ say Democrats.  But who is saying, “keep the government open,” “settle some issues,” “solve some problems?”  Just a few senators hidden away in an office.  We have to stop making statements and digging in on single issues and be committed to running a proper government.

Then we need leaders who will say, as President Ronald Reagan said to House Speaker Tip O’Neill of the other political party:  “I will take half a loaf today but, I will come back for the other half tomorrow.”  Everyone wants the whole loaf or nothing—if I can’t get my way, shut it down.  It seems like something leaders should have learned in kindergarten—you don’t get everything you want.  Yes, a very short-term compromise was finally struck, but it should have been long-term and done by leaders or in committees, not by a small group of self-selected senators crammed into a private office.

I, for one, plan to stop voting for candidates who are more committed to their reelection, their party, and their one-word litmus tests than they are to making the government work.  Does anyone care to join me?

To view the column at Forbes.com:


Previewing Trump’s State of the Union Speech (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) January 22, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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A president’s first state of the union message is an important occasion. But in our era of political theater, there is some danger that this year the sideshow will overshadow the main attraction.

Several Democratic members of Congress say they will boycott the event.  One Congresswoman is encouraging females who do attend to dress in black.

Despite the political challenges, “it’s the economy, stupid.”  If Trump makes this primarily an economic address, he can succeed.  Think about it:  unemployment is down, jobs are up and the stock market is on fire. His big piece of legislation, the tax bill, is projected to lead to even more economic growth. The president has problems elsewhere, but so far so good on the economy and that should be his message.

The Constitution does not actually require this kind of televised state of the union address, though tradition does.  It’s always possible that a nontraditional president like Trump might surprise us and do something completely different.



A Cancer Growing on Congress (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) January 10, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Radio Commentaries.
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There is a cancer growing on Congress.  It is the curse of party-line voting.  The biggest legislation of the Trump administration is the tax bill, passed with only Republican votes.  And the biggest of the Obama administration:  Obamacare, again passed on a party-line vote with only Democrats.

Party-line voting has grown dramatically in the last 40 years.  In the 1970s, party unity voting was around 60 percent but today it is 90 percent.  Sadly it has become the new normal.

Such partisanship is cancerous because it cuts out all the people and ideas of one political party. And it leads to rushed votes, without the expected give and take and amendments of a quality legislative process. It also leads to weak laws because what can be passed by one party’s vote can be undone later by the other party’s vote.

This is no way to run a government.  I vote for more collaboration and less hyper-partisanship in 2018.