Eminent domain is part of the United States Constitution for a reason. It can be incredibly useful for the sake of the common good of the nation when applied properly. Donald Trump has a history of utilizing it for projects that do not benefit the common good. In fact, the way that he’s used eminent domain should be drawing very pointed investigations into the politicians he bought to make it a case in the first place.
Our founding fathers placed it in the Constitution because they’d seen what can happen when a citizen prevents progress based upon their individual ownership rights. It’s a touchy subject for many conservatives because it puts the rights of the government over the rights of the people. This is why I’ve been a proponent of narrowing how eminent domain is defined and specifying the procedures for its use so that rich developers and corrupt politicians can’t collude against the individual.
Donald Trump has played the role of rich developer who used political clout to attempt to bully Vera Coking. During the GOP debate, Trump lied and said that he backed off. He did not. He took her as far as he could in court and only “backed off” when every legal angle was exhausted. He backed off because he fired every weapon in his vast empire at the widow and she stood tall to the end. It’s known that Trump likes to think of himself as a winner, but it appears that “backing off” is a euphemism he likes to use to replace losing despite every effort made.
There was another shroud that Trump used during the debate. He noted that those who are victims of eminent domain are paid extremely well. This is true in some cases. Not most. Coking had turned down an offer of over $1,000,000 in the 1980s from a different developing company because she wanted to remain in the home she’d owned since the 1960s. Trump’s use of eminent domain would have forced her to accept $250,000 for her home.
Trump wants this framed as a political issue. He keeps tossing out the Keystone Pipeline as an example of how eminent domain would be used and he’s absolutely correct, but this is just spin. This is Trump’s (apparently successful) attempt to make this a question about the politics of eminent domain rather than the real problem that it represents. Most aren’t against eminent domain in general, just his personal and despicable use of it as a loophole to benefit himself. History shows his penchant for using eminent domain in the scummiest way possible. He has a fundamental character flaw driven by greed and desire for power that should exclude him from any ethical Republican’s list of potential candidates. Instead, he is framing the conversation around the benefits of eminent domain itself. Judging by the polls, it’s working.
Here’s the saddest part: Democrats will do a much better job of painting him as a monster. The Republicans have mounted a handful of jabs by Jeb “Low Energy” Bush and a smattering of TV ads by the Ted Cruz campaign, but otherwise they’ve given him a free pass. The Democrats will campaign smarter. They will hammer Trump if he’s the nominee as a man whose character is reproachable. On this one issue alone (and there are plenty of others), they will mount an anti-Trump campaign that will declaw the Republicans. The DNC and both campaigns are holding their breath, not wanting to burst the bubble of Trump’s popularity among Republicans in hopes that he might actually be the nominee. If he is, they will use the liberal mainstream media to utterly annihilate him in the general election.
The facts are the facts. He had a multitude of lawyers attempt to use eminent domain to evict an elderly woman from her home so he could build a limousine parking lot for his casino. This is undeniable regardless of how much misdirection he uses in his sales pitch. The question is whether or not Republicans will embrace his “survival of the wealthiest” mentality or if they’ll see his lack of character for what it is.