The Eminent Donald Trump Has A Weakness

A poll released by The Des Moines Register on the eve of the Iowa caucuses found that Donald Trump’s support of eminent domain bothered 60% of Republican caucus-goers. It is quite likely the focus on the issue is why the real estate mogul’s failed to win.

Chances are attacks on Trump’s support of eminent domain in a general election would be just as effective, especially if the Democratic nominee, whether it is Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, leans on the issue. One reason why it would be effective is because eminent domain disproportionately impacts poor and minority communities.

Eminent domain is the tool by which the government can take property for a public use – such as a road, school or government building. Well, at least that is what James Madison had in mind when he submitted his proposed Bill of Rights to the First Congress in June 1789. The language was adopted as part of the Fifth Amendment, the last clause of which states: “[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Sadly, in 2005, the Supreme Court gutted this key protection for the right to private property – the very basis of individual liberty and economic freedom – by ruling that the lots owned by Susette Kelo and her neighbors in the Fort Trumbull section of New London, Connecticut could be taken through eminent domain to grow the local tax base. The decision ostensibly expanded the term “public use” to include economic development purposes, which allowed local governments to use eminent domain to seize private property from one person and transfer it to another private party.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor blistered the majority who sided with the city over the rights of property owners. “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms,” she wrote. “The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.”