These days, I wonder what Molly Ivins would think of today’s politics. Those of us who were fans called her Molly even if we never met her. In Boulder, she participated in CU’s Conference on World Affairs, provoking guffaws and drawing huge crowds. Molly Ivins was a perceptive commentator and hilarious satirist with a Texas twang. A syndicated columnist and writer for numerous national magazines, she was most well-known for explaining that state’s politics with colorful anecdotes.
Molly died of breast cancer at age 62 on Jan. 31, 2007, shortly before Barack Obama formally announced he was running for president. She had been impressed by Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and thought he should run. The year before, she wrote that, “Sen. (Hillary) Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her (to be president).” Most likely had she lived longer, Molly would have also been disappointed in Obama.
She gave George W. Bush the nicknames “Dubya” and “Shrub.” She covered the corrupt and reactionary goings-on at the Texas state legislature, remarking that, “All anyone needs to enjoy the state legislature is a strong stomach and a complete insensitivity to the needs of the people. As long as you don’t think about what that peculiar body should be doing and what it actually is doing to the quality of life in Texas, then it’s all marvelous fun.”
For all her jokes, she was serious about holding the powerful accountable. Her analysis of how politicians get away with scapegoating the vulnerable seems incredibly relevant in Trump’s America:
“The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it’s not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point… Poor people do not shut down factories. Poor people are not in charge of those mergers and acquisitions in which tens of thousands of people lose their jobs so a few people in top positions can make a killing on the stock market.
“If we can make ourselves believe that poor folks are responsible for their own problems, then the rest of us are absolved of any responsibility for them… The reason we like to blame the victim is because if it’s not the victim’s fault, why then, it could happen to anybody. It could even happen to you. And that is scary.
“I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point — race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.”
She was afraid that we were losing our democracy:
“Oligarchy is eating our ass, our dreams, our country, our heritage, our democracy, our justice and our tax code… Either we figure out how to keep corporate cash out of the political system or we lose the democracy.”
She said the fight isn’t easy, noting, “The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion.”
Molly described herself as a populist. She would have been outraged that so many mainstream pundits call Trump a populist and then claim genuine populists like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown sound like Trump.
Molly was an early and fervent opponent of Bush’s war in Iraq. In her last column, written a few weeks before she died, she urged people to end the war. Bush had called himself “the decider.” She disagreed:
“We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.”
The wars go on, unfortunately, but people have been raising hell against the Trump administration since the very beginning — from the Women’s Marches to the blue wave in last November’s election. The Congressional Progressive Caucus had 78 members before the midterms and now it has 96 members.
Molly would have been ecstatic when she read the winter issue of the The American Prospect with the Justin Miller article on Texas and the Bob Moser article on “A New South Rising.”
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who is up for re-election in 2020, is quoted as saying:
“Texas is no longer, I believe, a reliably red state. We are on the precipice of turning purple, and we’ve got a lot of work to do to keep it red, because we lost, we got blown out in the urban areas. We got beat in the suburbs, which used to be our traditional strongholds. And if it wasn’t for the rural areas of the state where Senator Cruz won handily, (the Senate race against Democrat Beto O’Rourke) might not have turned out the way it did.”
Up in heaven, Molly is celebrating and urging us to fight on. As she said once down here on Earth:
“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.