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Government & Politics

Trump's Domain

"I think eminent domain is wonderful," says the GOP frontrunner.

Allyne Caan · Oct. 8, 2015

James Madison once wrote, “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort. … This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”

Good thing Madison never met Donald Trump.

Turns out the real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate not only has made it his practice to strip folks of their private property, but he also thinks it’s just fine for the government to do the same.

Recall the disastrous 2005 Supreme Court Kelo v. City of New London decision. In that case, SCOTUS ruled the city could take private property from its rightful owner and give it to a private developer for the “greater economic good” — not for public use. And Trump agreed with the Court.

Incidentally, a decade after Kelo, the land that was supposed to deliver such a boon to the area still sits empty. As The Blaze reports, “The only creatures making regular use of [the lots] in the intervening years have been a colony of feral cats.”

In an interview this week with Fox News’ Bret Baier, Trump extolled the virtues of eminent domain and even boasted of his own abuse — er, use — of it. (Warning: typical Trump run-on sentence follows.)

“I think eminent domain is wonderful. … I build a lot of buildings in Manhattan, and you’ll have 12 sites and you’ll get 11 and you’ll have the one holdout and you end up building around them and everything else, okay? So, I know it better than anybody. I think eminent domain for massive projects, for instance, you’re going to create thousands of jobs, and you have somebody that’s in the way, and you pay that person far more— Don’t forget, eminent domain, they get a lot of money, and you need a house in a certain location, because you’re going to build this massive development that’s going to employ thousands of people, or you’re going to build a factory, that without this little house, you can’t build the factory— I think eminent domain is fine.”

In other words, Trump thinks it’s just dandy to build his empire by kicking folks out of their homes. As president, would he wrack up executive orders ousting folks from hearth and home so his billionaire development pals could provide for the “greater good”?

Make America Great Again™, indeed.

In reality, eminent domain — as outlined in the pesky Fifth Amendment — is bound by strict limitations. Specifically, private property may be taken only for public use and with just compensation. Nowhere does the Constitution permit the government to take property from its rightful owner and give it to another private entity for personal or even communal gain.

And, as John Adams wrote, “The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”

But to the Constitution, Madison and Adams, Trump says pish posh. After all, the Founders obviously never had a casino to build, so what could they possibly know about making America great?

The sobering reality is that Trump remains an enthusiastic supporter of government seizing private property. In fact, long before Kelo, Trump was busy targeting private property for his business gain. In the 1990s, he went after New Jersey widow Vera Coking, attempting to use eminent domain to take her Atlantic City home for, of all things, a limousine parking lot for his Trump Plaza Hotel.

Trump may be tough, but he picked the wrong fight messing with a Jersey girl. Coking retained the right to her property, but had to go through a costly, multi-year court battle to do so.

In the frightful scenario of a Trump administration, one can only imagine how many Vera Cokings would have to appeal to the courts to keep their homes — and trust to hope that the court doesn’t use Kelo against them.

Of course, assuming he holds the keys to brilliance, Trump suggested conservatives simply need eminent domain explained to them — then they’ll love it, too.

Yeah, that’s it. If only Trump had explained eminent domain to conservatives (“It’s great, it’s really great, and I’ll make it even better!”), we wouldn’t have spent all those centuries protecting private property rights against tyrannical governments — and against people like Trump.

What were we thinking?

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