Indian Country politics and public policy

Commentary by Mark Trahant

The Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Photo via C-Span)

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

Donald J. Trump accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president Thursday. “Here, at our convention, there will be no lies,” he said. “We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.”

And one of those truths: An extrordinary promise to break treaties. That’s the haunting metaphor from Trump’s speech.

“I have made billions of dollars in business making deals – now I’m going to make our country rich again. I am going to turn our bad trade agreements into great ones,” Trump said. “America has lost nearly-one third of its manufacturing jobs since 1997, following the enactment of disastrous trade deals supported by Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

The merits of the North America Free Trade Agreement are worth debating. But it is an international agreement signed by three nations. Trump says Bill Clinton signed one of the “worst economic deals ever made by our country.” So if that’s true, why would Mexico and Canada renegotiate? Or would Trump just walk away and break the word of the United States?

That’s exactly what he said he would do.

“Our horrible trade agreements with China and many others, will be totally renegotiated,” Trump said. “That includes renegotiating NAFTA to get a much better deal for America – and we’ll walk away if we don’t get the deal that we want.”

This was one of Trump’s themes: A promise to break the word of the United States. 

He said he would nix the international pact with Iran, signed by six nations. In the past he’s promised to cancel the Paris climate accords. 

Ah, but these are just “agreements” not treaties. Yet on Thursday Trump promised that, too. Regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organiztion, Trump said: “Recently I have said that NATO was obsolete, because it did not properly cover terror, and also, that many of the member countries were not paying their fair share. As usual, the United States has been picking up the cost.”

Every Constitution-loving American should be offended; Treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land. They cannot be tossed aside because terrorism is scary or because the United States borrows more money than it should. 

One irony from Trump’s speech is that he promised to be the law and order candidate. Yet law and order is impossible without the rule of law, even international law.

Across the country tribes celebrate Treaty Days. It’s a community recognition of the deal made between First Nations and the United States. While it’s true that the United States has failed in so many ways, these documents remain viable because it’s still possible that the United States will step up. But if the president of the United States views treaties, indeed, any agreement, as an ongoing, permanent negotiation, then that entire premise makes no sense.

There will be no treaties. Only the Art of the Steal.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

7 thoughts on “#NativeVote16 – Trump’s metaphor: I will break treaties

  1. Bada Bing says:

    Before Barrack, how many President shave really honored treaties?
    I read this, and it said to me that Trump was talking about foreign nations. Not once did he mention Natives.
    You also mentioned that he rule of law was impossible without rule of law. All the laws broken by this administration should make you ashamed of them!

    Like

  2. Moss says:

    Sounds like we better start making more arrow heads and arrows.

    If Trump decides to break our treaties or does not feel the need to honor them, it would be a total disgrace to those who have lost their lives fighting for what little we still have today.

    Like

  3. Marlene Skunkcap says:

    I like this article. The problem I see is that no matter how Trump says whatever he thinks and threatens people of color there are noticeably many minorities in his audience. Only once did I want to check out the RNC and I was so disgusted to see an African-American speaking in an obvious frenzy that I immediately changed the channel. I wondered why would this man want to support Trump after he has let everyone know that he is a racist. IF elected, Trump will forget about the “Wall” and I’m sure on the top of his list will be breaking Treaties, like you mentioned, but I’m afraid there are many Natives who will support Trump hoping to gain favor for themselves or their tribe. I support Hillary Clinton because I only see a strong woman who has made it through so much political adversity that I saw her as the only Primary candidate with the credentials to be our next President of the United States. I would like to see you advocate for more Native Americans to get registered to vote and actually vote. I’ve never taken the opportunity to let you know how proud I am of you and your work. Thanks gor making a difference!

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  4. terran57 says:

    Bada Bing misses the point! Treaties are treaties. If you can break an agreement/treaty with a sovereign nation on earth without giving it a second thought, then how much less our treaties would mean to discard them. As Senator Tom Coburn once said these are out of date treaties and should be discarded (paraphrasing) so he would have support. Your bringing Obama into the debate, only shows your partisanship. He is LEAVING OFFICE and has little o no effect on the future. Get a life and put your white mask away. Trump may be our nightmare future, while Obama will be a memory. We must concern ourselves with the future, for ourselves, our children and those yet born. Trump may in fact end it all in nuclear war at the worst with his thin skin and penchant for retribution, but in the near future, if we survive as a species, we may not as a culture. Take off your partisan hat bada bing and put on your Native one (if you are one or maybe just another far right wannabe). Look out for our people rather than your rich white war lord, eh Bada Bing!

    Thanks for the article

    Like

  5. penny says:

    Okla Indians by pass FREE health benifits here because they don’t feel it’s fair THEY should hav to wait 6 hrs. to get in to c Dr., so they just go to DHS n get Medicaid. 2004’i. shWe were told, vote for machines to b inside horseracing casinos, sowe did, they closed oldest track, n given no $ to schools.

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