Teri Carter on Damon Thayer: ‘Some legacy’ Skip to content

Teri Carter on Damon Thayer: ‘Some legacy’

Like Gingrich (and Frankenstein), Thayer fanned the blaze he now would douse

3 min read

In an April 21 KET interview, GOP Senate leader Damon Thayer was asked to define the term “normal Republican.”

“Someone who wants to help put the fire out that’s burning in America today,” he said, adding that he is “tired of the jokers,” only to add this minutes later: “I don’t think that President Trump is the problem, but I do think his style of politics exacerbated the situation and made it appear to be a more ugly and dirty and, yeah, by the way I’m voting for Donald Trump for president in November.”

This is the same Donald Trump currently sitting a courtroom every day, the one who vows to use his next presidential term to exact punishment on perceived rivals and, according to his latest interview with Time magazine, “uses crime as a cudgel, painting urban America as a savage hell-scape even though violent crime has declined in recent years, with homicides sinking 6% in 2022 and 13% in 2023, according to the FBI” – even as he personally “faces dozens of felony charges, including for election interference, conspiracy to defraud the United States, willful retention of national-security secrets, and falsifying business records to conceal hush-money payments” to a porn star prior his 2016 election.

In what political dystopia is Trump not one of the jokers to be tired of? 

How did we get here?

As recently as a few years ago, there was a clear, two-way split in the Republican Party of Kentucky. Normal Republicans claimed the conservative, chamber of commerce-style party of Ronald Reagan while, flipping over the table, Trump Republicans bucked all tradition.

Today, there are three, very different and competing factions of Kentucky Republicans: Conservatives (in the tradition of Reagan), Trump’s MAGA group, and the Liberty Party. 

We should therefore disabuse ourselves of the notion that there is one, big Republican supermajority in Frankfort. There is not. If anything, that supermajority is rotting from the inside out, and, like at the building of Frankenstein’s monster, leadership seems both stunned and in denial at their own creation.

In the same April 21 KET interview, Thayer gleefully points out that Kentucky’s Democratic Party “failed to field candidates in a majority of House seats,” conveniently failing to explain why so many “normal Republicans” are also taking a hard pass at running for office.

“Whether he ever truly believed his own rhetoric, the generation he brought to power fervently did. He gave them mustard gas and they used it on every conceivable enemy, including him.”

Why are the normals not running? The very real dangers, to themselves and to their families, in a Trump-dominated state where political candidates who do not pledge blind fealty to Donald Trump become a target of the violence-hungry, gun-obsessed, MAGA and Liberty-fringe embraced and emboldened by Trump and his allies.

Let’s be clear. If you are voting for Trump or supporting Trump’s policies — such as they are, no thinking person believes he has actual policies any more than they believe he has read the U.S. Constitution or the bibles he’s now hawking to pay his legal fees — you are a Trump Republican.

What Thayer, the state Senate’s majority floor leader, either does not realize or cannot yet admit is that he is as responsible for building the monster and setting the Trumpian political fire — the one he now claims he wants to put out — as anyone, selling his Reagan card on the black market long ago in exchange for anyone labeling themselves with an “R” to fill seats so that he could, in turn, declare the current supermajority as his personal achievement and legacy.

Congratulations, I guess?

In this respect, departing Senate floor leader Thayer is no different than Newt Gingrich who, when he resigned his speakership decades ago, said about the new-school Republicans he himself ushered into power, “I am not willing to preside over people who are cannibals.”

Or, as historian George Packer wrote about Gingrich on page 24 of his National Book Award winner, “The Unwinding”:  “Whether he ever truly believed his own rhetoric, the generation he brought to power fervently did. He gave them mustard gas and they used it on every conceivable enemy, including him.”

Listening to Thayer’s obvious — or maybe oblivious — disconnect between insisting he is dedicated to dousing Trumpian wildfires while also voting for Trump, I am reminded of Mr. Magoo, the bumbling, near-sighted cartoon character who goes happily about his daily routine while leaving a trail of chaos and destruction behind for others to clean up. 

Thayer was right when he said there are fires burning in America today. 

What he fails to do is take responsibility. 

Thayer will be gone at the end of this year, leaving regular, everyday Kentuckians who are suffering and will suffer for decades to clean up the mess and the monster he helped create.

Some legacy.


Print Friendly and PDF

Teri Carter

Teri Carter writes about rural Kentucky politics for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Washington Post, and The Daily Yonder. She lives in Anderson County.