Can a candidate win the Republican presidential nomination by extolling the virtues of eminent domain? Not just any application of eminent domain, mind you, but including an endorsement Kelo, a Supreme Court decision that conservatives detest for its permission for government to condemn private property to transfer it to another private owner. Donald Trump called eminent domain “a wonderful thing,” and said the existing property owners make out like bandits anyway (via Twitchy):
“Eminent domain, when it comes to jobs, roads, the public good, I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Trump told Fox News’ Bret Baier.
“You’re not taking property. … You’re paying a fortune for that property,” he said of the process, adding that homeowners can be paid “four, five, six, ten times” their property’s value.
Trump, a real estate mogul, noted that he’s dealt with eminent domain a lot in building developments in New York City. He said the idea that people are forced to sell homes they don’t really want to give up is a myth.
Conservatives don’t oppose the use of eminent domain to build roads and other public facilities. The issue in Kelo, however, was that the government condemned the property because the owner wouldn’t sell it to another private entity. The city claimed that they had the right to use eminent domain to foster urban redevelopment of a blighted area, a concern which the Supreme Court ruled had precedence over private ownership of property. That’s generally the kind of authoritarian control over property rights that conservatives oppose. It’s redistributionism at its naked, raw worst, especially since in this case the city confiscated from the working class to give to the wealthy.
It’s worth noting, too, that the blight New London wanted to correct ended up getting worse by pushing out the original owners. Pfizer ended up taking a pass on redevelopment despite getting the land through eminent domain. At least through 2014, the empty lots sit as a testament to government incompetence at picking winners and losers.
Given that Trump makes his fortune in redevelopment, one can understand his perspective on eminent domain. That doesn’t make him correct, nor does it make him conservative. His dismissive taunts that homeowners just want to engage in “extortion” when they refuse to sell, and his cheerful endorsement of government force to remove them from their properties under those circumstances to give access to private developers such as himself, should have conservatives asking whether this is the direction in which they want to move the Republican Party for the future.
Watch all of Trump’s interview with Bret Baier here: