President Obama didn’t mention Donald Trump’s name during his final State of the Union address tonight. But his advocacy for a "big-hearted," diverse America sounded like one big rejection of the presidential candidate who dominated 2015.
Obama began his speech by talking about fear—the national emotion that Trump has most successfully seized on to power his insurgent candidacy. “Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people?” Obama asked. “Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?”
That idea—a country based on confidence and not fear—suggests a very different way of "making America great again," as Trump likes to say.
Obama also talked about religion and Islamophobia, and while he didn’t specifically mention Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants, it’s hard to doubt who he was talking about. “When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer,” he said. “That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.”
Later, he added: “We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.”
More broadly, Obama articulated a vision of politics that prioritized compromise and working together, two values that aren't exactly Trump's strengths. “It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic,” he said. “Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention.”
So: Did Trump get the message? The mogul, who was campaigning in Iowa today, only started tweeting about the speech 40 minutes in. His response:
Obama won't be on the ballot in November. But his political message for voters tonight can be summed up as pretty simply: Don't buy what Trump's selling.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.