Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Truthout

The ghost of George Orwell has never been far from President Donald Trump’s misleading rhetoric, outright lies, dehumanizing invective and punitive policies. All of the latter were on full display in Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address. Trump’s speech moved between the kind of absolutes one expects from demagogues, including comments that ranged from how great America is (overlooking how millions live in poverty and millions have lost health care under Trump) and how the U.S. economy is in an unprecedented boom (when in reality it grew at its slowest pace since 2016). Trump’s speech also included outrageously false claims about the president’s supposed support for people who have preexisting conditions and protection of Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, when in reality he has taken steps to weaken or eliminate protections for patients with preexisting conditions, and he has proposed cutting funding for all three social programs.

Authoritarian societies protect the powerful — not the poor or vulnerable — and Trump made that clear in boasting about tax policies that largely benefit the ultra-rich and major corporations. He lied about supporting workers’ rights and “restoring manufacturing rights” even as he continues to implement regulatory roll-backs that endanger both the environment and the health of workers and many other people in the U.S. His claim that he has launched the great American comeback is laced with death-dealing policies that range from criminalizing social problems, demonizing and punishing undocumented immigrants and their children, and laying claim to ultra-nationalist and white supremacist rhetoric that echoes the social and racial cleansing policies of earlier fascist societies. When Trump says in his speech “our families are flourishing,” he leaves out the misery and suffering he has inflicted on the many people who don’t fit into his white Christian notion of the public sphere, as well as on the immigrants and other people of color whom he has deemed disposable.

His claim to be building the world’s most prosperous and inclusive society reeks with bad faith given not only Trump’s overt racism, but also his use of white nationalist Stephen Miller as his trusted adviser and major speechwriter, and his awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio host whose unchecked racism, misogyny and sexism is his calling card. Like most right-wing demagogues, Trump refers to national health care, which most advanced countries have, as “socialist” and absurdly seeks to portray such health programs as designed by Democrats largely to benefit undocumented immigrants.

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