You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

President Obama used his address to the U.N. General Assembly to campaign against Donald Trump.

Drew Angerer/Getty

In his final appearance as president, he made a pitch to Trump’s base (workers disillusioned by the effects of globalization on labor), arguing that the way forward was not to reject globalization but to make sure the benefits are equally shared. “Economies are more successful when we close the gap between the rich and the poor,” he explained, advocating for a world in which strong unions are allowed to flourish and fight for workers’ benefits.

In a more direct attack on Trump, he denounced the “growing contest between authoritarianism and liberalism right now,” adding, “I am not neutral in this contest.” While this critique of authoritarianism would usually be interpreted as being directed towards China and North Korea, Obama’s critique hit close to home. He said, “Those of us who believe in democracy, we need to speak out forcefully.” He urged Americans to “strive harder to set a better example at home.” And his assertion that “the world is too small for us to simply be able to build a wall and prevent [extremism] from affecting our own societies” only underscored that when we talk about authoritarianism these days, we’re talking about a peculiarly American breed.