Donald Trump was caught on tape making boastful and misogynistic comments about hitting on married women, and as a powerful businessman and media celebrity, being able to grab a woman in the crotch whenever he wanted. He told sleazy radio host Howard Stern that it would be fine for Stern to call his daughter Ivanka a “piece of ass.”  Now he is defending himself by claiming that this was just “locker room talk,” and many of his supporters are buying it.

I have played basketball in high school, college, professionally in Europe and decades of pick-up games. I have spent over a half-century in locker rooms, and I have never heard anyone make those kind of sexist remarks, bragging about what amounts to sexual assault. Never. I would like women to know that this is not normal, run-of-the-mill, boys-will-be-boys banter.

Now so called “mainstream” Republicans are jumping the Trump ship, claiming that they are shocked at the new revelations. The whole sordid affair was not a surprise. Trump has been this Trump for many years, and the Republican Party knew it.

Even before it came out that Trump had boasted about his sexual assaults, Republicans such as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan did not take issue with Trump unless he “got off message.” In other words, the problem was that Trump was saying out loud what Republicans have been telling their sexist, racist, homophobic and xenophobic supporters in code for a half-century. The Republican Party has cultivated this segment of the electorate, but with a softer touch than Trump’s.

A lot of older white guys got this message. “Make America Great Again” harkens back to a time when men could get away sexual assault, women stayed in the kitchen with the kids and women had no reproductive rights. Men decided things for them.

The solid South got this message. When Democrats turned into the party of civil rights in the 1960s, Richard Nixon played the race card by appealing to law and order. The South heard Nixon loud and clear: blacks would be put back in their place. The southern states have voted for the once-hated party of Lincoln ever since. Ronald Reagan’s first campaign stop after winning the 1980 Republican nomination was in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964. This was a message that needed no decoding.

Working class whites got the message. Reagan Democrats were fed the line that blacks were now the privileged class in America (through welfare, affirmative action and other federal mandates). Urban working class northern Ohio, once a bastion of Democratic politics, started leaning right, making Ohio a battleground state in every presidential election since. Reagan promised that tax cuts on the rich would trickle down into middle-class and working-class pockets. It didn’t happen; Rust Belt jobs were lost and the wealthiest Americans got richer and richer at the expense of the bottom feeders.

That trend accelerated under the George W. Bush administration, and now a self-proclaimed billionaire claims to be the champion of America’s angry and downtrodden whites. Other than pandering to their fear of non-whites, other than promising to lower taxes on the rich and to take away a health care system that is now insuring over ten million more Americans, Trump has no plan to bring their jobs back.

Republicans have also fueled white fears about immigrants. Republicans have been in control of Congress for years now, but have not offered up one plan to solve the broken immigration system, other than to support Trump’s wall on the southern border. In fact, Republicans do not want to limit immigration. They know that businesses hire immigrants (legal or not) because many are willing to work for lower wages. Republican leaders know that all workers’ wages suffer as a result, but that’s a dirty little secret, too. Workers have not gotten that message.   

Donald Trump is the monster that the Republican Party created, and now they are trying to run away from it. Trump will probably lose the election and Republicans could lose Congress. If that happens, Republicans might do some serious soul searching about their strategy of staying on the very message that Trump is selling, and return to the party of Lincoln that that my father — an ordained Lutheran minister — voted for in the 1950s.

The opinions expressed here are the author’s personal views as a private citizen.

Sheldon Anderson