Disclosure: I worked for the Lamont campaign doing web design and production and some writing for the official blog (from 9/5/06 to 11/07/06).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


"A Central Issue"

Sen. Lamont would side with Senate Democrats, Connecticut Democrats, and the majority of the American public on Iraq:

Ned Lamont expressed shock that his opponent continued to refuse to join Democratic House and Senate leaders in calling for President Bush to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year.

The measure, put forth in a letter by Democratic House and Senate leadership, calls for a phased redeployment to begin by Dec. 31, but did not set a deadline for all troops to be home. The July 30 letter is signed by every top Democrat on committees with oversight of military, intelligence and international affairs, but not Lieberman.

“I would support this measure, as I would other measures to establish a plan and begin bringing our brave troops home,” said Lamont. “It is exactly the kind of effort we need, solidifying the Democrats’ position and presenting a unified presence.”

This is one big reason why Rev. Jesse Jackson is speaking tonight in support of Ned's candidacy. Yesterday, Jackson wrote this moving appraisal of the stakes of this election, as he sees them:

To this day, Joe Lieberman still doesn’t get it. The 18-year incumbent Democratic Senator from Connecticut is in the battle for his political life in the Democratic primary. He dismisses his challenger – Ned Lamont, a Connecticut businessman whose campaign is grounded on opposition to the war in Iraq, as a single issue candidate.

But Iraq is not a single issue; it is a central issue – both for the country and for the Democratic Party....

Lieberman’s opponent, Ned Lamont, has run a principled campaign, devoid of personal attacks or gutter politics. He simply has agued, correctly, that Lieberman has not simply been wrong on the war, but a leader of the war hawks, the president’s favorite Democrat and leading defender....

Whatever happens in the primary next Tuesday, the message has already been sent. Americans don’t pay much attention to politics. They are easily roused by appeals to patriotism and fear. They tend to re-elect incumbents. But periodically, democracy works. A defining issue rouses opinion, and that leads to a defining election. In Connecticut, the Democratic primary is just that. And every member of the club better listen to what the voters are saying.

On to another issue. Ned's inevitably going to be asked about eminent domain, and I don't see anywhere that he's given his position on this issue. So I sent this email

To the staff:

I notice that Mr. Lamont hasn't said much about eminent domain, at least I don't find much on the website. Since I am publishing a book (linked below) this fall on the response to Kelo, someone on the staff handling this issue might be interested in the results I have found. Can you please forward this email to that staff member?

It certainly helps if you have some legal background (I got my JD in 1985). The Supreme Court recognizes a process by which public opinion recognizes facts which are unchanging facts of human experience, facts which don't change no matter how government tries to destroy them. When public opinion identifies such facts, it removes them from the political system and turns absolute control of them over to the individual. This, for example, is the history of freedom from an establishment of religion.

The eminent domain movement--although it contains plenty of right-wing crackpots--nevertheless represents a trend in mainstream, suburban opinion. Suburbia has decided that certain facts are like freedom from an establishment of religion, and it wants them removed from the political system and turned over to the control of the individual. This desire is being expressed in a confused way in the anti-eminent domain movement, but it certainly behooves someone on Mr. Lamont's staff to come to terms with that movement and brief him on the underlying thinking.

The facts are medical care, liberty, maintenance, education and housing. For example, currently the Supreme Court (in Lindsey v. Normet) says that government can involve itself in housing as long as the policy is rationally related to a legitimate government purpose. That's minimum scrutiny for housing. Housing currently enjoys only minimum scrutiny as it relates to eminent domain.

People want that level raised much MUCH higher--certainly in the eminent domain context, but that is just the beginning. It wants the level of scrutiny for housing raised in EVERY context. That's what is important about understanding the anti-eminent domain movement. This is a huge change from usual health and welfare regulation, and the political system is only just beginning to cope with it.

So, if I were Mr. Lamont and I was questioned about eminent domain, I would say that people want increased power over facts which are important to them. If he wants to be bolder, he could say that people are in the process of removing facts which are important to them, from the political system and asserting individual control over those facts.

I realize that Connecticut is up to its eyeballs in eminent domain corruption and that the legislature failed to make any changes in the law, but frankly, the writing is on the wall: minimum scrutiny for the facts I have listed above (all of which currently enjoy only minimum scrutiny) is over. Suburbia won't stand for it anymore. It wants expanded individually enforceable rights.

I realize the Democratic establishment doesn't want to hear this, for every reason from "Government does good things" to the fact that government is a big money funnel to private interests. But Mr. Lamont should make it clear--and can make it clear--that he understands that change is under way to shift control over important facts to people themselves. This is a very big change--certainly the greatest social policy change since the New Deal and West Coast Hotel v. Parrish--and he should show that he is aware of it.

Cordially yours,
John Ryskamp
Ryskamp, John Henry, "The New Constitution: The Eminent Domain Revolt and the Fourth Constitutional Epoch" (December 29, 2005). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=562521 or DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.562521
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