Trump doubles down on support for eminent domain

Donald Trump sent two interesting tweets this morning. One, which has been widely covered, was a manual retweet of a user with the handle @WhiteGenocideTM, whose bio includes a link to a pro-Nazi documentary.

This isn’t the first time Donald Trump has retweeted a white nationalist or white nationalist propaganda, which poses a bit of a problem: Trump is exploiting the perverse tradeoff where the media can either continue to write stories every time he retweets white nationalists, thereby boosting his standing among the large subset of white Republicans that hold racist attitudes, or they can ignore him, thereby normalizing white nationalism.

However, while Trump’s tweet was wrong and bad and racist and awful and [insert negative adjective here], it was a tweet Trump sent earlier in the morning that likely has greater implications in the Republican primary:

It took a long time, but Donald Trump’s closest competitor in the Republican primary has recently started hitting Trump on a violation of conservative orthodoxy: defending the government’s right to expropriate private land for public use with fair compensation.

The attack is made a bit easier given Trump history with the issue, in particular.

Because while it’s one thing for Trump to defend the idea of eminent domain on its merits (correctly), in practice he has used it as a caricature of everything conservatives fear about special interests capturing the government. From the Guardian:

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

For more than 30 years Vera Coking lived in a three-story house just off the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Donald Trump built his 22-story Trump Plaza next door. In the mid-1990s Trump wanted to build a limousine parking lot for the hotel, so he bought several nearby properties. But three owners, including the by then elderly and widowed Ms Coking, refused to sell.

As his daughter Ivanka said in introducing him at his campaign announcement, Donald Trump doesn’t take no for an answer.

Trump turned to a government agency – the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) – to take Coking’s property. CRDA offered her $250,000 for the property – one-fourth of what another hotel builder had offered her a decade earlier. When she turned that down, the agency went into court to claim her property under eminent domain so that Trump could pave it and put up a parking lot.

It’s one thing for the government to offer fair value for a home that happens to be in the way of a planned highway or public building. The Supreme Court has even held that in certain cases, the public interest can even justify the government forcibly buying land for private use. Trump has praised the 2005 case, Kelo vs. New London, that upheld the government’s ability to use eminent domain in such a way. Conservatives, predictably, consider Kelo to have been a disaster.

Especially since it opens the door for rich jerks like Donald Trump to use the government for undesirable ends. It’s easy to see cases in which the government has a legitimate interest in buying someone’s property for public use, but limousine parking lots really aren’t what comes to mind there. And the kind of political influence that Donald Trump has made no bones about wielding in his private life is exactly the kind of crony capitalism that working class conservatives (and pretty much anyone in the 99%) positively loathe.

There’s a real opening here for Ted Cruz and other Republicans to use Trump’s support for eminent domain to undercut his case for office, but only if they can keep the focus on Trump’s abuse of the policy. As long as we’re talking about schools, road and bridges, Trump’s support for eminent domain falls in line with his other violations of conservative orthodoxy that Republican voters aren’t actually worried about (single payer health care, for instance). If we’re talking about widows and limousine parking lots, on the other hand, it could do some real damage.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • SkippyFlipjack

    Can someone explain the progressive case for the Kelo decision, beyond the fact that the majority was comprised of the justices we like?

  • JaneE

    Not to mention that the road to Ferguson was paved with eminent domain. With similar results, plus a lot of displaced residents who had their lives turned upside down for nothing.

  • Larry Linn

    Ted Cruz says that he is against emanate domain, but voted
    for the Keystone XL Pipeline which was dependent upon eminent domain in six
    states, and numerous local municipalities.

  • therling

    Choice quote from the Guardian article linked to above:

    “A Russian immigrant, Banin said: ‘I knew they could do this in Russia, but not here. I would understand if they needed it for an airport runway, but for a casino?’”

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Kelo wasn’t a disaster? If I remember right it concerned the city of New London wanting to knock down some lady’s house so a developer could built a bunch of stuff. They ended up knocking down the house but the developer couldn’t get financing for their project, so the end result was a vacant lot. This seemed like a hideous use of eminent domain. The way the Supreme Court justices voted mystified me.

  • marknc

    Absolutely spot on correct.

    They also hate Federal laws that dictate what States can do (unless they can use Federal laws to stop marijuana, or abortions, or anything else they don’t like)

  • Nicholas A Kocal

    The republicans have ALWAYS supported the use of eminent domain, provided that it was to help someone wealthy make even more money by stealing from the poor.

  • nicho

    Amazing what finding a horse’s head in your bed will do.

    It’s like Sarah Palin’s in-laws who didn’t support her for mayor or governor and said they didn’t support her for VP. (They live close to me.) About two weeks after they carefully explained why they thought she was unsuitable, they decided they had been “misunderstood,” and that, of course,mthey supported her. I’ve always wondered what “incentive” the GOP came up with — perhaps an offer they couldn’t refuse.

  • FLL

    You’re right. “Stop!” was from 1955. Now they’re yelling “Reverse!”

  • Good observation, btw. In a sense, they’re not even satisfied with ‘Stop!’ anymore. Now it’s hearkening back to what they claim was a Golden Age for America. Back when the country was terrified of Commies and their nukes. When gay people were invisible (and often imprisoned or involuntarily committed), women mostly didn’t have careers just because, and the racists assured all that God Himself commanded segregation and discrimination.

    Just ask any of those who’ve fully internalized Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan exactly what that means, and either they’ll ramble incoherently, or else indicate the 1950s is pretty much the era they’re talking about. Or rather, an imaginary and somewhat Disney-fied version of it…but featuring all those things the radical rightists want for the country. Where racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia were the rule.

  • Yeah, it’s highly indicative though, that a GOP Senator would even conceive of making a statement like that in public without the automatic partisan filters kicking in.

    Sure, Burr’s office will walk it back as will he, but it’s not going to change the fact those words very likely were spoken aloud, in public and on the record, by him.

    Reminds me in a way how Romney’s people tried to claim he never said anything about disdaining 47% of Americans…until someone provided the video of him saying it. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone comes up with some cell phone video of Burr, too.

  • Doug105

    One already did and walked in back.

    GOP Senator Completely Denies Report He Said He Would Vote for Sanders Over Cruz
    http://www.mediaite.com/online/gop-senator-completely-denies-report-he-said-he-would-vote-for-sanders-over-cruz/
    by Josh Feldman | 5:04 pm, January 21st, 2016

    It’s incredibly clear at this point that many ofTed Cruz‘s fellow Republican senators really, really hate him. A number of them have been going on recordsaying the GOP would lose the election if he’s the nominee.

    And if the anti-Cruz fervor among his colleagues wasn’t bad enough already, there’s an AP report today saying that North Carolina SenatorRichard Burr, a Republican, “told supporters at a campaign fundraiser for his own re-election that he would vote for liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders for president before Cruz.”

    They add, “Burr did not appear to be joking.”

    Well, Burr’s staff has hit back hard today, telling The Charlotte Observer “it’s completely inaccurate.” One Burr staffer said that Burr has praised Cruz in the past and has always maintained that he will support whoever the GOP nominee is.

  • FLL

    Since this collection of 22 “conservative” essays appeared in yesterday’s National Review, it made me curious enough to read the National Review’s mission statement, which William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote in 1955 (link here). One sentence from the second paragraph stands out:

    It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.

    Yup. American conservatism (circa 1955 and today) does stand athwart history. I wrote my comment above before I read the 1955 mission statement, so I didn’t expect that the ghost of William F. Buckley, Jr. would literally be yelling “Stop!” while the remnants of today’s Republican Party is tied to the railroad tracks. History, in this case, plays the role of Snidely Whiplash. Lots of laughs for all.

  • At this point, I’m wondering if instead of the usually predictable “vote for our guy no matter what” position, some of these conservatives are going to say to hell with it, vote for the Democrat.

  • That same white supremacist Trump retweeted this morning also apparently has, in the past, tweeted a cartoon of Trump wearing a Nazi uniform and gassing Senator Bernie Sanders. I shit you not.

    But yeah… the eminent domain thing, which is an absolute staple strategy for billionaire real estate developers these days, is not going to endear Trumpy with the “Hate Big Gubmint” crowd which forms a significant part of his sycophantic authoritarian-craving base. It is, in fact, one of the things those folks hate most, when the rich literally use the government to take property from people, whether they want to sell or not.

  • FLL

    One week to go and it looks like evangelical Christians—and their hero, Ted Cruz—are tied to the railroad tracks with The Donald (aka Snidely Whiplash) ready to run them over in the Republican Iowa caucus. Read yesterday’s article in The Hill, which reports Trump’s double-digit lead in Iowa (link here). But no, it gets better. After the imminent dispatch of the fundamentalist Christians, a YUGE number of prominent American conservatives (22, to be exact) are set to tie Trump to the railroad tracks and run over him with their own locomotive. Their 22 short essays presenting passionate cases against Trump are collected in yesterday’s edition of the National Review, the conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley, Jr. (link here). The entire hot mess is summarized in today’s edition of The Washington Post (link here). Words cannot describe the comic potential here, so I’ll just include a pic. You can visualize the present-day remnants of the Republican Party (both confused leaders and confused supporters) tied to the railroad track. Little Nel screams “Heeeeelp!”

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