As one of many tea party activists who find the current crop of 2012 Republican Presidential contenders uninspiring, I’ve followed Donald Trump’s recent statements about a potential Presidential run as a Republican with great interest.
Last week, he spoke before a tea party group in Florida and claimed that he supports tea party values.
But, does he really?
As a developer, Trump is certainly familiar with the legal principle known as eminent domain, a notorious violation of individual liberty, which allows the state to seize the property of a private individual (usually at below market prices) in order to use that property for what the state determines to be a “public purpose.” Though the “Takings Clause” of the Fifth Amendment was intended to prevent the possibility that ” private property be taken for public use, without just compensation,” the state in 20th and 21st century America often uses its overwhelming power to define “just compensation” quite differently than the owner of the private property being taken.
In 2005, the Supreme Court handed down one of its worst decisions ever in a case known as Kelo v. New London. In that case, the Supreme Court (on which current Chief Justice John Roberts did not yet serve) affirmed the right of the City of New London, Connecticut to seize the houses of about sixty residents of a neighborhood in New London, and turn the land on which they sat over to a private developer who had promised to develop a shopping center and high rise condominiums that would bring more revenues to the cash starved city.
Ms. Kelo, a middle class single woman who owned “a little pink house,” one of the sixty condemned, sued the City of New London. She wanted to keep her house. She didn’t understand why the City of New London had a right to steal it from her in order to enrich a private developer. The Supreme Court disagreed with her. They ruled that the City of New London could, in fact, steal her house, and the houses of her neighbors.
After the ruling, the City of New London purchased the little pink house from Ms. Kelo, and sold it for $1 to a preservationist who moved it off the development property. The other houses were purchased and demolished. The development, however, never panned out. Today, where Ms. Kelo’s house and neighborhood once stood, an empty field filled with trash and broken glass now stands, a testament to the over-reaching arrogance of the state, as affirmed by the United States Supreme Court.
If the tea party stands for anything, it stands for the individual liberty and right to private property championed by Ms. Kelo and destroyed by the Supreme Court in that 2005 decision.
What is Donald Trump’s opinion of this travesty?
In a July 2005 interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News, he publicly stated that he was 100% in favor of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the City of New London to take Ms. Kelo’s house.
“But I happen to agree with it [the Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London] 100 percent, not that I would want to use it. But the fact is, if you have a person living in an area that’s not even necessarily a good area, and government, whether it’s local or whatever, government wants to build a tremendous economic development, where a lot of people are going to be put to work and make area that’s not good into a good area, and move the person that’s living there into a better place — now, I know it might not be their choice — but move the person to a better place and yet create thousands upon thousands of jobs and beautification and lots of other things, I think it happens to be good.”
Donald Trump may be many things, but one thing he is not is a supporter of the core values of the Tea Party movement.
The Voices of the Tea Party series could do a great service for the country by publishing an e-book that documents how the 2005 Kelo decision has been expanded upon by city and state governments to infringe on the property rights of citizens around the country, and to suggest political and legal options that can stop this trend in the future.
Michael Patrick Leahy is the Editor of the Voices of the Tea Party e-book series. His book on the ideological roots of the Tea Party movement will be published by Broadside Books in 2012. He can be reached on Twitter at@michaelpleahy .